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Richard G. Klein researches the archeological and fossil evidence for the evolution of human behavior. He has done fieldwork in Spain and especially in South Africa, where he has excavated ancient sites and analyzed the excavated materials since 1969. He has focused on the behavioral changes that allowed anatomically modern Africans to spread to Eurasia about 50,000 years ago, where they swamped or replaced the Neanderthals and other non-modern Eurasians. After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, Mr. Klein went to the University of Chicago to pursue his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Following receipt of his doctorate, he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Northwestern University, the University of Washington, and for 20 years at the University of Chicago. He came to Stanford from Chicago in 1993. Mr. Klein has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards, he has edited The Journal of Archaeological Science since 1981, and he co-chairs the Grants Committee of the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences.
Investigation of the archaeological and human fossil evidence for modern human origins. Field and laboratory work in South Africa.
My primary interest is in the co-evolution of anatomy and behavior in human evolution. My research is mainly on ancient animal remains as indicators of early human ability to make a living. I have analyzed more than 100 assemblages of animal fossils, primarily from southern African archaeological sites dating between 700,000 years ago and the historic present. I am currently directing excavations at a site 70 km NNW of Cape Town that dates from the Last Interglacial interval, between roughly 115,000 and 70,000 years ago. The animal remains show that the inhabitants exploited coastal resources much less efficiently than people who occupied the same coast during Present Interglacial (Holocene). The change in foraging efficiency probably occurred about 50,000 years ago and it helps explain the simultaneous expansion of anatomically modern humans from Africa to Eurasia, where they replaced the Neanderthals and other non-modern Eurasians.