Katerina Harvati is a paleoanthropologist whose work has focused on Neanderthals and hominin migration. She received both her BA and MA in Anthropology, and completed her PhD in Anthropology, at the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2001. She is currently Director and Professor of Paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Her research has landed her several fellowship awards and she has even been featured in TIME magazine in 2007 for one of the top 10 scientific discoveries: “Man’s Migration Out of Africa” (TIME 2007). The article explains how Harvati and her team analyzed a skull from South Africa to determine its age, consequently supporting the theory that all modern humans have African origins.
Neanderthal research in general has added to our understanding of the evolution of the human species. They are estimated to have inhabited West Eurasia from the mid Pleistocene until 30,000 years ago and are recognized in the fossil record by characteristics including but not limited to reduced prognathism, larger brains, elongated crania, heavy brows, and shovel-shaped incisors. They were the first fossil human species for which mitochondrial DNA was extracted. While some believe that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, others, including Harvati, believe that there is not enough evidence to support admixture (Harvati, 2007). Harvati’s work has added directly to our knowledge of the Neanderthal lineage through her contribution to the discovery of the first evidence of Neanderthals in Greece. Specifically, Harvati discovered a Neanderthal tooth at the Lakonis site in southern Greece, dated between 38-44,000 years ago. Harvati claims that although it is difficult to determine which technologies are associated with which species definitively, the finding lends evidence that the stone tools at the site were made by Neanderthals (Harvati, 2003, 2007). Her research and findings are crucial because Greece is thought to be an important geographic travel route for modern human migration to Europe from the East (Harvati, 2003).
Written by Casey Sheridan, Jas Hamilton, and Lisa Estrella Yang as part of Gender and Human Evolution, taught by Caroline VanSickle and submitted as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.
Harvati, Katerina et al. 2003 “First Neanderthal remains from Greece: the evidence from Lakonis”. Journal of Human Evolution, 45: 465–473.
Harvati, Katerina. 2007 “Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries” Handbook of Paleontology: Phylogeny of Hominids.Springer, New York. Vol. 3. Pages 1717-1748.
Image provided by Katerina Harvati (on fieldwork in 2016) and used with permission.