Dr. Shelby Putt is a biological anthropologist whose research program combines functional neuroimaging technology (fNIRS and fMRI) with the fossil and archaeological record to investigate the evolution of human language, cognition, and brain size. Other research interests include stone tool use and manufacture, experimental archaeology, working memory, laterality, locomotion, comparative primate behavior, and social transmission/learning of skill-based behaviors.
102.002Human Origins: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology and Archaeology
398.001Professional Practice: Research Apprenticeship Anthropology
350.001The Human Fossil Record
450.001The Human Fossil Record
human evolution, experimental archaeology, primate studies, Paleolithic archaeology, osteology, cognition and language
I am interested in how humans’ manner of perceiving and interacting with the world is different from that of other primates and how it has changed through time, or in other words, how human cognition has evolved. This has led to my interest in how we can measure something as intangible as the evolution of cognition. One unique way that humans interact with the world is through their habitual use of tools. Tools are a product of cognition; they are a window into the mind of not only people living today, but also the humans and human relatives who made and used tools in the past. Therefore, I am also interested in the interplay between technology and human cognitive evolution. I rely on neuroimaging technology to infer the neural correlates of ancient tool production, and consequently draw conclusions about human cognitive abilities at different points in prehistory. This research has led to more specific questions about derived neural networks involved in language, working memory, and learning, as well as broader questions on the evolutionary mechanisms contributing to cognitive evolution and brain expansion, prehistoric modes for socially transmitting learned skills, and modern human origins.
TLDR: My research interests include the evolution of human language and cognition, Homo erectus, comparative primate cognition, Paleolithic technology, the application of psychological/neurological tools to anthropological questions, and hominin locomotion.