Public Dissertation Defense: Katrina E. Yezzi-Woodley

Katrina E. Yezzi-Woodley will be defending her dissertation, "Applying a new 3D data extraction method and machine learning to identify hominin bone marrow exploitation."

Date: Wednesday, April 27
Time: 2:30 p.m. CST
Location: Mondale Hall, Room 45
or via Zoom (Link Here)

"Researchers have long debated whether hominins were hunting or scavenging at important Early Pleistocene sites such as Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. There are disagreements as to whether the earliest evidence for butchery is 2.5 million years ago (Bouri, Ethiopia) or as early as 3.4 millions years ago (Dikika, Ethiopia). And questions remain about the emergence of the human predatory pattern. Among primates, this pattern is the uniquely human behavior of hunting animals of larger body size. Did the human predatory pattern develop as an extension of small game hunting? Or, was it the result of scavenging for in-bone nutrients of large animals? If the latter is the case, then bone marrow could have been a key factor affecting our evolution. My research develops new methods for analyzing the traces left behind by hominin butchery aimed at resolving these long standing debates. To determine the impact of marrow on the evolution of our genus requires these new methods to better identify anthropogenic bone breakage.

I will present new tools and methods for analyzing 3D models of bone fragments. These methods extract richer data that are useful for the application of machine learning algorithms. Furthermore, these new methods are designed to be easily replicated by independent research programs and are made freely available through open source platforms. These accurate and precise tools have the potential to resolve these longstanding anthropological debates. And, the ability to classify individual bone fragments according to the agents that produced them bodes well for the future of research on early hominin subsistence patterns, and, more broadly, the evolution of our genus, Homo."  

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