Distinguished Lecture

The CSAS 2017 Distinguished Lecturer is Dr. Fred Smith.

Title:  There are Neandertals Among Us!  Understanding an Aboriginal People of Eurasia

Brief abstract: Scientific understanding of Neandertals has accumulated at an amazing pace, particularly fueled by the study of ancient DNA.  Neandertals are not simply our close cousins, they are our ancestors.  Neandertal ancestry represents only a small fraction of modern Eurasian (and even some African) gene pools, but these contributions are, or have been, critical to the survival of modern people.  This presentation will focus on what we know about the role of Neandertals in the emergence of modern people outside of Africa and how this role is reflected in aspects other than genetics and genomics.  Additionally, the importance of this “new light” on Neandertals for more far-reaching anthropological issues will be explored.

FredSmithFred H. Smith is a human paleontologist who has studied Neandertals for nearly a half-century.  He has undertaken field and laboratory research in Europe, Western Asia, East Africa and South Africa and is best known for his work in Central Europe (particularly Croatia, Germany and Austria).  In addition to the analysis of fossil samples from several important sites, including the Croatian sites of Krapina and Vindija and the original Neandertal site in Germany, Smith has contributed to broader issues concerning the biological origin of modern humans and the role of Neandertals and other archaic humans in that process.  His Assimilation Model of Modern Human Origins now enjoys broad acceptance primarily as the result of recent studies of ancient DNA in Neandertals and early modern people. However, anatomical evidence supporting it also has long been, and continues to be, strong.  The author of numerous scholarly publications on human evolution, Smith is currently University Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Illinois State University.  He has also held administrative and/or faculty positions at the University of Tennessee, Northern Illinois University, and Loyola University – and has also taught at the Universities of Zagreb, Hamburg, and Tübingen.