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Keywords:

  • paleoanthropology;
  • spatial analysis;
  • remote sensing;
  • geographic information systems

Abstract

The incorporation of research tools and analytical approaches from the geospatial sciences is a welcome trend for the study of primate and human evolution. The use of remote sensing (RS) imagery and geographic information systems (GIS) allows vertebrate paleontologists, paleoanthropologists, and functional morphologists to study fossil localities, landscapes, and individual specimens in new and innovative ways that recognize and analyze the spatial nature of much paleoanthropological data. Whether one is interested in locating and mapping fossiliferous rock units in the field, creating a searchable and georeferenced database to catalog fossil localities and specimens, or studying the functional morphology of fossil teeth, bones, or artifacts, the new geospatial sciences provide an essential element in modern paleoanthropological inquiry. In this article we review recent successful applications of RS and GIS within paleoanthropology and related fields and argue for the importance of these methods for the study of human evolution in the twenty first century. We argue that the time has come for inclusion of geospatial specialists in all interdisciplinary field research in paleoanthropology, and suggest some promising areas of development and application of the methods of geospatial science to the science of human evolution. Yrbk Phys Anthropol 54:19–46, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.