Fairfield Professor's Research Among Top 13 Human Evolution Discoveries in 2023

Fairfield Professor's Research Among Top 13 Human Evolution Discoveries in 2023

Research by Frances L. Forrest, PhD, assistant professor of sociology & anthropology at Fairfield, was featured among Smithsonian Magazine’s most fascinating findings of the year.

Media Contact: Robby Piazzaroli, rpiazzaroli@fairfield.edu, 203-254-4000 x2597

Frances L. Forrest, PhD, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Fairfield, co-authored research that was featured among "some of the year’s most fascinating findings about human origins" in a Smithsonian Magazine article titled “Thirteen Discoveries Made About Human Evolution in 2023."

 A specialist in biological anthropology, Dr. Forrest was part of an international team that uncovered a trove of three-million-year-old stone tools, fossils, animal and hominin teeth at Nyayanga — an archeological site in Kenya — which turned out to be the earliest evidence of a species using stone chopping, scraping, and cutting implements (known collectively as the Oldowan tool kit), nearly a million years earlier than previously documented.

The Smithsonian article lists the study under the heading “Which species made and used early stone tools?” The research, led by Thomas Plummer, PhD, of Queens College in New York, was officially published this fall.

“Having our study recognized by the Smithsonian was incredibly affirming,” said Dr. Forrest. “It's not just about personal achievement but recognition that we are contributing to a deeper understanding of where we come from and who we are as a species. This recognition is both is both humbling and exciting and serves as a reminder that each new discovery helps illuminate our evolutionary history.

Being an integral part of this project and collaborating with such exceptional researchers from diverse institutions around the world has been an immensely enriching opportunity and has significantly contributed to my own growth as a researcher.”

In the summer of 2019, Dr. Forrest began leading a fieldwork project in the Koobi Fora region of Kenya with a group of college students. The project, entitled “Zooarchaelogy at a New Hominin Locality in Koobi Fora, Kenya,” resumed in 2022 after a hiatus due to Covid, and received a major boost when she was awarded a Leakey Foundation grant in May of last year. She hopes to take a couple of Fairfield students on her expedition next summer.

Posted On: February 6, 2024

Volume: 55 Number: 61

Fairfield University is the modern Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.