Research

Research in the Laboratory for Computational Anthropology (LCA) asks “What do Humans Eat and Why?” We aim to answer this question by

1. Researching and shedding light on problems at the intersection of anthropology, human evolutionary ecology and biology and,
2. Developing computational and statistical tools to address these problem.

Current lab research addresses three general and interrelated areas:

1) The evolutionary ecology and behavior of modern and prehistoric foragers

2) Paleoenvironmental reconstructions contextualizing forager behavior, and

3) Theoretical and methodological development of models that link archaeological data to behavior and morphology.

Specifically, we are currently testing hypotheses about how climate, spatial and temporal variation, habitat variation, prey abundance, foraging strategies, and hunting weaponry affect the dietary composition of prehistoric and modern human small-scale populations.

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Based on theory drawn from anthropology, evolutionary biology, and evolutionary ecology, we hypothesize and model causal processes that shaped ancient and modern hunter-gatherer strategies. These models are then assessed using archaeological data, observations of modern-day foragers, and experimental and statistical methods. Lab research also focuses on developing novel computational and analytical methods to test hypotheses and answer scientific questions.

Technical expertise of LCA members are broad, encompassing field methods, GIS and spatio-temporal statistics, statistical software development, 2D and 3D morphometrics, linear and nonlinear mixed models, model selection and comparison, multivariate modeling, non-parametric randomization statistics, mathematical modeling, and phylogenetic comparative methods (PGLS).

Causes of Variation in the Foraging Strategies and Dietary Composition of Small-Scale Populations
Prehistoric Hunting Weaponry Morphology
Effects of Spatio-Temporal Climatic Variation on Human Hunting Prey
Computational Paleoclimatic Reconstructions
Human Hunting Behavior and Foraging Strategies
Computational and Statistical Methods Development
Non-Traditional Statistical Hypotheses Tests
zooaRch
Geomorph and Morphometrics

Publications

Bayesian Statistics in Archaeology


Null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) is the most common statistical framework used by scientists, including archaeologists. Due to increasing dissatisfaction, however, Bayes
Journal Article
Erik Otárola-Castillo and M. Torquato
Annual Review of Anthropology (Accepted for publication in 2018 issue)

Null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) is the most common statistical framework used by scientists, including archaeologists. Due to increasing dissatisfaction, however, Bayesian inference has become an alternative to these methods. In this paper, we review the application of Bayesian statistics to archaeology. We begin with a simple example to demonstrate the differences in applying NHST and Bayesian inference to an archaeological problem. Next, we formally define NHST and Bayesian inference, provide a brief historical overview of their development and discuss the advantages and limitations of each method. A review of Bayesian inference and archaeology follows, highlighting the applications of Bayesian methods to chronological, bioarchaeological, zooarchaeological, ceramic, lithic, and spatial analyses. We close by considering the future applications of Bayesian statistics to archaeological research.
Differentiating between cutting actions on bone using 3D Geometric Morphometrics and Bayesian analyses with implications to human evolution

Differentiating between cutting actions on bone using 3D Geometric Morphometrics and Bayesian analyses with implications to human evolution


Studies of bone surface modifications (BSMs) such as cut marks are crucial to our understanding of human and earlier hominin subsistence behavior. Over the last several decades, ho
Journal Article
Erik Otárola-Castillo, M. Torquato, H. Hawkins, E. James, J. Harris, C.W. Marean; S. McPherron, and J. Thompson.
2018 Journal of Archaeological Science 89:56-67
Studies of bone surface modifications (BSMs) such as cut marks are crucial to our understanding of human and earlier hominin subsistence behavior. Over the last several decades, however, BSM identification has remained contentious, particularly in terms of identifying the earliest instances of hominin butchery; there has been a lack of consensus over how to identify or differentiate marks made by human and non-human actors and varying effectors. Most investigations have relied on morphology to identify butchery marks and their patterning. This includes cut marks, one of the most significant human marks. Attempts to discriminate cut marks from other types of marks have employed a variety of techniques, ranging from subjectively characterizing cut mark morphology using the naked eye, to using high-powered microscopy such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) or micro-photogrammetry. More recent approaches use 3D datasets to obtain even more detailed information about mark attributes, and apply those to the fossil record. Although 3D datasets open promising new avenues for investigation, analyses of these datasets have not yet taken advantage of the full 3D surface morphology of BSM. Rather, selected cross-sectional slices of 3D scans have been used as proxies for overall shape. Here we demonstrate that 3D geometric morphometrics (GM), under the “Procrustes paradigm” and coupled with a Bayesian approach, probabilistically discriminates between marks caused by different butchery behaviors. At the same time, this approach provides a complete set of 3D morphological measurements and descriptions. Our results strengthen statistical confidence in cut mark identification and offer a novel approach that can be used to discriminate subtle differences between cut mark types in the fossil record. Furthermore, this study provides an incipient digital library with which to make future quantitative comparisons to archaeological examples, including contentious specimens that are key to understanding the earliest hominin butchery.

software

zooaRch: An R Package for Zooarchaeological Analyses


Zooarchaeology is concerned with the analysis and inference of faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites. The zooaRch package provides analytical tools for zooarchaeologic
Zooarchaeology is concerned with the analysis and inference of faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites. The zooaRch package provides analytical tools for zooarchaeological data. Functions in this package allow users to read, manipulate, visualize, and analyze zooarchaeological data. The zooaRch package can be downloaded freely from the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN).
To cite package ‘zooaRch’ in publications, kindly use both the R package citation and American Antiquity publication :

geomorph: Geometric morphometric analysis of 2d/3d landmark data


“geomorph” is an R package containing programs to read, manipulate, and digitize landmark data; generate shape variables via Procrustes analysis for points, curves and surface
“geomorph” is an R package containing programs to read, manipulate, and digitize landmark data; generate shape variables via Procrustes analysis for points, curves and surface data, perform statistical analyses of shape variation and covariation, and provide graphical depictions of shapes and patterns of shape variation. Geomorph can be downloaded freely from the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN).

Ontogenetic Allometry Trajectory Significance Test


Program to conduct significance testing of ontogenetic-allometry trajectories using residual randomization and within-age category sample size bootstrap (implementing work in, Ande
Program to conduct significance testing of ontogenetic-allometry trajectories using residual randomization and within-age category sample size bootstrap (implementing work in, Anderson, M. J., and C. J. F. Ter Braak, 2003; Collyer, M. L., and D. C. Adams. 2007; Piras, P., P. Colangelo, D.C. Adams, A. Buscalioni, J. Cubo, T. Kotsakis, C. Meloro, and P. Raia. 2010; KP McNulty, SR Frost, DS Strait 2006). ResidualRandwithBootRcode.r

Multivariate: 2Block Partial LS and Ordinations


General programs I wrote to conduct 2Block Partial Least Squares (from Rohlf and Corti 2000 systematic biology), Principal Components Analysis, Principal Coordinates Analysis, Corr
General programs I wrote to conduct 2Block Partial Least Squares (from Rohlf and Corti 2000 systematic biology), Principal Components Analysis, Principal Coordinates Analysis, Correspondence Analysis, Canonical Correspondence Analysis, and Redundancy Analysis. 2blockPLS_and_ordinations.r

teaching

Anthropology provides an excellent forum for the initiation of lifelong learning. I therefore strive to stimulate students’ intellectual capabilities and instill enthusiasm for learning about the variation in human evolutionary behavior and and how to successfully answer scientific questions about this topic.

I currently teach several courses in Archaeology and Quantitative/Computational Anthropology. Descriptions for my primary undergraduate and graduate courses are provided below.

ANTH 306 – Quantitative Methods for Anthropologists


This course provides an introduction to the broad statistical methods used throughout the 4-fields of Anthropology. It covers elementary probability theory, basic concepts of stati
This course provides an introduction to the broad statistical methods used throughout the 4-fields of Anthropology. It covers elementary probability theory, basic concepts of statistical inference, sampling theory, regression and correlation methods, analysis of variance, and study design. The course will motivate statistical methods through data analysis and visualization. It is designed for students who intend to focus in an anthropological discipline as well as other social and biological sciences. There are no pre-requisites from the Statistics or Mathematics Departments. This course will be useful to students of all interests, but particularly to students interested in quantitative science literacy, students planning for graduate work, students interested in joining the workforce and becoming part of the educated citizenry.

ANTH 377 – Hunter-Gatherer Societies


Selective global survey of societies whose mode of subsistence is/was based on the collection of wild food resources. Topics to be covered include: the development and current stat
Selective global survey of societies whose mode of subsistence is/was based on the collection of wild food resources. Topics to be covered include: the development and current state of theory, ecology, social organization, land use, demography, subsistence rights, and worldview.

ANTH 606 – Advanced Quantitative Methods


The course provides a broad overview of research strategies and techniques commonly employed in the various subfields of anthropology. Surveying the data analysis toolbox, this cou
The course provides a broad overview of research strategies and techniques commonly employed in the various subfields of anthropology. Surveying the data analysis toolbox, this course is designed for students interested in applying quantitative or mixed methods to their research. This course is appropriate for students at all stages: whether designing a study and formulating hypotheses, preparing to collect data, or post data-collection. Topics include sampling, univariate and multivariate confirmatory and exploratory statistics, model selection, Bayesian methods, spatial modeling & GIS, and other specialized topics.

ANTH 425 – Archaeological Method & Theory


This course is an introduction to the current theories and methods employed by contemporary anthropological archaeologists to make inferences about human populations who lived in t
This course is an introduction to the current theories and methods employed by contemporary anthropological archaeologists to make inferences about human populations who lived in the past. Topics include the history of archaeology, archaeological theories, and discussions of survey and field techniques, how archaeologists analyze material remains from the archaeological record to reconstruct multiple aspects of human behavior. These include human cultural practices, diet and subsistence, migrations, social and political organization, and many other characteristics of past human populations. Although the structure of the course focuses on archaeological methods and theories, it will be interspersed with case studies that demonstrate how archaeologists actually reconstruct human behavior and address anthropological questions about the past.

CONTACT

Where to find me

If you are interested in discussing research or a class, just drop by my office or lab. Making an appointment first, however, might ensure I am in my office and will be able to meet with you.

Physical Location:

Stone Hall Room 219C, Purdue University

Labs

Physical Location:

Stone Hall Room 218

Stone Hall Room 098

Anthropology Department, Purdue University

Mailing Information

Department of Anthropology

Purdue University
700 West State Street
West Lafayette, IN, 47906

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LCA