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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Walking with Lucy: Modeling Mobility Patterns of Australopithecus afarensis Using GIS
by McPherson, Rachel, M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2018, 62; 10750014
Abstract (Summary)

Behavior is perhaps the most challenging component of an extinct organism to reconstruct and understand. Often in paleoanthropology, researchers primarily have fossils and paleoecological data; however, combining these into models of hominin behavior is difficult in practice. Yet for years archaeologists and wildlife biologists have been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to model the mobility behavior of humans and other animals. This research seeks to integrate the methodology of cost-distance modeling in GIS into paleoanthropology to understand hominin mobility, specifically investigating if the potential mobility pattern of Australopithecus afarensis can be modeled to understand how they got across Eastern Africa to their known sites. The models created for Au. afarensis, humans, and chimpanzees brought together walking time as a cost factor and modern slope as an impediment to movement. These values were input into the Cost Distance tool in ArcGIS with Laetoli as the source and tested on two study areas, Laetoli and Eastern Africa. Known Au. afarensis sites matched areas of least cost for each potential mobility pattern, which indicated that 1) none of the models could be ruled as the best potential mobility pattern for Au. afarensis, 2) Au. afarensis likely avoided steeper gradients, and 3) modern gradient data were not incompatible with the models. Despite limitations to this study, these models provide a foundation for research into hominin mobility patterns using GIS.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Musiba, Charles
Commitee: Hodgkins, Jamie, Moreno, Rafael, Thomas, Deborah
School: University of Colorado at Denver
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Physical anthropology, Geographic information science
Keywords: Afarensis, Australopithecus, GIS, Mobility, Model, Paleoanthropology
Publication Number: 10750014
ISBN: 978-0-438-03811-0
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