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Briana Pobiner

Portrait photo of Dr. Briana Pobiner

Briana Pobiner is a paleoanthropologist whose research centers on the evolution of human diet (with a focus on meat-eating), but has included topics as diverse as human cannibalism and chimpanzee carnivory. She has done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Indonesia and has been supported in her research by the Fulbright-Hays program, the Leakey Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, Rutgers University, the Society for American Archaeology, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Her favorite field moments include falling asleep in a tent in the Serengeti in Tanzania while listening to the distant whoops of hyenas, watching a pride of lions eat a zebra carcass on the Kenyan equator, and discovering fossil bones that were last touched, butchered and eaten by one of her 1.5-million-year-old ancestors. Since joining the Smithsonian in 2005 to help put together the Hall of Human Origins, in addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she leads the Human Origins Program’s education and outreach efforts which includes managing the Human Origins Program's public programs, website content, social media, and exhibition volunteer training. Briana has also more recently developed a research program in evolution education and science communication.

Briana has a BA from Bryn Mawr College (1997), where she created her own major called Evolutionary Studies, and an MA (2002) and PhD (2007) in Anthropology from Rutgers University. Briana is also an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology in the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at the George Washington University.


Eller, A., Pobiner, B., Friend, S., Austin, R. M., Hofman, C. A., Sholts, S. B. 2020. A chomped chimp: New evidence of tooth marks on an adult chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 

Pobiner, B. 2020. The zooarchaeology and paleoecology of early hominin scavenging. Evolutionary Anthropology

Richmond, B., Green, D. J., Lague, M. L.; Chirchir, H., Behrensmeyer, A. K., Bobe, R., Bamford, M., Griffin, N. L., Gunz, P., Mbua, E., Merritt, S., Pobiner, B., Kiura, P., Kibunjia, M., Harris, J. W., Braun, D. R. 2020. The upper limb of Paranthropus boisei from Ileret, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 141: 102727. 

Dunk, R. D. P., Barnes, M. E., Reiss, M. J., Alters, B., Asghar, A., Carter, B. E., Cotner, S., Glaze, A. L., Hawley, P, H., Jensen, J. L., Mead, L. S., Nadelson, L. S., Nelson, C. E., Pobiner, B., Scott, E. C., Shtulman, A., Sinatra, G. M., Southerland, S. A., Walter, E. M., Brownell, S. E., Wiles, J. R. 2019. Evolution education involves a complex landscape of interrelated factors. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Alemseged, Z., Njau, J. Pobiner, B., Ndiema, E. 2019. Connecting palaeoscientists in eastern Africa and the wider world. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Bertka, C.M., Pobiner, B., Beardsley, P., Watson, W.A. 2019.  Acknowledging students’ concerns about evolution: a proactive teaching strategy. Evolution: Education and Outreach 12:3. 

Pobiner, B., Terry, M. 2018. Intelligent design. In Trevathan, W. (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology, pp. 881-885. John Wiley & Sons.

Pobiner, B., Beardsley, P., Bertka, C., Watson, W. 2018. Using human case studies to teach evolution in high school A.P. biology classrooms. Evolution: Education and Outreach 11:3.

Pobiner, B., Higson, C., Kovarovic, K., Rogers, J., Kaplan, R, Schindler, W.  2018. Experimental butchery study investigating the influence of timing of access and butcher experience on cut mark variables. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 

Pobiner, B. 2017. The quest to understand human evolution: a magical mystery tour. American Biology Teacher 79: 2.

Liutkus-Pierce, C.M., Zimmer, B.W, Carmichael, S.K., McIntosh, W., Deino, A., Hewitt, S.M., McGinnis, K.J., Hartney, T., Brett, J., Mana, S., Deocampo, D., Richmond, B.G., Hatala, K., Harcourt-Smith, W., Pobiner, B., Metallo, A., Rossi, V. 2016. Radioisotopic age, formation, and preservation of Late Pleistocene human footprints at Engare Sero, Tanzania. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 463: 68-82.

Pobiner, B.L. 2016. Meat-eating among the earliest humans. American Scientist 104: 110.

Pobiner, B.L. 2016. Accepting, understanding, teaching, and learning (human) evolution: obstacles and opportunities. American Journal of Physical Anthropology S61: 232-274. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22910

Pobiner, B.L. 2015. New actualistic data on the ecology and energetic of scavenging opportunities. Journal of Human Evolution 80: 1-16.

Pobiner, B. L. 2014. (Book review) Stone Tools and Fossil Bones: Debates in the Archaeology of Human Origins. M. Dominguez-Rodrigo (Ed.) Cambridge University Press, 2012. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa. DOI: 10.1080/0067270X.2013.873197.

Pobiner, B.L. 2014. (Book review) Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art, and Imagination Help Us Understand Our Origins. J. Gurche, Yale University Press, 2013. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 154: 317.
Ferraro, J.V., Plummer, T., Pobiner, B., Oliver, J., Bishop, L., Braun, D., Ditchfield, P., Seaman III, J., Binetti, K., Seaman Jr. J., Hertel, F., and Potts, R. 2013. Earliest archaeological evidence of persistent hominin carnivory. PLoS ONE 8(4): e62174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062174.
Alemseged, Z., Kiura, P.W., Mbua, E., Njau, J.K., Pobiner. B.  2012. A platform for East African paleoanthropology: third biannual conference of the EAAPP. Evolutionary Anthropology 21: 89-91.
Pobiner, B. L. 2012. Use human examples to teach evolution. American Biology Teacher 74(2): 71-72.
Johnson, N.A., Smith, J.J., Pobiner, B., Schrein, C. 2012. Why are chimps still chimps? American Biology Teacher 74(2): 74-80. 
Indriati, E., Swisher, C.C., Lepre, C., Quinn, R.L., Suriyanto, R.A., Hascaryo, A.T., Feibel, C.S., Pobiner, B.L., Antón, S.C. 2011. Reassessing the age of the 20 meter Solo River Terrace, Central Java, Indonesia, and the survival of Late Homo erectus in Asia. PLOS One 6(6): e21562. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021562.
Tryon, C., Pobiner, B., Kauffman, R. 2010. Archaeology and human evolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach 3, 377-386.

Pobiner, B. 2010. Teacher’s Corner: Teaching Resources from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program. AnthroNotes 31(1): 16-18.

Njau, J., Mbua, E., Alemseged, Z., Pobiner, B. 2009. Second conference of the East African Association for Paleoanthropology and Paleontology: fifty years after discovery of Zinjanthropus. Evolutionary Anthropology 18, 235-236.

Pobiner, B.L., 2008. Paleoecological information from predator tooth marks. Journal of Taphonomy 6(3-4), 373-397.

Pobiner, B.L., 2008. Apples and oranges again: comment on “Conceptual premises in experimental design and their bearing on the use of analogy: an example from experiments on cut marks”. World Archaeology 40(4), 466-479.

Pobiner, B.L., Rogers, M.J., Monahan, C.M., Harris, J. W.K., 2008. New evidence for hominin carcass processing strategies at 1.5 Ma, Koobi Fora, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 55, 103-130.

Braun, D.R., Pobiner, B.L., Thompson, J.C., 2008. An experimental investigation of cut mark production and stone tool attrition. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 1216-1223.

Blumenschine, R.J., Andrews, P., Capaldo, S.D., Njau, J.K., Peters, C.R., Pobiner, B.L., 2007. Vertebrate taphonomic perspectives on Oldowan hominid land use in the Plio-Pleistocene Olduvai basin, Tanzania. In Pickering, T.R., Schick, K., Toth, N. (Eds.), Breathing Life into Fossils: Taphonomic Studies in Honor of C. K. (Bob) Brain, pp. 161-179. Bloomington, Indiana: Stone Age Institute Press.

Pobiner, B.L., DeSilva, J., Sanders, W.J., Mitani, J.C., 2007. Taphonomic analysis of skeletal remains from chimpanzee hunts at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda. Journal of Human Evolution 52, 614-636.

Blumenschine, R.J., Pobiner, B.L., 2006. Zooarchaeology and the ecology of Oldowan hominin carnivory. In Ungar, P. (Ed.), Evolution of the Human Diet: the Known, the Unknown and the Unknowable, pp. 167-190. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pobiner, B.L., Braun, D.R., 2005. Strengthening the inferential link between cutmark frequency data and Oldowan hominid behavior: Results from modern butchery experiments. Journal of Taphonomy 3, 107-119.

Pobiner, B.L., Braun, D.R., 2005 Applying actualism: considerations for future research. Journal of Taphonomy 3, 57-65.

Rogers, M.J., Harris, J.W.K., Cachel, S.M., Merritt, S., Pobiner, B.L., Braun, D.R., 2004. Early Pleistocene hominid behavioral adaptations in the Koobi Fora region, east of Lake Turkana, Kenya. In Sanogo, K., Togola, T. (Eds.), Actes of the XI Congress of the Pan African Association of Prehistory and Related Studies, pp. 20-33. Bamako, Mali.

Pobiner, B.L., Blumenschine, R.J., 2003. A taphonomic perspective on the Oldowan hominid encroachment on the carnivoran paleoguild. Journal of Taphonomy 1(2), 115-141.

Braun, D.R., Pobiner, B.L., 2003. Applications of indigenous knowledge to the interpretation of East African Holocene archaeology. In Peck, T., Siegfried, E., Oetelaar, G. A. (Eds.), Indigenous People and Archaeology: Honouring the Past, Discussing the Present, Building the Future, pp. 161-174. The Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Pobiner, B.L., 1999. The use of stone tools to determine handedness in hominid evolution. Current Anthropology 40(1), 90-92.