Neil T. Roach
Assistant Research Professor - GWU; Postdoctoral Fellow - AMNH
Areas of Expertise
Human evolution; Biomechanics and functional anatomy of the postcrania; Behavioral origins of the genus Homo; Evolution of high-speed throwing; Hominin land use patterns
I am a biological anthropologist broadly interested in the evolution of human behavior and the physiological, social and ecological forces that shaped that behavior through time. I am particularly interested in the origins of our genus, Homo, nearly two million years ago, and how shifts in behavior at that time enabled our species to thrive across the globe. Studying this important transition from our earlier ancestors' chimpanzee-like form and lifeways to that of our own lineage is critical to understanding how we as a species and genus are unique, what drove our evolution and why we are the way we are today.
To answer these questions, I use both experimental laboratory and field-based methods to study how major shifts in anatomy may allow or reflect changes in crucial behaviors. By studying both modern humans and living apes, I am able to understand how anatomical changes found in the fossil record affect the performance of evolutionarily important behaviors. I then use that information to interpret the course of our own behavioral evolution.
My current laboratory research studies the biomechanical and performance underpinnings of behaviors such as throwing, tool making, spear use, and climbing. I also actively conduct fieldwork in the Turkana region of northwestern Kenya. My ongoing field research includes the description of new hominin remains, examining hominin social organization and land use using 1.5 million year old fossil footprints and studies of throwing and hunting in the Daasanach people.
Roach, N.T., Richmond, B.G. 2014. Clavicle length, throwing performance and the reconstruction of the Homo erectus shoulder. J Human Evolution. doi:10.1016/j/jhevol.2014.09.004
Roach, N.T., Lieberman, D.E. 2014. Upper body contributions to power generation during rapid, overhand throwing in humans. J Experimental Biology. 217. 2139-2149.
Roach, N.T., Venkadesan, M. Rainbow, M.J., Lieberman, D.E. 2013. Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in Homo. Nature. 498. 483-486.
Roach, N.T., Lieberman, D.E., Gill IV, T.J., Palmer, W.E., Gill III, T.J. 2012. The effect of humeral torsion on rotational range of motion in the shoulder and throwing performance. J Anatomy. 220. 293-301.
Tryon, C., Roach, N.T., Logan, A. 2008. The Middle Stone Age of the northern Kenyan Rift: age and context of new archaeological sites from the Kapedo Tuffs. J Human Evolution. 55. 652-664.