NYCEP Alumnus Profile

Varsha Pilbrow

Lecturer Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences University of Melbourne (Australia)


Ph.D. 2003, New York University




Overview of Research

How humans evolved is a question that fascinates lay people and scientists alike. The question is often seeped in controversy, in large part because ancestral human fossil remains are rare and consist primarily of teeth and other skeletal elements that fossilize well. A major question then is: how much reliance can be placed on observations from such scant evidence for reconstructing the evolutionary relationships among our fossil ancestors?

Research in our laboratory focuses on determining the importance of hard-tissue anatomy for studying human evolution. In particular, we study the evidence for gene flow, genetic admixture and evolutionary diversification through dental morphology and skeletal morphology.

Research is conducted in the lab but also involves travel to museums around the world, and participation in palaeoanthropological and archaeological fieldwork in Africa, Europe and Asia.


Sagona, A, Nikolaishvili, V., Sagona, C., Ogleby, C., Pilbrow, V., Briggs, C., Giunashvili, G., Manegaladze, G. (In Press). Archaeology in the central Caucasus: Perspectives from Samtavro. Journal of Archaeology of the Turkish Academy of Sciences/Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi Arkeoloji Dergisi 13.

Sagona, A, Nikolaishvili, V., Sagona, C., Ogleby, C., Pilbrow, V., Briggs, C., Giunashvili, G., Manegaladze, G. (In Press). Excavations at Samtavro, 2008–2009: An interim report. Ancient Near Eastern Studies 47.

Pilbrow, V (2010) Dental and phylogeographic patterns of variation in gorillas. Journal of Human Evolution, 59 (1): 16-34.

Pilbrow, V (2007) Patterns of dental variation in extant apes with particular reference to the subspecies category in hominin taxonomy.  In Bailey, SE and Hublin, J-J (Eds). Dental perspectives on human evolution: State of the art research in dental paleoanthropology, pp 9-32. Springer, New York.

Pilbrow, V (2006) Population systematics of chimpanzees using molar morphometrics. Journal of Human Evolution, 51: 646-662.

Pilbrow, V (2006) Lingual incisor traits in the modern hominoids and their utility for fossil hominoid taxonomy. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 129: 323-338.

Bailey, S; Pilbrow, V & Wood, B (2004) Interobserver error involved in independent attempts to measure cusp base areas of Pan M1s. Journal of Anatomy. 205: 323-331.