Thomas Plummer

Professor Department of Anthropology Queens College and The Graduate Center City University of New York


Ph.D. 1991, Yale University




Tel: (718) 997-5514

Fax: (718) 997-2885

Overview of Research

Dr. Plummer's research focuses on reconstructing the behavior and ecology of extinct members of our biological family, the Hominidae. It includes a strong paleoecological component because paleoenvironmental information is integral to issues ranging from the origin of major morphological complexes (e.g. bipedalism), understanding adaptive shifts within and between hominid lineages (e.g. between hominids with gracile and robust chewing apparatuses) and elucidating the context of novel behaviors (e.g., the production of stone tools and the formation of the first archeological sites at ca. 2.6 million years ago).

His fieldwork focuses on investigating archeological and paleontological occurrences in late Pliocene and Pleistocene sediments on the Homa Peninsula, southwestern Kenya. He is particularly interested in probing the adaptive significance of the earliest stone tool industry, known as the Oldowan. His on-going excavations at the ca. 2.0 million year old Oldowan site of Kanjera South, Kenya, have uncovered the largest assemblage of artifacts and archeological fauna from an Oldowan site outside of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Manuscripts describing and interpreting the finds from Kanjera are currently in preparation.


T. W. Plummer, P. W. Ditchfield, L. C. Bishop, J. D. Kingston, J. V. Ferraro, D. R. Braun, F. Hertel, and R. Potts (2009).  Oldest Evidence of Toolmaking Hominins in a Grassland- Dominated Ecosystem. PLoS ONE 4:7199.

Plummer, T. W., L. C. Bishop, and F. Hertel (2008). Habitat preference of extant African bovids based on astragalus morphology: operationalizing ecomorphology for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Journal of Archaeological Science 35:3016-3027.

D. R. Braun, T. Plummer, P. Ditchfield, J. V. Ferraro, D. Maina, L. C. Bishop, and R. Potts (2008). Oldowan behavior and raw material transport: perspectives from the Kanjera Formation. Journal of Archaeological Science 35:2329-2345.

Plummer, T. W. (2005). Discord after Discard. Reconstructing Aspects of Oldowan Hominin Behavior. In A. Stahl (ed) African Archaeology. A Critical Introduction, Blackwell Guides to Archaeology, Oxford, pp. 55-92.

Plummer, T. W. (2004). Flaked stones and old bones: biological and cultural evolution at the dawn of technology. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 47: 118-164.

Stephen R. Frost, Thomas Plummer, Laura C. Bishop, Peter Ditchfield, Joseph Ferraro, Jason Hicks. 2003. Partial cranium of Cercopithecoides kimeui Leakey, 1982 from Rawi Gully, southwestern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 122: 191-199.

Plummer, T. W. & Stanford, C. B. (2000). Analysis of a bone assemblage made by chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 39: 345-365.

Plummer, T. W., Bishop, L., Ditchfield, P. & J. Hicks (1999). Research on late Pliocene Oldowan sites at Kanjera South, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 36: 151-170.