Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Sheila Nightingale

Project Title: City as Lab
Thesis: The Archaeology of Human Behavioral Modernity
College/University: City University of New York - Brooklyn College
Research Advisor: Arthur Bankoff, Tom Plummer
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Archaeology
Department: Anthropology
Research Focus: African Middle Stone Age lithic technology
Teaching Partner(s):

Description of Research

The Middle Stone Age is a time period of particular interest, as our own species, Homo sapiens, is first seen in the archaeological record around 200ka. Much debate has taken place in the past several decades over the emergence of not simply anatomically modern humans, but behaviorally modern humans. In western Eurasia, the behavioral package we would characterize as “modern” is first seen around 40ka, when H. sapiens are believed to have entered Europe via the Near East; in Africa, however, the increasingly robust archaeological data set indicates that many of the behavioral traits associated with modernity have, in fact, a significant antiquity, some first appearing in the record around 600ka. The question of what it means to be “human” and what it means to be “modern” is then focused on the African record. My own research interests are centered around these questions, seeking to assess issues of human modernity through preserved material cultural remains—namely, stone tool technologies.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

While the City-as-Lab project does not focus specifically on archaeology, we have worked to incorporate an anthropological aspect to the project, considering how human activity has influenced the local environment over time. Using nearby Prospect Park as a focus for authentic field research in the natural sciences has allowed us to talk about the ways in which ‘natural’ landscapes are constructed in urban environments, and how the maintenance of these environments affects their physical and chemical properties.