Briana L. Pobiner

Pobiner headshot

Briana L. Pobiner

Associate Research Professor (she/her)


Office Phone: (202) 633-1985
National Museum of Natural History


Ph.D. 2007, Anthropology, Rutgers University (with Certificate in Quaternary Studies)
M.A. 2002, Anthropology, Rutgers University
B.A. 1997, Evolutionary Studies, Bryn Mawr College magna cum laude

Paleoanthropology, zooarchaeology, taphonomy, faunal analysis, Paleolithic archaeology, evolution of human diet, evolution education and outreach. Regional focus: Africa.

Dr. Pobiner is paleoanthropologist whose zooarchaeological and taphonomic research centers on meat-eating in the evolution of Stone Age human diets with a focus on the use of bone surface modifications including human butchery marks and predator tooth marks on modern and fossil bones. She has done fieldwork in modern ecosystems, conducted excavations, and studied fossil collections in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Indonesia, Romania, Czech Republic, and the US.

Ongoing projects:

  • Taphonomic field survey of the modern Ol Pejeta Conservancy bone community, Kenya
  • Taphonomic analysis of fossils from Olorgesailie, Kenya
  • Field research at Engare Sero, Tanzania
  • Taphonomic analysis of fossils from the Olteţ River Valley in Romania
  • Taphonomic analysis of fossils from Předmostí, Czech Republic
  • Taphonomic analysis of fossils from Friesenhahn Cave, Texas, USA

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

2023 Thompson, J.C., Bertacchi, A., Keller, H., Hallett, E.Y., Pobiner, B. The zooarchaeology of Pleistocene Africa. In Beyin, A., Wright, D.K., Wilkins, J., Olszewski, D.I. (Eds) Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa. Springer, pp. 1955-2087.

2023 Pansani, T.R., Pobiner, B., Gueriau, P., Thoury, M., Tafforeau, P., Baranger, E., Vialou, Á.V., Vialou, D., McSparron, C., de Castro, M. C., Dantas, M.A.T., Bertrand, L., Pacheco, M.L.A.F. Evidence of artefacts made of giant sloth bones in central Brazil around the last glacial maximum. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 290:29020230316. 

2023 Pobiner, B., Pante, M., Keevil, T. 2023. Early Pleistocene cut marked hominin fossil from Koobi Fora, Kenya. Scientific Reports 13:9896.

2023 Norwood, A.L., Pobiner, B., Shedden, K., Kingston, J. D. Modeling periodicity in equid serial enamel isotopes as a proxy for precipitation seasonality. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 625: 111666.

2023 Pobiner, B. Teaching biological anthropology: pedagogy of human evolution and human variation. In Larsen, C.S. Ed. Companion to Biological Anthropology, Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 603-621.

2023 Croitor, R., Robinson, C., Curran, S., Terhune, C., Drăgușin, V., Pobiner, B., Popescu, A., Petculescu, A. Early Pleistocene Ruminants (Artiodactyla, Mammalia) from the Dacian Basin (South Romania) before and after the Pachycrocuta event: implications for hominin dispersals in western Eurasia. Historical Biology.

2022 Barr, W. A., Pobiner, B., Du, A., Faith, J. T., Rowan, J. No sustained increase in zooarchaeological evidence for carnivory after the appearance of Homo erectus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119(5): e2115540119.

2022 Pobiner, B. Lunch break science: digestible human origins videos by the Leakey Foundation. (Media review). American Journal of Biological Anthropology 177(1): 186-187.

2021 Curran, S.C., Terhune, C.E., Croiter, R., Drăgușin, V., Fox, D.L., Garrett, N., Gaudin, T., Ironside, L.B., Petculescu, A., Pobiner, B., Robinson, C., Robu, M., Tanţăun, I., Ungar, P.  Multiproxy paleoenvironmental reconstruction of Early Pleistocene sites from the Olteţ River Valley of Romania. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

2021 Pobiner, B. Human Evolution, Then and Now. (Book review) Evolution. 

2020 Pobiner, B., Dumouchel, L., Parkinson, J. A new semi-quantitative method for coding carnivore chewing damage with an application to modern African lion-damaged bones. PALAOIS 35(7): 302-315. 

2020 Hatala, K.G., Harcourt-Smith, W.E.H., Gordon, A.D. Zimmer, B.W., Richmond, B.G., Pobiner, B. L., Green, D.J., Metallo, A. Rossi, V., Liutkus-Pierce, C.M. Snapshots of human anatomy, locomotion, and social behavior from Late Pleistocene footprints at Engare Sero, Tanzania. Scientific Reports 10: 7740. 

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

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

2020 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. The upper limb of Paranthropus boisei from Ileret, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 141: 102727. 

Pobiner, B. 2019. (Book review) Edible Insects and Human Evolution. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture 3(2): 109-112.

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.

Pobiner, B., Mace, T., Collins, J. 2019. Science and religion in informal science education venues. In J. Shane, I. Binns, P. L. Meadows, and R. N. Hermann (Eds.) Making Sense of Science and Religion: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond. NSTA Press, pp. 103-114.

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. John Wiley & Sons, pp. 881-885. .

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.

ANTH 3829/6839: Lab Research Methods in Archaeology (Faunal Analysis)

ANTH 6491: Topics in Biological Anthropology (Science Communication)

HOMP 8302: Public Understanding of Science

2021    Recipient of the American Association of Biological Anthropologists and Leakey Foundation Communication and Outreach Award in Honor of Camilla Smith

2021    Recipient of a National Center for Science Education Friend of Darwin award