Tom Plummer

Collaborating Scientist

Tom Plummer

Tom Plummer is an Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department at Queens College, City University of New York, and a member of the CUNY graduate faculty and the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology.  His research broadly focuses on late Pliocene and early Pleistocene hominin behavior and ecology, with a special interest in exploring the adaptive significance of the first stone tools.  He co-directs field research on the Homa Peninsula, Kenya with Richard Potts, where Plummer is focusing on late Pliocene and Pleistocene archeological and paleontological sites.  Much of this research has centered on the excavation of the 2-million-year-old Oldowan archeological occurrence at Kanjera South.  There, hominin activities were carried out in the oldest grassland-dominated ecosystem documented thus far during the course of human evolution.  Hominins had a sophisticated understanding of stone quality, and differentially utilized and transported high quality raw materials for tool production.  Evidence for the butchery of small antelope carcasses on-site may provide the oldest documentation of hunting in the fossil record.  Artifact use-wear analysis demonstrates that hominins were cutting and scraping wood, almost certainly to make tools, and processing another important food resource, starch-rich tubers.  These data suggest that stone tools were an important, perhaps critical, component of the foraging ecology of hominins by 2 million years ago.

Publications: 

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

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

Braun, D.R., Plummer, T.W., Ditchfield, P.W., Ferraro, J.V., Maina, D., Bishop, L.C., Potts, R. 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.

Frost, S.R., Plummer, T.W., Bishop, L.C., Ditchfield, P.W., Ferraro, J.V., Hicks, J. 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., Hicks, J. 1999.Research on late Pliocene Oldowan sites at Kanjera South, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 36: 151-170.