College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Anthropology

Dr. Karen D. Lupo

Ph.D. from University of Utah
at Southern Methodist University
Archaeology and Evolutionary Anthropology

Dr. Karen Lupo and Aka elephant hunter and his grandson.

Karen Lupo and an Aka elephant hunter and his grandson
in Ndele, Central African Republic.
Research Interests - Current Research - Publications

Research Interests

Zooarchaeology, ethnoarchaeology, human behavioral ecology, human evolution, hunters and gatherers, the evolution of sharing and cooperation, taphonomy.

Principal Investigator (2009-2012): Late Holocene Paleoecology and Archaeology of the Northern Central African Rain Forest. National Science Foundation.

Co-PI  with Timothy A. Kohler (PI), and  Eric A. Smith, Michael E. Alfaro, Michael S. Webster on National Science Foundation, IGERT: Model-based Approaches to Biological and Cultural Evolution.


Current Research

Karen Lupo is an archaeologist who specializes in the use of zooarchaeological analysis as a platform for exploring different questions about human-animal interactions.

East African carcass shows taphonomy in action.
East African carcass shows taphonomy in action.

By combining the use of Neodarwinian theory with ethnoarchaeological and experimental research, she explores questions relevant to the formation of faunal assemblages such as how people make decisions about the selective butcher and transport the skeletal parts of large-sized prey animals and how butchery marks reflect human processing decisions. Her recent ethnoarchaeological research among contemporary Aka and Bofi forest foragers provides insights into how and why meat is shared among contemporary hunter-gatherers and how this might be reflected in archaeological faunal assemblages.

Cutmarks on a maxilla from the Promontory Point, Utah archaeological faunal assemblage.
Cutmarks on a maxilla from the Promontory Point, Utah archaeological faunal assemblage.

Cutmarks and Human Butchery

My dissertation research was an analysis of several bone assemblages created by contemporary East Africa Hadza big-game hunters. Analysis of this assemblage has challenged current ideas about the correspondence between the distribution and frequency of cutmarks on bones and method of carcass acquisition (scavenging or hunting). These analyses also provided information on the types of bone damage that might be produced in different preparation contexts.


Experimental Butchery Project

How do people make decisions about which skeletal parts to transport when faced with transport constraints? Conventional ideas, still prevalent in research and analysis, suggest that it is the amount of meat, grease and marrow attached to the bone that determines transport decisions. In general, people selectively transport those parts with the greatest amount of attached food value. ZebraBut research among big game around the world, suggest that transport decisions are based on the costs and benefits associated with butchering and transporting different skeletal parts. In 1992, I initiated a series of butchering experiments to measure the economic anatomy (costs and benefits) associated with butchering different common East African prey. Analyses of these data in concert with observed transport patterns suggest that people make species specific decisions about how to butcher and transport different prey. These decisions are generally guided by a desire to maximize the amount of nutrients transport and minimize waste.

Jean Paul Ndanga Visits with Tribal Elders


Central African Project

Since 1999, I have conducted several different research projects centered in the N’gotto Forest Reserve in the Central African Republic. From 1999 to 2005, I initiated an ethnoarchaeological project studying indigenous forest foragers, the Aka and Bofi, in two different villages. This project is strongly based in Neodarwinian theory and focuses on how and why contemporary hunters share meat and cooperatively hunt.

Aka hunters with spears cross a wet savanna to go hunting.
Aka hunters with spears cross a wet savanna to go hunting.

By conducting extensive observations of and interviews with hunters and collecting animal bones from individual meals, we have been able to track meat-sharing patterns in these populations. Insights gained by this study might shed light on variability in sharing patterns across time and space and the evolution of sharing in contemporary human popualtions. Studies of animal bone assemblages obtained during this study have shed light on how archaeologists traditionally measure resource depression (or over-exploitation) in faunal assemblages.

Fish for Dinner

Aka boys capture giant pouched rat.



Children often hunt for themselves among the Aka. These two boys captured this giant pouched rat.









Central African Rainforest Paleoecology Project

Dr. Jean Paul Ndanga and his assistant
Jean Paul Ndanga and his assistant set up an excavation unit.

With funding from the National Geographic Society, I lead a small team of researchers in excavating a Late Holocene-age archaeological site in the Ngotto Forest in May 2007. The project was interdisciplinary and included team members from Washington State University, the University of Bangui and Boganda Museum. As part of this project, the team collected palynological cores from the archaeological site and a nearby permanent wetland. Our project is the first to ever collect these data in this part of the Central African rainforest.

Excavation of a historic slag mound, C. Young creates a profile.

Beginning in 2009 with funding from NSF, I launched an archaeological survey and test of portions of the N’Gotto Forest. This project involved international collaboration and combined researchers with expertise in a variety of fields including history, ethnoarchaeology, palynology and geoarchology. Analyses of the results of this field project are on-going. We hope to use the results of the analyses of these cores to build a longitudinal record of the paleoecology of the Central African rainforest.

The 2011 Field Team: from left Jean Paul Ndanga, Dave Schmitt, Guy Amaye, Craig Young, Karen Lupo, and Chris Kiahtipes


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Representative Publications

In press: On early hominin meat-eating and carcass acqusition strategies: Still relevant after all these years? In Stone Tools and Fossil Bones: Debates in the Archaeology of Human Origins, edited by Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo. Cambridge University Press.
Lupo, Karen D.
2011  A Dog is for Hunting. In Ethnozooarchaeology, edited by Umberto Albarella and Angela Trentacoste, pgs. 4-12, Oxbow Press, Oxford.

Lupo, Karen D.
2009  Variability in Cut Mark Attributes in Ethnoarchaeological Assemblages. In Primer Taller de Zooarqueologia en Chile, edited by Francisco Mena. Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago.

Schmitt, D.N. and Karen Lupo D.
2008 Do faunal remains reflect socioeconomic status? An ethnoarchaeological study of Central African farmers in the Northern Congo Basin. Journal of Anthropological Archeology 27:315-325.

Lupo, Karen D.
2007 Evolutionary Foraging Models in Zooarchaeological Analysis:
Recent Applications and Future Challenges
. Journal of Archaeological Research 15:143-189.

Lupo, Karen D.
2006 What explains the carcass field processing and transport
decisions of contemporary hunter-gatherers? Measures of economic anatomy and zooarchaeological skeletal part representation
. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 13(1): 19-66.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave Schmitt
2005 Small Prey Hunting Technology and Zooarchaeological Measures of Taxonomic Diversity and Abundance: Ethnoarchaeological Evidence from Central African Forest Foragers. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Johnson, William Gray, Saxon E. Sharpe, Thomas F. Bullard, and Karen D. Lupo
2005. Characterizing a First Occurrence of Bison Deposits in Southeastern Nevada. Western North American Naturalist. 65(1):24-35.

Schmitt, Dave N., David B. Madsen, and Karen D. Lupo
2004 The Worst of Times, the Best of Times: Jackrabbit Hunting by Middle Holocene Human Foragers in the Bonneville Basin of Western North America. In Colonization, Migration, and Marginal Areas: A Zooarchaeological Approach. Edited by M. Mondini, S. Munoz, and S. Wickler. Oxbow Books, Oxford.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave N. Schmitt
2003 Meat-Sharing and the Archaeological Record: A Preliminary Test of the Show-Off Hypothesis among Central African Bofi Foragers. In Hunters and Gatherers in Theory and Archaeology. Edited by G. Crothers. Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Papers. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Schmitt, Dave N., David B. Madsen and Karen D. Lupo
2002 Small-Mammal Data on Early and Middle Holocene Climates and Biotic Communities in the Bonneville Basin, USA. Quaternary Research. 58:255-260.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave Schmitt
2002 Upper Paleolithic net hunting, small mammal procurement and women’s work effort: a view from the ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological record of the Congo Basin. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 9(2):147-180.

O’Connell, James F., Kristen Hawkes, Karen Lupo and Nicholas Blurton Jones
2002 Male Strategies and Plio-Pleistocene Archaeology. Journal of Human Evolution. 43:831-872.

Lupo, Karen D. and James F. O’Connell
2002 Cut and Tooth Mark Distributions on Large Animal Bones: Ethnoarchaeological Data from Hadza and Their Implications for Current Ideas about Early Human Carnivory. Journal of Archaeological Science. 29:85-109.

Lupo, Karen D.
2001 On the Archaeological Resolution of Body Part Transport Patterns: An Ethnoarchaeological Example from East African Hunter-Gatherers. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 20:361-378.

Lupo, Karen D.
1998 Experimentally Derived Extraction Rates for Marrow: Implications for Body Part Exploitation Strategies of Plio-Pleistocene Hominid Scavengers. Journal of Archaeological Science. 25(7):657-675.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave N. Schmitt
1997 Experiments in Bone Boiling: Nutritional Returns and Archaeological Reflections. Anthropozoologica. 25/26:137-144.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave N. Schmitt
1997 On Late Holocene Variability in Bison Populations in the Northeastern Great Basin. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. 19(1):50-59.

Schmitt, Dave N. and Karen D. Lupo
1995 On Mammalian Taphonomy, Taxonomic Diversity, and Measuring Subsistence Data in Zooarchaeology. American Antiquity. 60(3):496-514.

Lupo, Karen D.
1995 Hadza Bone Assemblages and Hyena Attrition: An Ethnographic Example of the Influence of Cooking and Mode of Discard on the Intensity of Scavenger Ravaging. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 14(3):288-314.

Lupo, Karen D. and Joel C. Janetski
1994 Evidence of Domesticated Dogs and Some Related Canids in the Eastern Great Basin. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. 16(2):199-220.

Lupo, Karen D.
1994 Butchering Marks and Carcass Acquisition Strategies: Distinguishing Hunting from Scavenging in Archaeological Contexts. Journal of Archaeological Science. 21(6): 827-837.

Janetski, C. Joel, Karen D. Lupo, John McCullough, and Shannon A. Novak
1992 The Mosida Burial: An Archaic Burial from the Eastern Great Basin. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. 14(2): 180-200.

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Contact Information




Washington State Graduate Student, Chris Kiahtipes, excavates a unit

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