John W. K. Harris

Academic biography

Jack Harris in his lab

Jack Harris is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology studying the earliest stages of human origins. In particular, he studies the time interval 2.5 million to 1.5 million that sees the earliest evidence for stone tool manufacture and use, the incorporation of meat into the diet, the emergence of the genus Homo and the ranging patterns of our earliest ancestors to Eurasia. More recently, he has begun work with some of the world’s most distinguished Primatologists. He has initiated collaborative inter-disciplinary studies of the behaviors of modern chimps and monkeys, particularly their use of stone tools in foraging and food sourcing as models for the behaviors of our earliest stone tool using hominid ancestors. Harris focuses his research on the African Continent and is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya. He coordinates three international anthropology field schools under Rutgers Study Abroad in Kenya (in paleoanthropology, Primatology, and Swahili studies) which provide opportunities for internships at the National Museums of Kenya. Dr. Harris has over 125 publications including numerous co-authored publications in Science, Nature and more recently the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Harris’ research has been supported by numerous sources including the National Science Foundation, Leakey Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Current projects

  • Since 1985: Principal Investigator, Antiquity of humanly controlled fire, East Africa (Koobi Fora, Eastern Zaire)
  • Since 1989: Principal Investigator, Land-use and ranging patterns of early hominids, Koobi Fora, Kenya
  • Since 1997: Co-Director of International Koobi Fora Field School in Paleoanthropology, Kenya
  • Since 2000: Principal Investigator, Holocene Archaeological research in the Koobi Fora Region, Northern Kenya
  • Since 2005: Co-Director, Swahili Culture, History, Language & Coastal Peoples of Kenya Field School, Kenya
  • Since 2007: Co-Director, Wildlife, Conservation and Primatology Field School, Kenya
  • Since 2007: Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research into Early Hominid and Modern Primate Stone Tool Technology and Behavioral Ecology

Selected publications

Books Edited

In press Norton, C. J., Braun, D. R. and Harris, J. W. K. Asian Paleoanthropology. Springer, New York
1988 Harris, J. W. K., editor. Volume of Papers in Honor of J. Desmond Clark. Journal of Human Evolution 16:545-830.
1987 Phillipson, D. and J. W. K. Harris, editors. Volume of Papers in Honor of J. Desmond Clark. African Archaeological Review 5:1-207. Cambridge University Press.
1987 Yellen, J. and J. W. K. Harris, editors. Volume of Papers in Honor of J. Desmond Clark. Journal of Human Evolution 15:635-822.
1986 Harris, J. W. K., The Longest Record: The Human Career in Africa; Abstracts of Conference in Honor of Professor J. D. Clark, Berkeley, California.

Chapters in Books

2007 Norton, C. J., K.D. Bae, H.Y. Lee, and J.W.K. Harris. A review of Korean microlithic industries. Origin and spread of microblade technology in Northern Asia and North America. Keates, S., Kuzmin, Y. and C. Shen., 91-102, Simon Fraser University Press.
2007 J.W.K. Harris, D. Braun, M. Pante. Archaeological Archives from Africa: 2.7 myr-300,000 years ago. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, eds. Elias, S, Elsevier Press, 63-72.
2006 S.M. Cachel, and J.W.K. Harris. The behavioural ecology of early Pleistocene hominids in the Koobi Fora Region, East Turkana Basin, Northern Kenya. Space and Spatial Analysis in Archaeology, eds. E.C. Robertson, J.D. Seibert, D.C. Fernandez, and M.U. Zender, University of Calgary Press, 49-59.
2003 D. Braun & J.W. K. Harris. Technological Developments in the Oldowan of Koobi Fora: Innovative techniques of artifact analysis. Oldowan: Rather more than smashing stones, J. Moreno, R Torcal, I. Sainz eds., 117-144. Barcelona. University of Autonoma Press.
2002 J. W. K. Harris. The earliest Paleolithic Assemblages in Africa. Implication for Asian Archaeology. in Paleolithic Archaeology in Northeast Asia, B. Kidong & L. Jungchul ed., 209. Institute of Cultural Properties, Hanyang University.
1999 S. Cachel and J. W. K. Harris. The adaptive zone of Homo erectus from an African perspective, Lifestyles and Survival Strategies in Pliocene and Pleistocene Hominids, H. Ullrich, ed., 128-137. Schwelm, Germany: Edition Archaea.
1998 S. Cachel and J. W. K. Harris. The lifeways of Homo erectus inferred from archaeology and evolutionary ecology: A perspective from East Africa, Early Human Behavior in Global Context. The Rise and Diversity of the Lower Palaeolithic Record, M. D. Petraglia and R. Korisettar, eds., 108-132, Old Archaeology series. London: Routledge Press.
1998 B. Ludwig and J. W. K. Harris. Towards a technological reassessment of East African Plio Pleistocene lithic assemblages. In Early Human Behavior in Global Context. The Rise and Diversity of the Lower Paleolithic Record, M. D. Petraglia and R. Korisettar, eds., 84-107, Old World Archaeology series. London: Routledge Press.
1997 Isaac, G. Ll. and J. W. K. Harris. Chapter 3, Sites stratified within the K. B. S. Tuff. Volume 5 Koobi Fora Archaeology (ed., G. Ll. Isaac), 71-114. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
1997 Harris, J. W. K. and G. Ll. Isaac. Chapter 4, Sites in the Upper K. B. S., Okote and Chari Members. Volume 5, Koobi Fora Archaeology (ed., G. Ll. Isaac), 115-236. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
1997 Schich K., G. Ll. Isaac, Z. M. Kaufulu and J. W. K. Harris. Chapter 5, Site formation processes. Volume 5 Koobi Fora Archaeology (ed., G. Ll. Isaac), 237-261. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
1997 Isaac, G. Ll. and J. W. K. Harris. Chapter 6, Artifact assemblages of the Koobi Fora Formation. Volume 5, Koobi Fora Archaeology (ed., G. Ll. Isaac), 262-362. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
1995 Cachel, S. and J. W. K. Harris. Ranging patterns, land-use and subsistence in Homo erectus from the perspective of evolutionary ecology. Evolution and Ecology of Homo Erectus (eds. J. R. F. Bower and S. Sartoro), 51-66. Leiden University, Leiden.
1993 Harris, J. W. K. and S. D. Capaldo. The earliest stone tools: their implications for an understanding of the activities and behavior of late Pliocene hominids. The Use of Tools by Human and Non-human Primates (edited by A. Berthelet and J. Chavaillon), 196-220. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
1990 Harris, J. W. K., P. G. Williamson, P. J. Morris, J. de Heinzelin, J. Verniers, D.Helgren, R. V. Bellomo, G. Laden, T. W. Spang, K. Stewart, M. J. Tappen. The archaeology of the Lusso Beds. In Evolution of Environments and Hominidae in the African Western Rift Valley (ed., N. T. Boaz. Martinsville, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 237-272.
1990 Bellomo, R. and J. W. K. Harris. Field studies on fire in the Upper Semliki Valley. Evolution of Environments and Hominidae in the African Western Rift Valley (ed., N. T. Boaz). Martinsville, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 317-338.
1980 Harris, J. W. K. Early Man. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology, ed. A. Sherratt. Cambridge University Press, 62-70.
1978 Harris, J. W. K. and I. Herbich. Aspects of early Pleistocene hominid behavior at East Lake Rudolf, Kenya. Geological Background to Fossil Man, ed., W. W. Bishop. Geological Society, London. Special Publication. 529-547.
1978 Isaac, G. Ll. and J. W. K. Harris. The Archaeological Context of the Hominid Fossils. Volume 1 Koobi Fora Research Project Series, eds., M. G. Leakey and R. E. F. Leakey, Clarendon Press, 64-85.
1976 Isaac, G. Ll., J. W. K. Harris and D. Crader. Archaeological evidence from the Koobi Fora Formation. Earliest Man and Environments in the Lake Rudolf Basin, ed., Y. Coppens, F. C. Howell, G. Ll. Isaac and R. E. F. Leakey. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 533-551.

Journal Articles (Refereed)

(in review) Braun, D. R., Rogers, M. J., Harris, J. W. K., and Walker, S. J. Landscape scale variation in hominin tool use: Evidence from the Developed Oldowan of the Koobi Fora Formation. Journal of Human Evolution
(in press) Braun, D. R., Tactikos, J., Ferraro, J., Arnow, S., and Harris, J. W. K. Oldowan reduction sequences: Methodological considerations. Journal of Archaeological Science
(in press) Braun, D., Harris, J. W. K., and Maina, D. Oldowan Raw Material Procurement and Use: Evidence from the Koobi Fora Formation. Archaeometry
2007 Mercader, J., Barton, H., Gillespie, J., Harris, J., Kuhn, S., Tyler, R., and Boesch, C. 4,300-Year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology. PNAS 104:3043-3048.
2006 Norton, C.J., K.D. Bae, J.W.K. Harris, and H. Y. Lee. Middle Pleistocene handaxes from the Korean Peninsula. Journal of Human Evolution 51:527-536.
2006 Braun, D., J. Tactikos, J. V. Ferraro & J. W. K. Harris. Archaeological inference and Oldowan Behavior, Journal of Human Evolution 51:106-108.
2005 Braun, D, J. Tactikos, J. V. Ferraro & J. W. K Harris. Flake recovery rates and inferences of Oldowan hominin behavior-the issue of initial core size: a response to Kimaru 1999, 2000. Journal of Human Evolution. 48:525-531.
1997 Semaw, S., P. Renne, J. W. K. Harris, C. S. Feibel, R. L. Bernor, N. Fesseha and K. Mowbray. 2.5 million-year-old stone tools from Gona, Ethiopia. Nature 385:333-336.
1995 Tappan, M. and J. W. K. Harris. Comment on possible cut marks and taphonomic history of Senga 5A in the Western Rift, Zaire. Journal of Human Evolution 29:483-486.
1994 Rogers, M., C. Feibel and J. W. K. Harris. Changing pattern of land use by Plio-Pleistocene hominids in the Lake Turkana basin. Journal of Human Evolution 27:138-158.
1992 Boaz, N. T., R. L. Bernor, A. S. Brooks, H. B. S. Cooke, J. de Heinzelin, R. Dechamps, E. Delson, A. W. Gentry, J. W. K. Harris, P. Meylan, P. P. Pavlakis, W. J. Sanders, K. M. Stewart, J. Verniers, P. G. Williamson and A. J. Winkler. A new evaluation of the significance of the late Neogene Lusso Beds, Upper Semliki Valley, Zaire. Journal of Human Evolution 22:505-517.
1988 Harris, J. W. K., P. Williamson, J. Verniers, M. Tappen, K. Stewart, D. Helgren, J. de Heinzelin, N. T. Boaz and R. Bellomo. Late Pliocene hominid occupation in Central Africa: The setting, context, and character of the Senga 5a site, Zaire. In Special Edition in Honor of J. Desmond Clark.
Journal of Human Evolution 16:701-728.
1988 Cooke, B., J. W. K. Harris and K. Harris. J. Desmond Clark: His career and contribution to African Prehistory. Journal of Human Evolution 16:549-581.
1986 Harris, J. W. K. Oldowan Archaeological Findings in the Afar Rift. L'Anthropologie, 90:3-21.
1986 Harris, J. W. K. and D. C. Johanson. Archaeological discoveries in the Afar Region, Ethiopia: The West Gona Archaeological Site. In Quaternary Research: Selected Papers from XI INQUA Congress. Moscow. eds. I. P. Kartashov and K. V. Nikiforova, 145-156. Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Moscow.
1985 Clark, J. D. and J. W. K. Harris. Fire and its roles in early hominid lifeways. African Archaeological Review, 3:3-27.
1984 Clark, J. D., B. Asfaw, G. Assefa, J. W. K. Harris, H. Kurashina, R. C. Walter, T. D. White, M. Williams. Paleoanthropological discoveries in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia. Nature 307:423-28.
1983 Harris, J. W. K. Cultural beginnings: Plio-Pleistocene archaeological occurrences from the Afar, Ethiopia. African Archaeological Review. 1:3-31.
1982 Gowlett, J. A., J. W. K. Harris and B. A. Wood. Early hominids and fire at Chesowanja, Kenya. Nature 296:870.
1981 Gowlett, J. A., J. W. K. Harris, D. Walton, and B. A. Wood. Early Archaeological sites, hominid remains, and traces of fire from Chesowanja, Kenya. Nature, 294:125-129.
1980 Bunn, H., J. W. K. Harris, G. Isaac, Z. Kaufulu, E. Kroll, K. Schick, N. Toth and A. K. Behrensmeyer. FxJj50: an early Pleistocene site in northern Kenya. World Archaeology vol. 12, no. 2. 109-136.
1976 Harris, J. W. K. and G. L. Isaac. The Karari Industry: early Pleistocene archaeological materials from the terrain east of Lake Rudolf, Kenya. Nature 262:102-107.

Contact Us

The Center for Human Evolutionary Studies
Department of Anthropology
131 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1414

P: 848-932-9275
F: 732-932-1564