Discover your career path

Paleoanthropologist

Learn about ancient humans by examining skeletal remains.

What does a Paleoanthropologist do?

The story of our evolution from primates to hominids is long and incomplete. Being a Paleoanthropologist is like reading a book that’s half written and unfinished: You’re dying to figure out what’s on the missing pages. Paleoanthropologists use the bones of our ancestors to seek evidence towards finishing the important narrative of human origins.

The key to your search as a Paleoanthropologist lies buried deep under the ground. Excavation is one of the most exciting parts of your job. Whisked away to exotic locations, you carefully extract fossil remains of ancient humans or primates from known burial sites.

Sometimes, you even get to scout for new places to dig, becoming a bit of an adventurer as you seek to discover artifacts off the beaten path. You pay attention to the clues of the landscape, and even ask around in neighboring villages if any fossils have been spotted. Getting creative with planning your dig could mean finding the site of a lifetime.

The bones you collect become the chapters of the story you’re compiling. The anatomy of the skeletons offers you clues as to where in time your specimen belongs. You’re hoping to find remains that fill in gaps in fossil records, and more importantly, new skeletal evidence of the stage of evolution between ape and early human.

As you amass more and more knowledge about these ancestral hominids, it’s crucial that you share your findings with the scientific community. Attending conferences and publishing papers are the best ways to spread information, and gain some in return from the studies of colleagues that may fill the gaps in your own work. The search for human origins is a collective effort, a group narrative that, with enough digging, will hopefully be complete one day.