Sonia Harmand

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Sonia is a field archaeologist and an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University in the USA. Since Sonia received her PhD in Archaeology from the University of Paris X, she has held research positions at the National Museums of Kenya, Stanford University, and has worked for 4 years as a tenured Research Scientist (currently on mobility) at the Laboratoire de Préhistoire et Technologie (UMR 7055) of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS); the largest governmental research organization in France and the largest science agency in Europe. She has conducted fieldwork and specialist lithic analysis for over 20 years, in France, Syria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. She became a member of the WTAP in 1998 and has been Director of the project since 2012.

Sonia’s primary research interests revolve around the central theme of how, when and why stone tool making and use originated among hominins in the African Early Stone Age – now known to extend as far back as 3.3 million years ago, and possibly beyond. She specialises in the technological analysis of stone tools using the chaîne opératoire approach, to understand the spatial and temporal processes involved in the acquisition, elaboration, utilisation and discard of artefacts. This approach to lithic analysis was developed in France as a way to assess the level of cognitive development of our ancestors.

In addition to her research on the origins of hominin technology, Sonia is exploring with her team the biomechanics involved in the making and possible use of stone tools (hand motor control and functional morphology of the hand and wrist). She is also currently collaborating with primate archaeologists to investigate the central role that percussive activities such as pounding and battering might have played for hominins at the dawn of technology.

In her own words

What do you like about being in the field in Turkana? 
“Too many things! First in my mind is the incredible feeling of uncovering something new and being the first to touch it after many millions of years. And I love taking a cool shower under the stars at the end of the day…”

What do you miss when you are in the field?
“Somehow, we are always at our field camp on Bastille Day, so I miss that. And also proper Champagne, a comfortable sofa, and live lounge music.”

How would you describe your role in the WTAP team?”
“Leading the team in the field, I sometimes feel like an army general, and at other times the keeper in a crazy zoo…but I love it!”

For more information about Sonia’s research or to contact her directly, please visit her page on Researchgate.