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Corey L. Johnson


  • B.A. 2016, University of Montana

Research Focus

My research focuses on the origins and evolution of stone tool making and using behavior in early humans. By analyzing Paleolithic stone artifacts and conducting stone tool making experiments, I investigate the nature of ancient technological variability and what caused these evolutionary changes over hundreds of thousands of years from the beginnings of the archaeological record. I am particularly interested in the earliest archaeological record in East Asia and why it is characterized by a rudimentary Oldowan technological strategy instead of a Developed Oldowan or Early Acheulean technological strategy as evidenced from coeval sites in Africa and West Asia.

One of the oldest Paleolithic localities contributing to our understanding of the archaeological record in East Asia is the Nihewan Basin, in northern China. The excellent preservation and high density of stone artifacts and fossils from the Nihewan Basin help reveal a clearer picture of human evolution closely after the first early human dispersals out of Africa around 1.8 million years ago. Over the last 50 years, one of the most interesting findings is that there are measurable technological differences between early Nihewan sites and coeval sites in Africa and West Asia. The evidence for these differences so far include the relatively small size of stone flake tools at Nihewan, the basic strategies employed in their production, and the apparent absence of one of the first major technological innovations to have appeared during this time: the Acheulean hand axe.

Evolutionary explanations for these differences include the discontinuity in the transmission of technological information into Nihewan, a decreased selection on early human stone tool-assisted carnivory at Nihewan, and the physical differences in the fracture mechanics of local low-quality raw materials used for making stone tools; though additional research needs to be done to thoroughly test these hypotheses.

Selected Publications

Zwyns, N., Paine, C., Tsedendorj, B., Gantumur, A., Talamo, S., Flas, D., Allshouse, A., Libois,  T., Gallo, G., Galfi, J., Johnson, C., Smith, K., Gunchinsuren, B., Hublin, J-J., 2018. Short term occupations at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in Mongolia: new evidence from the site of Tolbor 34. Union Internationale des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques [Abs.]

Gallo, G., Johnson, C., Watson, S., Smith, K, Smith, G., Turner, E., Villaluenga, A., Hutson, J., Zwyns, N., 2017. Damage morphology, function and the life history of percussive bone tools at the Lower Paleolithic site of Schöningen Germany: an experimental approach. European Society of Human Evolution, P.68 [Abs.].

Johnson, C.L., 2016. Cladistically modeling Oldowan assemblages: Preliminary insights and issues. Paleoanthropology, Pg.14 [Abs.].


Teaching Assistant Assignments:

Introduction to Archaeology (Fall, 2016)

Human Evolutionary Biology (Winter and Spring, 2017)

Human Life Cycles (Fall, 2017)

Lithic Analysis (Winter, 2018)


2015                Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship


2017                UCD Evolutionary Anthropology Summer Fellowship Award

2017                UCD Institute of Social Science Travel and Research Award

2015                UM Kain and McKay Scholarship