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Selected Publications

Recent views on violence emphasize the decline in proportions of war groups and casualties to populations over time and conclude that past small-scale societies were more violent than contemporary states. In this paper, we argue that these trends are better explained through scaling relationships between population and war group size and between war group size and conflict casualties. We test these relationships and develop measures of conflict investment and lethality that are applicable to societies across space and time. When scaling is accounted for, we find no difference in conflict investment or lethality between small-scale and state societies. Given the lack of population data for past societies, we caution against using archaeological cases of episodic conflicts to measure past violence
In PNAS, 2017

A distinctive aspect of human behaviour is the ability to think symbolically. What this means, and how it can be recognized, is far from clear. In this paper, we discuss how paleoanthropologists can use Peircean semiotics to better contextualize early human thought. We apply these ideas and then discuss how this system can address issues of relevance to palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists who often fetishize the symbolic as the one ability that makes us human.
In Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2017

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Testing this from old laptop


IN NORMAL TIMES, we would spend the last class day talking about the same thing we talked about on the first day of class: What makes us human? Over the semester we have tackled this from numerous angles and interrogated the idea of how we can define something so complex yet also so integral to anthropology. Reading the news it is easy to get sad, depressed, and fairly pessimistic about our species.


How we can respond to pandemics Goal Learn about previous responses to pandemics and how biological anthropology can help us to respond to covid-1919. As a team we want to think about what the response to other pandemics tells us and how it can be used. Tasks Questions to answer before this assignment Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers here. This is just to get you thinking…


advent-of-hominins-day-twentyfour-Altamura Sometimes called “Alatmura Man”, this fossil is a Neandertal skeleton discovered in 1993 by cavers exploring a 26-foot-deep well. The fossil was found in a tunnel which lead to a cave full of stalagmites. Inside this cave, the explorers stumbled upon a skeleton that was covered in coralloid formations, cave formations which resemble coral. This explains why it looks so odd. {"x":{"options":{"crs":{"crsClass":"L.CRS.EPSG3857","code":null,"proj4def":null,"projectedBounds":null,"options":{}}},"calls":[{"method":"addTiles","args":["//{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png",null,null,{"minZoom":0,"maxZoom":18,"tileSize":256,"subdomains":"abc","errorTileUrl":"","tms":false,"noWrap":false,"zoomOffset":0,"zoomReverse":false,"opacity":1,"zIndex":1,"detectRetina":false,"attribution":"© OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA"


Saccopastore 1 & 2 These 2 skulls were found in 1929 and 1935, within gravel beds exposed by quarrying along a River Valley north of Rome. {"x":{"options":{"crs":{"crsClass":"L.CRS.EPSG3857","code":null,"proj4def":null,"projectedBounds":null,"options":{}}},"calls":[{"method":"addTiles","args":["//{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png",null,null,{"minZoom":0,"maxZoom":18,"tileSize":256,"subdomains":"abc","errorTileUrl":"","tms":false,"noWrap":false,"zoomOffset":0,"zoomReverse":false,"opacity":1,"zIndex":1,"detectRetina":false,"attribution":"© OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA"}]},{"method":"addMarkers","args":[41.9,12.716667,null,null,null,{"interactive":true,"draggable":false,"keyboard":true,"title":"","alt":"","zIndexOffset":0,"opacity":1,"riseOnHover":false,"riseOffset":250},"aprox location of Saccopastore",null,null,null,null,{"interactive":false,"permanent":false,"direction":"auto","opacity":1,"offset":[0,0],"textsize":"10px","textOnly":false,"className":"","sticky":true},null]}],"limits":{"lat":[41.9,41.9],"lng":[12.716667,12.716667]},"setView":[[41.9,12.716667],2,[]]},"evals":[],"jsHooks":[]} SCP 1 is an adult female. It is missing both zygomatic arches but otherwise fairly complete. Interestingly some damage was caused when it was discovered by the people working in the quarry.



Advent of Hominin Fossils

A collection of info on hominin fossils in the style of an Advent calendar

How hominins became human

Looking at the biological and archaeological roots of modern human behavior.My postdoc work at the Univeristy of Notre Dame involved creating a database of the evidence of human symbol-making. When creating it, we realized that it would be helpful to make it open-source.

Transdisiplinary work

Working with scholars in the humanities to better understand what it means to be human.

Warfare in our Evolutionary Past

Recent collaborative project looking at the evolutionary roots of human violence


An anthropological perspective is an integral part of a college student’s education and will serve them well as they become the next generation of student-scholars. In class I direct content towards a better understanding of the causes and consequences of human variation, equipping students with the skills to apply anthropological concepts to their daily lives.

Classes taught

  • Introduction to Anthropology
  • Gender, Race, and Class
  • Fundamentals of Biological Anthropology
  • Our Primate Heritage
  • Human Evolution
  • Human Skeletal Anatomy
  • Human Evolution: Violence and Virtues
  • Learning R for Statistical Computing
  • Introduction to World Prehistory
  • Archaeology of North America


  • marc.kissel@gmail.com
  • 349C Anne Belk Hall, Appalachian State University, Boone, 28608, USA
  • Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 to 11:30 or email for appointment