Robert Franciscus




(319) 335-1421


131 Macbride Hall

About Robert Franciscus

College: Liberal Arts and Sciences

Department: Anthropology

Research Interests:

  • Paleoanthropology: fossil Homo, Neandertals, early modern humans.
  • Naso-facial variation and climatic adaptation in fossil and living humans
  • Biomechanical, climatic, and non-adaptive models for Neandertal facial anatomy
  • Neandertal rib morphology and thoracic form: respiration, activity, upper body shape
  • Skeletal biology, human osteology, morphometrics

TILE course: Origins of Life in the Universe


Ph.D., University of New Mexico, Anthropology, 1995.

M.A., University of New Mexico, Anthropology, 1987.

B.A., Texas A&M University, Anthropology, 1985 .


My research program is focused on the Middle and Later Pleistocene periods of genus Homo evolution. I am particularly interested in the evolutionary significance of the distinctive Neandertal craniofacial pattern in terms of the possible developmental, biomechanical, and stochastic models underlying its evolution over time in Europe and western Asia. I am also interested in the origins of modern humans and the definitional problems associated with the concept of anatomical “modernity.” I have focused morphologically on the mid-facial region of the skull given the central role that the nasal capsule plays in the development of the hominid cranium in terms of respiratory function, but I have also extended the anatomical focus to ribs and overall thoracic anatomy given its functional tie to respiration as well.

Recent collaborative projects include analysis and description of: the early modern crania and mandibles from Dolni Vestonice (Czech Republic); the mid-face of the early modern Oase 2 cranium (Romania), the mid-face of the Middle Pleistocene Thomas Quarry 3 remains (Morocco), and the mid-face of the early Upper Paleolithic child’s skeleton from Lagar Velho (Portugal) controversially argued to show Neandertal/early modern admixture.  Other recent collaborative projects include: 3-dimensional modeling of bite force and efficiency in Neandertals and modern humans in order to test models of para-masticatory behavioral influences on Neandertal facial form; 3-dimensional CT-based reconstruction of Neandertal vocal tract anatomy; assessment of craniofacial integration vs. modularity in living humans, chimpanzees and gorillas; and analysis of craniofacial growth modification in pigs via facial suture alteration.


Contributed Modules

Robert Franciscus has not contributed any modules at this time.