radu iovita

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

2008 PhD in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
2005 Complex Systems Summer School, Santa Fe Institute
2002 MPhil in Archaeology (with distinction), University of Cambridge
2001 AB (Hons.) in Anthropology (magna cum laude), Harvard University


Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Research/Interest

Paleolithic archaeology, Human responses to environmental change, Eurasian loess steppe (Central Asia, Eastern Europe), Archaeological survey techniques, Lithics, Use-wear, Controlled experiments, Geometric Morphometrics


I am a Paleolithic archaeologist interested in landscape-scale studies of human behavioral adaptations to abrupt environmental change. To this end, I follow two independent, yet complementary, lines of research: my field work focuses on geomorphically- informed archaeological surveys (currently in arid central Asia), whereas my lab research centers on functional analyses of ancient toolkits through microscopic use-wear and geometric morphometrics. In particular, I am interested in re-thinking our methodologies for finding deeply buried archaeological sites and for improving the reliability of lab techniques through controlled experiments. Having trained in the US and the UK, I came to NYU after eight years of post-doctoral work in the German academic system, at the Monrepos Research Centre of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM). There, I designed Germany's first traceology lab and carried out geoarchaeological surveys and excavation in the Romanian and Kazakh steppe.

Selected Publications

(full list available at https://raduiovita.wordpress.com/publications/)

Edited Book (peer-­reviewed)
Iovita, R. and K. Sano (Eds.) (2016) Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of Stone Age weaponry, Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, Springer, Dordrecht.

Peer-­reviewed articles
Fitzsimmons, KE, Sprafke, T, Zielhofer, C, Günter, C, Deom, J­M, Sala, R, and R Iovita (in press) "Loess accumulation in the Tian Shan piedmont: implications for palaeo-environmental change in arid Central Asia." Quaternary International.

Pfleging J, Stücheli M, Iovita R, Buchli J. (2015) "Dynamic Monitoring Reveals Motor Task Characteristics in Prehistoric Technical Gestures." PLoS ONE 10(8): e0134570. OA

Iovita R., H. Schönekeß, S. Gaudzinski­-Windheuser, and F. Jäger (2014) “Impact fracture patterns in exact replicas of Levallois points: the first results of a new controlled ballistic experimental protocol.” Journal of Archaeological Science 48: 73-­83. DOI PDF

Iovita, R., A. Dobos, K. E. Fitzsimmons, M. Probst, U. Hambach, M. Robu, M. Vlaicu, and A. Petculescu. (2014) “Geoarchaeological prospection in the loess steppe: preliminary results from the Lower Danube Survey for Paleolithic  Sites (LoDanS)”. Quaternary International 351:98­-114. DOI PDF

Fitzsimmons, K. E., U. Hambach, D. Veres, and R. Iovita. (2013) “The Campanian Ignimbrite eruption: new data on volcanic ash dispersal and its potential impact on human evolution”. PLoS ONE. OA

Iovita, R., K. E. Fitzsimmons, A. Dobos, U. Hambach, A. Hilgers, and A. Zander. (2012) “Dealul Guran: evidence of Lower Paleolithic occupation of the southeast European loess steppe.” Antiquity 86(334): 973­-989. PDF

Iovita, R. (2011) “Shape variation in Aterian tanged tools and the origins of projectile technology: a morphometric perspective on stone fool function.” PLoS One 6(12): e29029. OA

Iovita, R. and S. P. McPherron (2011) “The handaxe reloaded: a morphometric reassessment of Acheulian and Middle Paleolithic handaxes.” Journal of Human Evolution 61: 61-­74. PDF

Iovita, R. P. (2009) “Re­evaluating connections between the Early Upper Paleolithic of Northeast Africa and the Levant: technological differences between the Dabban and the Emiran.” In Transitions in Prehistory: Papers in Honor of Ofer BarYosef, J. Shea and D. Lieberman (Eds.), pp. 125-­142. Oxbow Books, Oxford. PDF

Iovita, R. P. (2009) “Ontogenetic scaling and lithic systematics: method and application.” J Archaeol Sci 36(7): 1447­1457. DOI PDF

Current Research
Updated August 2016

I am currently working on one major field project in Kazakhstan and several laboratory projects related to lithic use-­wear and experiments. This year I obtained a Leakey Foundation Grant to support a new excavation at the early Upper Paleolithic site of Maibulak in the Tian Shan piedmont near Almaty, Kazakhstan, which previously yielded numerous fire features and some early bladelet technology. Fieldwork is currently planned for June 2017.

In the lab, several things are brewing: first and foremost are the robotic use­-wear experiments (Project RoboCut, with Jonas Buchli of the Agile and Dexterous Robotics Lab at ETH Zürich, Switzerland). This project's main aim is to standardize dynamic and kinematic parameters in use­-wear­-relevant tasks and try to evaluate their effects on wear formation. The idea is that these parameters are related to motor control and other abilities relevant for the biological evolution of humans. We are currently testing the relative effect of force vs. duration of contact on abrasive wear in flint tools, using a KUKA arm and standardized beech wood plates. Another major project combines the technology used to monitor the scraping task (see Pfleging et al. 2015) with a study of spear thrusting. Finally, I am currently finalizing, (with Ellen Schulz­-Kornas, Shannon McPherron, and Harold Dibble) a study of microscopic criteria for recognizing impact loading type (dynamic, static, or quasi­static), which is relevant for reconstructing different modes of lithic flake production and different types of projectile damage

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