Member Spotlight

5 Things About Me: Anthropologist Clark S. Larsen

November 2, 2010
Clark S. Larsen excavating human remains at the Neolithic settlement Çatalhöyük (ca. 7400-6000 BC) in south-central Turkey. (Photo: C.S. Larsen)

Clark Spencer Larsen
Department of Anthropology
Ohio State University

Background: My discipline is biological anthropology (a.k.a. physical anthropology), the study of primate (human and nonhuman) evolution and variation.  It deals with all primates in all times, roughly the last 65 million years of evolution to the present.

Question 1:  Why did you become an anthropologist?
Answer:  For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about the natural world and especially with humans and their past. I knew from an early age I would have to become a scientist in order to satisfy this curiosity. 

Question 2: Share a story from your past that lead to your choosing your field of work.
Answer:  When I was seven, my parents took me to the site of the first homestead in the United States located outside my hometown in southeastern Nebraska.  I was immediately curious about all of the artifacts and old things in the museum depicting life on the American frontier.   From that moment on, I was hooked on the study of old stuff, especially if it was dug up at an archaeological or paleontological site. 

Question 3: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: The study of skeletal remains of native populations of the southern U.S. Atlantic coast from the period of ca. 2000 BC to AD 1700, a critical period of time involving the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and the later arrival of Europeans and population collapse.  Lessons learned from this first major investigation of a single population and region helps us understand these transitions, serving as a microcosm of world events. 

Question 4: What fuels your passion for your work?
Answer:  The desire to know, intense curiosity about our world we live in, and the need to understand how we got to be the way that we are today. In addition, my work is just plain fun and interesting.

Question 5: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue.
Answer: Staggering increase in populations globally threatens natural resources and is forcing humans to focus their diets on an increasingly narrower range of foods—especially a limited range of plant carbohydrates. Neither the negative nutritional outcomes nor the damage done to the environment can be good for the future health and wellbeing of humanity and the other occupants of the globe.