F. Clark Howell: Modernizing Physical Anthropology through Fieldwork, Science, and Collaboration
Interviews conducted by Samuel J. Redman in 2007, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 2012.
Educated at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Sherwood L. Washburn, Howell became one of the leading figures in paleoanthropology of the twentieth century. This interview traces Howell's early childhood, education, and WWII service; leading up to his career in anthropology. As an anthropologist, he made major contributions to both scientific and popular understandings surrounding many of the most critical questions regarding human evolution. Howell's important contributions to the fields of physical anthropology and archaeology began when he published detailed findings on Homo neanderthalensis. During one of his earliest stays in Europe, he examined the original Piltdown Man fossils (one of the great scientific forgeries of the century), a story he recalled during his oral history.
In the 1950s, Howell began conducting fieldwork in Africa. His search fossilized skeletal material and prehistoric archaeological material in Africa would push Howell to return to the continent many times throughout the course of his career. His fieldwork methods in Africa and Europe were considered widely influential, as his teams from the University of Chicago (and subsequently the University of California, Berkeley) worked to reshape archaeological fieldwork methodologies through the integration of new interdisciplinary techniques. Working with pioneering Berkeley faculty, to provide an example, Howell's teams utilized new dating techniques developed in scientific laboratories to better understand prehistoric archaeological sites. Widely considered to be an important researcher, his training and mentorship of graduate students and fellow scholars made an equally significant impact on the reshaping of paleoanthropology in the twentieth century. Howell was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, received the Charles Darwin Award for lifetime achievement from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPS), and the Leakey Prize from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation.