Department of Sociology & Anthropology

507 Chafee Building, 10 Chafee Road, Kingston, RI 02881

401.874.2587 (ph); 401.874.2588 (f)

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Dr. Holly Dunsworth

  • Department Chair, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Chafee Hall, Rm 508
  • Phone: 401.874.7297
  • Email:


Dr. Holly Dunsworth is an evolutionary-minded anthropologist. She teaches courses in biocultural anthropology with new and original approaches aimed at overturning evolutionary misconceptions and outdated evolutionary dogma that students bring to college. Although she began her career as a paleoanthropologist, she has a broad background that is carrying her interests beyond the fossil record. At the early Miocene sites on Rusinga Island, Kenya she has performed paleontological research where ancient fossil apes are preserved, but she is increasingly learning about live and recently live primates including, of course, humans. Dr. Dunsworth is particularly interested in how the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral traits related to making, growing, and raising offspring evolved, how we narrate that evolutionary history, and how our narratives impact other realms of knowledge and practice, like parenting, healthcare, and medicine. She has contributed her research, scholarship, and writing to various books and journals. She regularly contributes to the science blogs The Mermaid’s Tale and Origins.

Dr. Dunsworth teaches the following courses in biocultural anthropology at the University of Rhode Island: Human Origins and Evolution (APG 201), Human Variation (APG 350), Sex and Reproduction in Our Species (APG 399), and Paleoanthropology (APG 411).


  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, 2006
  • M.A. (with distinction) in Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, 2001
  • B.A. (with high honors) on Anthropology, University of Florida, 1999



  • Dunsworth HM. 2016. Chapter 2: The ‘obstetrical dilemma’ unraveled. In Trevathan W and K Rosenberg, editors: Costly and Cute: Helpless infants and human evolution. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research.
  • Dunsworth HM. 2016. Thank your intelligent mother for your big brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 113(25): 6816–6818.
  • Dunsworth HM. 2016. Do animals know where babies come from? Scientific American 314(1): 66-69.
  • Pontzer H, Brown MH, Raichlen DA, Dunsworth H, Hare B, Walker K, Luke A, Dugas L, Durazo-Arviz R, Schoeller D, Plange-Rhule J, Bovet P, Forrester TE, Lambert EV, Thompson ME, Shumaker RW, and SR Ross. 2016. Metabolic acceleration and the evolution of human brain size and life history. Nature 533: 390–392.
  • Dunsworth HM and L Eccleston. 2015. The evolution of difficult childbirth and helpless hominin infants . Annual Review of Anthropology 44: 55-69. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-102214-013918
  • Pontzer H, Raichlen DA, Gordon AD, Schroepfer KK, Hare B, O’Neill MC, Muldoon KM, Dunsworth HM, Wood BM, Isler K, Burkart J, Irwin M, Shumaker RW, Lonsdorf  EV, and SR Ross. 2014. Primate energy expenditure and life history.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111(4): 1433–1437.
  • Michel LA, Peppe DJ, Lutz JA, Driese SG, Dunsworth HM, Harcourt-Smith WEH, Horner WH, Lehmann T, Nightingale S, and KP McNulty. 2014. Remnants of an ancient forest provide ecological context for Early Miocene fossil apes.  Nature Communications 5:3236 | DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4236
  • Dunsworth HM, Warrener A, Deacon T, Ellison P, and H Pontzer. 2012. Metabolic hypothesis for human altriciality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109(38): 15212-15216.

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