Every year, our department recognizes distinguished alumni during the week of Homecoming. This year, through our merger with the Anthropology section, we have the privilege of honoring Dr. Kristen Hawkes. She has conducted fieldwork in Northern Tanzania, Northern Botswana, Eastern Paraguay and Papua New Guinea, written dozens of publications and presented her research at a multitude of universities in various countries. Dr. Hawkes is known internationally for her research on the “Grandmother Hypothesis” which takes on the explanation of life expectancy beyond childbearing years for female primates.
Dr. Hawkes and her colleagues have taken on the question: why do female humans live for so long beyond when they stop being fertile? The answer, believe it or not, can be seen in each of our own grandmothers. They help take care of children, particularly in societies where the mother is a lead caretaker and the father is often gone hunting or involved more physically strenuous activity; e.g. grandmas are around to feed you to the brim and take care of you when your parents can’t. This is, as shown by Dr. Hawkes and her cohorts, a huge difference between humans and non-human primates. While we know that Dr. Hawkes will do a far better job of explaining her hypothesis at her lecture during her visit on October 26 at 6:00 PM in 127 Curtiss Hall, we thought we’d take a look at some grandmas from different societies throughout the world because, after all, they’re just as adorable as babies.