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José Joordens

Josephine C.A. Joordens - Senior Researcher


Email: Josephine.Joordens@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71-751 9600
Room number: Vondellaan 55, Leiden
“Where do we humans come from, how did we evolve? In my research I try to answer these fascinating questions.”


Trained as a marine biologist, I first had a career as applied scientist and consultant in coastal ecology until I decided to go back into science and study the evolution of hominins. The term “hominins” refers to species in the genus Homo, and our extinct relatives back to the split from the apes about 5-7 million years ago. I completed my PhD in Earth and Life Sciences (VU University Amsterdam) in 2011, worked as researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology (Leiden University) from 2010-2017, and until January 2018 at the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam. In my research I combine the fields of biology, geology and archaeology.


Research interest

Themes: hominin evolution, (aquatic) paleoecology, biogeography, archaeology, paleoclimatology, (aquatic) paleoenvironmental reconstruction, paleodiet, geochronology

Tools: faunal analyses, strontium and stable isotope geochemistry, DNA analyses, sedimentology/stratigraphy, (paleomagnetic) dating


hominids, archaeology, evolution, biology, geology

Current research topics

TRINIL My main project centers on the rich fossil fauna from the Homo erectus (“Pithecanthropus”) type locality Trinil on Java (Indonesia). This unique collection, excavated by my scientific hero Eugène Dubois (1858-1940) and housed at Naturalis in Leiden, is a treasure trove that may hold many important clues to the niche, behaviour and cognition of hominins on Java. Following our 2015 publication in Nature (on an engraved fossil shell from the Dubois Collection) we were invited by the National Research Center for Archaeology (ARKENAS, Jakarta) to collaborate in a new excavation of this classical site. In August 2016, together we successfully conducted a pilot fieldwork in Trinil that provided a key fundament for further studies. In May 2017, I was awarded a prestigious NWO Vidi grant to continue our research in Trinil for 5 years. The Vidi project has started in January 2018 and is titled: Studying Homo erectus Lifestyle and Location (SHeLL): an integrated geo-archaeological research of the hominin site Trinil on Java.

TURKANA This ongoing project focuses on reconstructing climate and environment in the Turkana Basin (Kenya) of ~2 million year ago, when two early Homo species together with Paranthropus boisei roamed the landscape around a large lake. It is done in the framework of the ICDP Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP), and the Turkana Cyclostratigraphy Project.

COASTAL ORIGINS?  In this project I aim to develop a biogeographical framework for early hominin evolution in Africa, between ~5 and 2.5 million years ago. We hypothesize that recurrent climatically stable episodes, paced by eccentricity, caused recurrent riverine connections between coastal refuge areas and inland marginal areas, including the Chad Basin in West-Central Africa. To assess occurrence and timing of such East-West dispersal corridors, we use genetic distance between extant fish populations in Lakes Turkana and Chad as proxy for past hydrographic connectivity between these basins.


Also affiliated to:

Human Origins Group, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University
Einsteinweg 2, 2333CC Leiden, The Netherlands
email: j.c.a.joordens@arch.leidenuniv.nl

Faculty of Science, VU University Amsterdam (VUA)
De Boelelaan 1085, 1051HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
email: j.c.a.joordens@vu.nl



Available student projects


Van der Lubbe, H.J.L, Krause-Nehring, J., Junginger, A., Garcin, Y., Joordens, J.C.A., Davies, G.R., Feibel, C.S., Johnson, T.C., Vonhof, H.B., 2017. Gradual or abrupt? Changes in water source of Lake Turkana (Kenya) during the African Humid Period inferred from Sr isotope ratios. Quaternary Science Reviews 174: 1-12.

Sier, M.J., Langereis, C.J., Dupont-Nivet, G., van der Lubbe, H.J.L, Joordens, J.C.A., Beck, C.C., Feibel, C.S., Olago, D., Cohen, A., WTK Science Team, 2017. The top of the Olduvai subchron in a high-resolution magnetostratigraphy from the West Turkana core WTK13, Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP). Quaternary Geochronology 42: 117-129.

Janssen, R., Joordens, J.C.A., Koutamanis, D., Puspaningrum, M., de Vos, J., van der Lubbe, J., Reijmer, J.J.G., O. Hampe, Vonhof, H.B., 2016. Tooth enamel stable isotopes of Holocene and Pleistocene fossil fauna reveal glacial and interglacial paleoenvironments of hominins in Indonesia. Quaternary Science Reviews 144: 145- 154.

Joordens, J.C.A., d’Errico, F., Wesselingh, F.P., Munro, S., de Vos, J., Wallinga, J., Ankjærgaard, C., Reimann, T., Wijbrans, J.R., Kuiper, K.F., Mücher, H.J., Coqueugniot, H., Prié, V., Panuel, M., van der Haas, V., Lustenhouwer, W., Joosten, I., Schulp, A., van Os, B., Reijmer, J.J.G., Roebroeks, W., 2015. Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving. Nature 518: 228-231.

Joordens, J.C.A., Kuipers, R.S., Wanink, J.H., Muskiet, F.A.J., 2014. A fish is not a fish: patterns in fatty acid composition of aquatic food may have had implications for hominin evolution. Journal of Human Evolution 77: 107-116.

Joordens, J.C.A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Feibel, C.S., Spoor, F., Sier, M.J., van der Lubbe, H.J.L., Kellberg Nielsen, T., Knul, M.V., Davies, G.R., Vonhof, H.B., 2013. Improved age control on early Homo fossils from the upper Burgi Member at Koobi Fora, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 65: 731-745.

Vonhof, H.B., Joordens, J.C.A., Noback, M.L, van der Lubbe, H.J.L., Feibel, C.S., Kroon, D., 2013. Environmental and climatic control on seasonal stable isotope variation of freshwater molluscan bivalves in the Turkana Basin (Kenya). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 383-384: 16-26.

Kuipers, R.S., Joordens, J.C.A., Muskiet, F.A.J., 2012. A multidisciplinary reconstruction of Palaeolithic nutrition that holds promise for the prevention and treatment of diseases of civilisation. Nutrition Research Reviews 25: 96-129.

Cohen K.M., MacDonald, K., Joordens, J.C.A., Roebroeks, J.W.M., Gibbard P.L., 2012. The earliest occupation of north-west Europe: a coastal perspective. Quaternary International 271: 70-83. 

Joordens, J.C.A, Vonhof H.B., Feibel C.S., Lourens L.J., Dupont-Nivet G., van der Lubbe, H.J.L., Sier, M.J., Davies, G.R., Kroon D., 2011. An astronomically-tuned climate framework for hominins in the Turkana Basin. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 307: 1-8.

Holmes, J., Atkinson, T., Darbyshire, F., Horne, D., Joordens, J.C.A., Roberts, M., Whittaker, J., 2010. Middle Pleistocene climate and hydrological environment at the Boxgrove hominin site (West Sussex, UK) from ostracod records. Quaternary Science Reviews 29 (13-14): 1515-1527. 

Joordens, J.C.A., Wesselingh, F.P., de Vos, J., Vonhof, H.B., Kroon, D., 2009. Relevance of aquatic environments for hominins: a case study from Trinil (Java, Indonesia). Journal of Human Evolution, 57 (6): 656-671.

Lepre, C.J., Quinn, R.L., Joordens, J.C.A., Swisher III, C.S., Feibel, C.S., 2007. Plio-Pleistocene facies environments from the KBS Member, Koobi Fora Formation: implications for climate controls on the development of lake-margin hominin habitats in the northeast Turkana Basin (northwest Kenya). Journal of Human Evolution, 53(5), 504-514.

Joordens, J.C.A., Kuipers, R.S. , Muskiet, F.A.J., 2007. Preformed dietary DHA: the answer to a scientific question may in practice become translated to its opposite. American Journal of Human Biology, 19(4), 585-588.

Muskiet, F.A.J., Kuipers, R.S., Smit, E.N., Joordens, J.C.A., 2007. The basis of recommendations in docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acids in infant formula: absolute or relative standards? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86 (6): 1802-1803.
Wanink, J.H., Joordens, J.C.A., 2007. Dietary shifts in Brycinus sadleri (Pisces: Characidae) from southern Lake Victoria. Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 10 (4): 392-397.

Joordens, J.C.A., Kuipers, R.S., Muskiet, F.A.J., 2005. Discussion: on breast milk, diet, and large human brains. Current Anthropology 46 (1): 122-123.
Peperzak, L., Colijn, F., Koeman, R., Gieskes, W.W.C., Joordens, J.C.A., 2003. Phytoplankton sinking rates in the Rhine region of freshwater influence. Journal of Plankton Research 25 (4): 365-383.

Joordens, J.C.A., Souza, A.J., Visser, A.W., 2001. The influence of tidal straining and wind on suspended matter and phytoplankton dynamics in the Rhine outflow region. Continental Shelf Research 21 (3): 301-325.

Joordens, J.C.A., 1999. Coastal Management Research: a personal reflection on the conference outcome. Journal of Coastal Conservation 5: 181-186.
De Vries, I., Smaal, A.C., Nienhuis, P., Joordens, J.C.A., 1996. Estuarine management strategies and the predictability of ecosystem changes. Journal of Coastal Conservation 2: 139-148.

Peperzak, L., Snoeijer, G.J. , Dijkema, R., Gieskes, W.W.C., Joordens, J.C.A., Peeters, J.C.H., Schol, C., Vrieling, E.G., Zevenboom, W., 1996. Development of a Dynophysis acuminata bloom in the river Rhine plume (North Sea). In: T. Yasumoto, Y. Oshima & Y. Fukuyo (Eds.). Harmful and toxic algal blooms. UNESCO, Paris: 273-276. Escaravage, V., Peperzak, L., Prins, T.C., Peeters, J.C.H., Joordens, J.C.A., 1995. The development of a Phaeocystis bloom in a mesocosm experiment in relation to nutrients, irradiance and coexisting algae. Ophelia 42: 55-74.

Van Haren, J.J.M, Joordens, J.C.A., 1990. Observations of physical and biological parameters at the transition between the southern and central North Sea. Journal of Sea Research 25 (3): 351-364.




View on Dubois Site, Trinil, 2017

Lawu volcano near Trinil

The Dubois-fossils in Naturalis

Trinil site in 1894, photo by Dubois

Trinil team, 2016

Conglomerate layer Trinil

Dubois site, Trinil

José in Turkana

The landscape in Turkana

José in Turkana basin

Turkana team 2017

Lake Turkana