Itai Roffman 2010-2011

Institution of PhD:
Haifa University
Academic Discipline of PhD:
Evolutionary Anthropology
PhD Advisor/s:
PhD Supervisory committee: Prof. Eviatar Nevo (Haifa University) & Prof. Avraham Ronen (Haifa University)
Dissertation Topic:
Studying Suite of Homo Traits in Pan: Supporting Cultural and Genetic evidence for their inclusion in Homo Genus
Year Awarded PhD:
Institution of Postdoc:
Haifa University
Present Institution:
Yezreel Valley College, Israel
Present Academic Position:
Lecturer and Researcher
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Itai Roffman, an evolutionary anthropologist, is a lecturer and Researcher at the Yezreel Valley College, Israel. In 2017 he was awarded a PhD for his dissertation entitled: “Studying Suite of Early-Hominin Traits in Pan: Cultural and Behavioral Evidence in Support of their Reclassification as Early-Hominins”, under the supervision of evolutionist Prof. Eviatar Nevo, and paleontologist/archeologist Prof. Avraham Ronen. Itai received his MA in physical/biological anthropology from Iowa State University, USA (thesis titled: “Are bicultural bonobos able to recognize iconic representations and produce referential signs in human cultural terms?”).

His MA thesis research focused on examining the iconographic competencies of bonobos as a way of studying the close cultural links between Pan and humans by comparing their abilities to that of late Homo cave art representational iconography and mark making. There he empirically proved language-competent bonobos ability to produce iconographic mark-making and to remember their respective meanings across time along with interpreting meaning of hieroglyphic type icons.

His PhD dissertation research was a continuation of that study. Its ultimate goal was to demonstrate that early Homo and chimpanzees’ tool production and use competencies are based on the shared ancestry of these two hominin sister species. Roffman further demonstrated the competency of bilateral informational-exchange of chimpanzees/bonobos with humans in terms of miming, music and vocal control implicating protolanguage in hominin evolution. Other traits observed were alliance building, cultural/group/personal identity, responsibility and moral order along with giving testimony of past events.

Itai has successfully identified strategies for resource procurement in captive and semi-captive bonobo-chimpanzees (Pan paniscus) in Europe and America, exemplified by their stone/wood and bone tool preparation and processing competencies, to the level of pre-agricultural extractive foraging. Moreover, he has established a field site in Mali, west Africa, to study wild chimpanzee survival strategies, cultural diversity and adaptations to arid multi-habitat cliff range environments. For his unique research Itai was awarded the Adams Fellowship for Doctoral Students, of The Israel National Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

In addition to his scientific work, Itai is active in the advancement of chimpanzee liberation and sanctuary rights for cultural rehabilitation to fulfill their hominin/early Homo potential in open natural reservations. As part of this effort, he founded the “Israeli Chimpanzee Welfare & Personhood Association” and the “Mali Chimpanzee Cultural Preservation, Rehabilitation and Heritage League” (dedicated to establishing reservations for chimpanzees and promoting their right of habeas corpus and reclassification as early hominin members of the Homo genus).

Furthermore, he started an initiative to help mentally/communication disabled children to express themselves through intelligent bilateral video-assisted informational exchange sessions with bonobo-chimpanzees, who competently converse using computer keyboard English Lexigram symbols. In the past Roffman led “Roots & Shoots” (the Jane Goodall Institute) Peace making programs between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and at the Syrian Rajar village (situated half in Lebanon and half in Israel) through humanitarian educational projects for children and youth, promoting equality and acceptance of those who are different in society, mainly via chimpanzee sister-species awareness raising.

Itai is currently establishing the Jane Goodall Institute Israel at the Yezreel Valley College. In 2005 Roffman was presented with the Dr. James Gillihan Award for Peacemaking – Honoring at TEAM (Teachers of Experiential and Adventure Methodologies), Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Illinois.