College of Liberal Arts alumna’s research discovery regarding 3,000-year-old shark attack victim garnering major media attention

Published: June 30, 2021

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Auburn alumna Alyssa White was recently featured on the CBC podcast “As it Happens,” for her research on a 3,000-year-old shark attack victim, the earliest evidence of such an attack.
White has taught as an adjunct instructor of anthropology at Auburn and is currently completing a doctorate in archaeology at the University of Oxford in England. White received the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi National Fellowship and the Oxford University Clarendon Scholarship to attend Oxford, where she is researching skeletal evidence of violence among prehistoric Japanese hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists that lived approximately between 1300 BC and the mid-third century AD.
Audio of the interview can be found here and anyone interested in her research may read her coauthored publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. News of White’s discovery was reported by a number of media outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine and Gizmodo, among others.
White, a native of Auburn, graduated in spring of 2014 from the College of Liberal Arts and the Honors College with a double major in anthropology and Spanish and a minor in East Asian studies.
“My minor ended up being a great asset for my research in Japan,” White said about her Auburn experience in a recent interview with the College of Liberal Arts.
While at Auburn, White served as associate editor of the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Studies and as an assistant director of the campus biological anthropology lab. She was a two-time recipient of the university’s competitive Undergraduate Research Fellowship, was selected for the Phi Kappa Phi Most Outstanding Freshman Award and Phi Kappa Phi Most Outstanding Second Year Award and was one of only a few third-year students elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the spring of 2013.
White was a Japanese tutor at the campus language lab, presented her peer-reviewed research to state, regional and national conferences and authored two peer-reviewed publications. As a junior in March of 2013, she received the Women’s Studies Undergraduate Student Achievement Award.
White credits her liberal arts education at Auburn for preparing her for success.
“Undoubtedly, without the care and attention shown to me by the anthropology, Asian studies and honors faculty, especially Dr. Kristrina Shuler, the late Dr. John Cottier, Dr. Makiko Mori and Dr. Paul Harris, I would not be where I am today, pursuing two of my passions, Japan and archaeology, simultaneously,” White said in the recent interview. “The faculty mentioned above, along with others in the College of Liberal Arts, put a great deal of emphasis on learning how to critically work though a problem and then how to construct and defend a position.”

Submitted by: Victoria Santos

Alyssa White