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Professor John Robb

Professor John Robb

Professor of European Prehistory

European prehistory (especially Neolithic and Bronze Age, especially Mediterranean)

Archaeological theory (especially theories of the body and long term change)

Material culture

Prehistoric art in Europe

Human skeletal studies (especially studies of the cultural lives of bodies)

John Robb is accepting applications for PhD students.

John Robb is available for consultancy.

Office: G05
Faculty Building

Office Phone: 01223 339004


BA, University of Chicago, medieval English literature, 1983

MA (1989) and PhD (1995), anthropological archaeology, University of Michigan

Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton (1996-2001)

Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer/ Reader/ Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge (2001 - present)

Fellow, Peterhouse (2015 - present)

Research Interests

My research focuses on four main areas:

  • Archaeological and anthropological theory, particularly theories of agency, material culture, gender and the body, and scales of analysis/ long term change
  • European prehistory, particularly the Neolithic and Bronze Age of the Central Mediterranean, with a focus upon cultural life, symbolism, and historic processes
  • Prehistoric art throughout Europe, with a focus upon art as a specialised form of material culture
  • Selected topics in human skeletal analysis, particularly signs of activity, funerary ritual and taphonomy, and extensions of the social biography after death.

Research Supervision

I am happy to supervise PhD thesis on a wide range of topics, including archaeological theory, material culture, prehistoric art in Europe, the European Neolithic, Mediterranean prehistory, and topics in burial and skeletal studies (particularly ritual and taphonomy). (I've also co-supervised theses on widely varying other topics; I tend to learn a lot from these ones).

Current Students:

Giandaniele Castangia (monumental landscapes in Bronze Age Sardinia, co-supervised with Dr. Philip Nigst)

Samantha Cox (pelvic development in medieval Denmark, co-supervised with Dr. Jay Stock)

Bela Dimova (post-colonial theory and Thracian society, Bulgaria, co-supervised with Dr. Simon Stoddart and Dr. Sara Owen)

Amna Jabeen (French Upper Palaeolithic art and cognitive theory)

Kevin Kay (depositional practices in Neolithic Anatolia, co-supervised with Dr. Augusta McMahon)

Sarah Roe (housing as a social technology in pre-Classical and Classical Sicily, co-supervised with Dr. Kate Spence)

Jess Thompson (ritual taphonomy in Neolithic Malta, co-supervised with Dr. Simon Stoddart)


Some past students:

Craig Alexander (GIS analysis of rock art in Valcamonica, Italy)

Jessica Beckett (taphonomic analysis and burial ritual in Neolithic tombs, County Clare, Ireland)

Monique Boddington (epistemological criteria for truth in archaeological theory)

David Klingle (skeletal evidence for lifestyle change in Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon Britain)

Katherine Mary Leckie (social networks and 19th century archaeology of Swiss lake dwellings)

Helen Farr (obsidian circulation and maritime travel in Neolithic Italy)

Sheila Kohring (technological knowledge and pottery making in Copper Age Spain)

Mary Anne Tafuri (chemical analysis of human bone, mobility and diet in Bronze Age Italy)

Doortje Van Hove (GIS analysis of productive landscapes in Neolithic Italy)


I currently teach significant parts of our courses on European Prehistory and Archaeological Theory, I co-coordinate the MPhil module on Material Culture, and I contribute lectures on European prehistory, the Neolithic transition, material culture and archaeological theory to various courses. In the past I've also taught human osteology, statistics, and Mediterranean prehistory.

Other Professional Activities

I am involved in several current research projects:

  • A social history of art in prehistoric Europe: this project aims at a comprehensive review of prehistoric European art and an analysis of both large-scale histories and particular groups of art
  • A survey of health and the body in prehistoric Europe through literature review of burials, art, and skeletal evidence (with funding from the Wellcome Trust)
  • The Bova Marina Archaeological Project, which I co-direct: excavation of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Classical sites in Calabria, Southern Italy (with funding from various sources) -- see our website at
  • Reanalysis and publication of Scaloria Cave (a Neolithic Italian ritual site) in collaboration with colleagues from UCLA, Genova, Rome and Bordeaux; my own contribution studies the osteoarchaeology and ritual taphonomy
  • In addition, I have recently finished a major collaborative project on the history of the human body in Europe (Changing beliefs of the human body).


  • Material Culture
  • Prehistory
  • Italy
  • Osteoarchaeology
  • The Mediterranean
  • Mortuary analysis
  • The Body
  • Archaeological Theory

Key Publications

A selection of my publications is available for download on