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Department of Archaeology



John Robb received his first training in medieval English literature (BA, University of Chicago, 1983), and then went on to study anthropological archaeology at the University of Michigan (MA, 1989; PhD, 1995). His PhD thesis dealt with inequality and gender in Italian prehistory, combining evidence of human skeletons, archaeology and prehistoric art. After a brief post-doc at Southern Illinois University (1995-6), he taught at the University of Southampton for five years (1996-2001). Since 2001, he has been teaching at Cambridge, becoming Professor in 2015. He became a fellow of Peterhouse in 2015.

John has run major projects on southern Italian archaeology, the biographies of ordinary people in medieval Cambridge, and the theoretical history of the human body. Besides these topics, he is interested in material culture theory, burial taphonomy and ritual, and prehistoric art. As this suggests, he specialises in being a generalist.


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 Projects:

Key Publications

Key publications: 

See for some recent publications.


Teaching and Supervisions



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.

Research supervision: 


I am happy to supervise PhD theses 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:

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

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)

Bela Dimova (post-colonial views of Greeks in Bulgaria)

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)

Sarah Roe (architecture in prehistoric and Greek Sicily)

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)

Other Professional Activities

I co-direct the department's Material Culture Research Hub, co-edit the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, and participate in the cross-disciplinary Material Culture Forum. I also review for various journals, publishers and granting agencies.

Job Titles

Professor of European Prehistory
Director of Studies, Peterhouse

General Info

Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Archaeological Theory

Contact Details

Office: G05
Faculty Building
jer39 [at]
01223 (3)39004


Person keywords: 
Material Culture
The Mediterranean
Mortuary analysis
The Body
Archaeological Theory
Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Material Culture
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age