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Department of Archaeology



I am an evolutionary and biological anthropologist, with research interests in human evolution, and in particular the ecological basis for patterns and processes of the evolution of human behaviour. This has led to work covering social evolution, speciation and extinction in hominins, hunter-gatherer ecology, and the origins of modern humans, and the application of evolutionary models to human evolution. These researches have involved working with both palaeobiological and contemporary biological methods. I have contributed extensively to the development of the African origin of modern humans field, working across fossils, genetics and archaeology. I am currently engaged in field projects focussing on the evolution of modern humans in Africa, in collaboration with Marta Mirazón Lahr, with whom I also co-founded the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies.


Comparative Evolutionary Ecology Group

My current research is concerned with developing novel methods and models for analysing patterns and processes in human evolution. As the field has become increasingly inter-disciplinary, involving comparative evolutionary biology, human palaeontology, archaeology and genomics. Current work is focused on:

  • Patterns and rates of speciation and extintion in hominin evolution
  • The role of behaviour in macroevolution
  • Evolutionary geography and the Afrotropical model of hominin evolution
  • Species distributuion models for hominin populations using multiple proxies
  • Correlated assymetrical evolution
  • Virtual lithics modelling

Current Collaborative projects

In Africa: The Role of East Africa in the Evolution of Human Diversity (PI: Marta Mirazon Lahr)

Ancient genomics and recent human evolution (w/ Eske Willerlsev and the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen)

Evolutionary ecology of language (w/ Ian Roberts, Francis Nolan, Ianthe Tsempli, Cambridge Centre for Language Sciences)

Cosmic phylogeny (w/ Paula Jofré, Payel Das)

Recent Past projects (PI)

  • Evolution of technology (Leverhulme Trust)
  • Human evolution and development (with Marta Mirazon Lahr, Pat Bateson and Berry Keverne) (Leverulme Trust)
  • Pioneers of island Melanesia (ESF)

Past collaborations

For previous research by topic, and publications, go to my page.

Key Publications

Teaching and Supervisions


I am involved in the teaching of the following courses:

Archaeology Tripos

  • B1 Humans in biological perspective
  • B2 Human evolution
  • B6 Major Topics in Human Evolutionary Studies
  • B13 Human evolution and technology

Psychological and Behavioural Science Tripos

  • Developmental Psychology & Individual Differences

MPhil. In Gender Studies

  • Evolution of sex

Natural Sciences Tripos

  • Biological and behavioural sciences
Research supervision: 

I currently supervise students investigating in a range of topics related to:

  • human evolution
  • human ecology and behaviour
  • language evolution

Current PhD students

  • COPSEY, B. (DOW). The first cultures? Examining lithic diversity in Plio-Pleistocene Africa
  • GRIFFITH, P. (DAR). Late Quaternary habitats of the Nakuru Basin, Kenya: phytolith evidence from Middle and Late Stone Age site of Prospect Farm
  • GELLIS, J. (DAR) Roots of variation: the diversity of homini dental root morphology and its evolutionary implications
  • PARIS, S. (CTH) The colour red: the role of ochre in the evolution of modern human behaviour
  • CONROY, K. (CC) Reconstructing population ranges in hominin evolution: the application of species distribution models to palaeoanthropological data
  • VAN HOLSTEIN, L.A. (JO) Correlated asymmetry in the patterns of evolutionary divergence: vertebrate models and hominin applications
  • YAXLEY, K. (K) Mosaic evolution among mammals
  • GOODMAN, J The role of accents in human linguistic evolutionary ecology

Current Masters students

  • PAGILLA IGLESIAS, C. Adaptive use of bilingualism in a Mexican context

Past PhD students

University of Durham

  • FLETCHER-JONES, N. Off-site archaeology and resource use in S W Australia. 1986
  • ATKINSON, S.. Aging and osteoarthritis in a Roman population. 1985
  • MOHAMMED AWAD IBRAHIM Form and function in ancient Egyptian teeth. 1988 (co-supervised with Alan Bilsborough)
  • CRUWYS, Elizabeth (W) Tooth wear patterns in modern human populations. 1988
  • BOWMAN, Jaqueline (W) Life history, growth and dental development in young primates: a study using captive rhesus macaques. 1991
  • MIRAZON LAHR, Marta (CL) The origins of modern humans: a test of the multiregional hypothesis. 1992
  • EELEY, Harriet  (CC) Ecological and evolutionary patterns of species area. 1993 (Researcher in environment and conservation,
  • HUMPHREY, Louise (K) Sexual dimorphism in humans and other catarrhine primates. 1994
  • SAXENA Amanita (ED) Histological techniques for estimating age at death from human bone : an Indian case study. 1995 (Researcher in nutrition, India)
  • ROBSON BROWN, Katherine (DOW) A phylogenetic systematic analysis of hominid behaviour. 1995
  • SCHUMANN, Betsy A (CC) Biological evolution and population change in the European Palaeolithic. 1995 (Associate Professor, University of Florida)
  • FITZGERALD, Charles (JN) Tooth crown formation and the variation of enamel microstructural growth markers of modern humans. 1996
  • HAYDENBLIT, Rebecca (DAR) Human Dental Variation in Prehispanic Mexico. 1996
  • LENEY, Mark (M) Pleistocene ecology and biogeography : Carnivore adaptation and evolution 1996.
  • MONNOT, Marilee  (CH) Mother-infant communication and infant growth 1997 (Post-doctoral research fellow, University of Oklahoma)
  • GOLLOP, Piers (JN) Modelling the evolutionary ecology of African hominid populations. 1998
  • KULATILAKE, Samanti (CC) Evolution and diversity in south Asian populations. 1999
  • ELTON, Sarah (K) Theropithecus palaeobiology : a comparative context for hominid evolution. 2000
  • ZAKRZEWSKI, Sonia (JN) : Microevolutionary changes in Egyptian populations 2001
  • PINHASI, Ron (M) : Biological aspects of the transition from hunter-gatherer to sedentary lifestyle among prehistoric populations 2003
  • COLLARD, Ian (K) : A biogeographic approach to African cultural diversity. 2003
  • TYLER, Chris (EM) A bioinformatic approach to the integration of molecular genetic and palaeoanthropological evidence for human population divergence. 2004
  • WALL, Cara (ED) Seasonality as a factor in Neanderthal adaptations: an approach using cementum analysis. 2005
  • McCALL, Lauren (CLH) Modelling cultural evolution. 2005.
  • LYCETT, Stephen.  (T) Stone trees: a phyogentic approach to Pleistocene technology. 2006
  • WIELECHOWSKI. Richard (G). An experiental approach to Acheulean biface variation. 2008
  • LING, V. (K) The hominin colonisation of Lower Pleistocene Europe. 2009
  • VELDHUIS, Djuke. (G) Stress in an island paradise: cortisol levels in different linguistic groups in New Ireland. 2010
  • UNDERDOWN, S. (HH) A comparative pathological analysis of Neanderthal palaeotrauma.  2012.
  • VEGVARI, C  (LC) Agent-based simulation modelling of the evolution and diversification of human cultures in their environmental context, 2014
  • GRUNSTRA, N. (K) What’s in a tooth? Signals of ecogeography and phylogeny in the dentitions of macaques (Cercopithecidae: Macaca), 2018
  • CORREIA, M. (R). Assessment in tropical African populations the implications of detecting biological signals in current diets to the study of past diets. 2018

Past Masters students

  • D. Liebermann (1987) Cladistic analysis of early Homo
  • B. Schumann (1992) Cranial thickness and modern human origins
  • L. Yowell (1992) Species and  sub-species among the robust australopithecines
  • S. Lazarus  (1994) Quantifying evolutionary rates in a hominid lineage: the case of the European Middle-Upper Pleistocene
  • M. Hammer 1994 Simulation of life history variation and evolution in early African hominids
  • J. Hernon 1995 Causes of male mortality
  • S. Kulatilake 1995 Cranial variation in southern Asia and the problem of modern human evolution
  • K. Thienpont 1996 Individual interests and social costs: An evolutionary framework for the analysis of human reproductive behaviour.
  • S. Johns 1997 Human migration and the middle upper palaeolithic transition in the Levant: an environmental and archaeological model
  • V.Fitzpatrick-Nash 1997 Biogeography and habitat preference among African hominids
  • I. Ribot 1998 Diversity of African populations: a craniometric approach
  • K. Vaaler 1998 Estimating sexual dimorphism using metric facial data
  • L. McCall  2001 Mosaic evolution and the brain
  • C. Wall 2001 Iberian Neanderthal evolutionary patterns in relation to climatic change
  • G. Ragsdale 2002 A test of the grandmother hypothesis using a historical demographic approach
  • V. Murray 2003 Language acquisition studies: implications for the evolution of language
  • R. Wielechowski 2004 Mode 1 industries in the light of recent ape culture studies: an empirical approach.
  • A. Almeida 2007 Evolution of Homo heiddelbergensis and later hominins
  • V. Ling 2005 European Pleistocene dispersals
  • S. Myers  2005 Reproductive success: a comparison of artists and scientists
  • B. Mersey 2005 Comparative Analysis and Pleistocene Hominin Behavioural Ecology
  • Tomlin, P 2006 Great Ape Cognition: a Socioecological and Cultural Perspective on Two Sympatric Species 
  • A. Dunbar 2007 Quantifying burial practices to infer cognition
  • D. Lucker 2010 An experimental approach to free will and human agency
  • A. Chen 2010 ESS and bank risk and stability
  • C. M. Louden 2010 The effect of the virtual world on arousal: an experimental appraoch
  • E. Duhanine 2011 Evolution of religion: effects of religious environment on prosocial behaviour
  • J. Lennard 2011 Surface water distribution in Africa and its impact on human evolution: a GIS approach
  • L. Cobo Sanchez 2015 The Howiesons Poort: a stratigraphic approach.
  • H. Elliott 2017 Prey size and hominin hunting in Pleistocene Africa: an ecogeographic approach.
  • E. Tomlinson 2017 The sinister advantage: an evolutionary perspective on left-handedness
  • E. Fleming 2017 Differential preservation of social, survival, and neutral information in the oral transmission of stories.
  • Yaxley, K. (K) (2018) Reconstructing the last common ancestor using sub-species level data.
  • Kelsey, P.  (2018) An analysis of ‘outliers’ among primate genera: implications for the evolution of Homo.
  • Rees, A. (PET) (2018) A comparative phylogenetic analysis of the correlated evolution of longevity and brain size among anthropoids.

Other Professional Activities

  • Vice-President, Royal Anthropological Institute
  • President of the Society for Libyan Studies (2016- )
  • Frasetto International Prize, Accademia dei Lincei, Roma (2015)
  • Visting Professor, Geogenetics, University of Copenhagen (2015- )
  • Rivers Memorial Medal, Royal Anthropological Institute (2011)
  • Fellow of the British Academy (2007)
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (2003)
  • Fellow of the Linnaean Society (1995)
  • Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1982)
  • Fulbright Scholar, University of New Mexico  (1982)
  • Lister Lecture, British Association, (1982)
  • Curl Lecture, Royal Anthropological Institute (1993)
  • Andre Dreyfus Lectures, University of Sao Paulo (1994)
  • Linnaeus Lecture, University of Uppsala (1997)
  • J E Willens Lecture, University of Wales (2000)
  • Glyn Isaac Memorial Lecture, Cape Town (2008)

Job Titles

Senior Fellow McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution Emeritus
Life Fellow of King’s College

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Human Evolution

Contact Details

Henry Wellcome Building
Fitzwilliam Street
raf10 [at]


Person keywords: 
Human evolution
Evolutionary ecology
Evolutionary theory and biology
African prehistory
Biological Anthropology
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Other Prehistory