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Department of Archaeology


Professors Marta Mirazón Lahr and Marcos Martinón-Torres have won advanced grants from the European Research Council (ERC), Europe's premiere research funding body. 

Two hundred and nine senior scientists from across Europe - including twelve from the University of Cambridge - were awarded grants in today’s announcement from the ERC, representing a total of €507 million in research funding.

The UK has 51 grantees in this year’s funding round, the most of any ERC participating country. 

ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. ERC Advanced Grants are designed to support excellent scientists in any field with a recognised track record of research achievements in the last ten years. Apart from strengthening Europe’s knowledge base, the new research projects will also lead to the creation of some 1,900 new jobs for post-doctoral fellows, PhD students and other research staff.

With funding totalling over €5.1m, the two Department of Archaeology projects will study how societies in the past cooperated and bring new understanding of how the evolution of our species is part of a broader and longer African evolutionary landscape.

Commenting on the funding for his REVERSEACTION project Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres said, “Many prehistoric societies did pretty well at maintaining rich and complex lives without the need for permanent power hierarchies and coercive authorities."

"Arguably, they chose to cooperate, and not just to ensure survival. The lack of state structures did not stop them from developing and sustaining complex technologies, making extraordinary artefacts that required exotic materials, challenging skills and labour arrangements. I’m keen to understand why, but also how they managed."

“This grant couldn’t have come at a better time, as collective action is increasingly recognised as the only way to tackle some of our greatest global concerns, and there is value in studying how people collaborated in the past. With our labs freshly revamped through our recent AHRC infrastructure grant, we are ready to take on a new large-scale, challenging archaeological science project.”

Professor Marta Mirazón Lahr was awarded funding for her NGIPALAJEM project. She said, “My research is in human evolution, a field that advances through technical breakthroughs, new ideas, and critically, new fossils.”

"A big part of my work is to find new hominin fossils in Africa, which requires not only supportive local communities and institutions, but long-term planning and implementation, a dedicated team, significant funds and the time to excavate, study, compare and interpret new discoveries. This new grant from the ERC gives me all this and more – and I just can’t wait to get started!”


Adapted from a University of Cambridge press release

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Professors Marta Mirazón Lahr and Marcos Martinón-Torres
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University of Cambridge