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Department of Archaeology


Human Evolutionary Studies

Research in human evolution is a strongly multi-disciplinary programme. The overarching framework is that understanding how humans evolved requires approaches from fields as diverse as human palaeontology, genomics, the cognitive sciences, behavioural ecology and archaeology. The Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary studies at Cambridge is one of the leading research centres in the field, and encourages and supports this broad-based approach.

Human evolutionary studies at Cambridge are led by eight PIs, whose research covers a full  range of topics – the evolution of modern humans in Africa; behaviour, ecology and cognition of hunter-gatherers; the evolution of culture and technology in apes; health and disease in human evolution; growth and development in a life history context in contemporary populations, computational and bioinformatics approaches to human evolution and genetics; cultural evolution; comparative evolutionary ecology. In addition, there are close collaborations with other research groups in Archaeology (Palaeolithic Archaeology, Proteomics, Isotope Ecology), and in other Departments (Ancient DNA, Language Sciences)

There is a strong focus on Africa among the Cambridge human evolutionary studies researchers – Kenya, Congo, South Africa, Ivory Coast – but research is also carried out in Iraq, Bangladesh, Malaysia, New Guinea and within Europe. Research involves fieldwork, development and application of new scientific methodologies, and computational approaches.

What unites these multiple groups is a common interest in the application of evolutionary principles and methodologies to problems and datasets, to elucidate the patterns and process of human evolutionary history and how it impacts on current humanity.