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Department of Archaeology


I'm an archaeologist with broad interests in the design, production and use of stone tool artefacts. My research often investigates the interplay between cultural and biological aspects of our evolutionary history and applies mechanical, biomechanical, morphometric and statistical techniques to better understand the behaviour and evolution of early humans. Since 2020 I have directed excavations at the Lower Palaeolithic site of Old Park (Kent, UK). Old Park retains some of the earliest evidence for the occupation of Britain by humans, and at the time of writing is the oldest archaeological site being excavated in the UK.

My PhD was awarded in 2015 under the supervision of Dr Stephen Lycett, after which I was awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Prior to my appointment at Cambridge I held Lectureships and Visiting Researcher positions in the UK and USA.

At Cambridge my teaching focuses on Palaeolithic archaeology, human origins, and lithic technology. I co-ordinate the MPhil (Masters degree) in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology


Information for Prospective Postgraduate Students

I am interested in supervising students who wish to study for a PhD, or MPhil in Archaeological Research, in topics related to:

- Palaeolithic or Stone Age archaeology.

- Mechanical engineering techniques and their application to archaeological questions.

- Biomechanical and ergonomic approaches within archaeology.

- Temporal, spatial, and demographic modelling in prehistoric contexts.

- The evolution of the human hand from a cultural perspective.

Feel free to email me to discuss supervision. When you do, please tell me a little about your research experience, interests and plans. If you are interested in undertaking a PhD, please also include information concerning your plans for funding.

For prospecive taught masters students please see the MPhil in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology.

Key Publications

Key publications: 


I am the author of >60 peer reviewed articles (a selection of recent papers are below). For a full list of publications please see: Google Scholar.


Key, A. (2023) The Acheulean is a temporally cohesive tradition. World Archaeology, doi:10.1080/00438243.2023.2169340

Key, A. and Lycett, S.J. (2023) The ergonomics of stone tool use and production. In: Overmann, K., Wynn, T. and Coolidge, F. (Eds.)  The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology,

Key, A. and Ashton, N. (2022) Hominins likely occupied northern Europe before one million years ago. Evolutionary Anthropology,

Key, A., Lauer, T., Skinner, MM., et al. and Proffitt, T. (2022) On the earliest Acheulean in Britain: firstdates and in-situ artefacts from the MIS 15 site of Fordwich (Kent, UK). Royal Society Open Science 9 (6): 211904

Key, A., Jarić, I. and Roberts, D.L. (2021) Modelling the end of the Acheulean at global and continental levels suggests widespread persistence into the Middle Palaeolithic. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8: 55

Key, A., Proffitt, T., and de la Torre, I. (2020) Raw material optimisation and stone tool engineering in the Early Stone Age of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Journal of the Royal Society Interface 17 (162): 20190377

Teaching and Supervisions



I co-ordinate the courses A22/G04 (Palaeolithic Archaeology) and A50/B14 (The Co-Evolution of Humans and Stone Age Culture), and contribute to several other archaeology papers. 

I also co-ordinate the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology route of the taught postgraduate degree MPhil in Archaeology

My undergraduate teaching contributes to the archaeology and biological anthropology tracks of the Cambridge Archaeology Tripos


Research supervision: 

Each year I supervise a range of undergraduate and MPhil research projects, alongside working with PhD and postdoctoral researchers in the Cambridge Palaeolithic Lab Group.


Current Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr Carmen Martín-Ramos (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

Dr Lisa Schunk (Walter-Benjamin Hosted Fellow)


Current PhD Researchers

Anna Mika (Experimental Archaeology / Palaeolithic Archaeology)

Finn Stileman (Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology)


Past Lab Members

Dr Benjamin Utting (PhD supervision)

Other Professional Activities

Associate Editor - Journal of Human Evolution

Editor - Cambridge Prisms: Extinction

Job Titles

Assistant Professor in Palaeolithic Archaeology

General Info

Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Human Evolution
Artefact Analysis & Technology
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
Cultural Evolution

Contact Details

Department of Archaeology
ak2389 [at]


Person keywords: 
Palaeolithic Archaeology; Gene-Culture Co-Evolution; Biomechanics and Ergonomics; Mechanical Engineering; Acheulean
Biological Anthropology
Science, Technology and Innovation
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: