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Department of Archaeology



I am a Palaeolithic archaeologist with broad interests in the design, production and use of stone tool artefacts across the Palaeolithic period. My research often investigates the interplay between cultural and biological aspects of our evolutionary history, and applies techniques more commonly used in mechanical and biomechanical engineering research to better understand the behaviour and evolution of early humans. My PhD in Anthropology was awarded in 2015 by the University of Kent under the supervision of Dr Stephen Lycett. Prior to this, I completed my MSc in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology at University College London. Following my PhD, I was awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, which I held from 2016 to 2019. During this period, I also spent time as a visiting researcher at Kent State University. Prior to my appointment at Cambridge, I was a Lecturer in Biological Anthropology at the University of Kent.


My research investigates the behaviour and evolution of early humans through the excavation and analysis of lithic artefacts, the experimental production and use of replica stone and organic tools, and a variety of different modelling processes. At a broad level, my work asks, ‘how technologically capable were our early ancestors, and does this vary between hominin species?’ Much of my research explores the utilitarian design principles underpinning the production of Palaeolithic stone tools and considers whether early humans produced functionally efficient and effective tool forms, and if not, why not. I also investigate the co-evolution of the hominin upper limb and Palaeolithic stone tools. Currently, I direct excavations at the Lower Palaeolithic site of Fordwich (Kent, UK). Fordwich 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.

Key Publications

Key publications: 


I am the author of >45 peer reviewed articles (a selection of recent papers are below). For a full list of publications please see: Google Scholar or


Key, A., Lauer, T., Skinner, MM., Pope, M., Bridgland, DR., Noble, L. 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

Key, A., Farr, I., Hunter, R., and Winter, S.L. (2020) Muscle recruitment and stone tool use ergonomics across three million years of Palaeolithic technological transitions. Journal of Human Evolution, 144: 102796

Key, A. and Lycett, S.J. (2017) Form and function in the Lower Palaeolithic: history, progress, and continued relevance. Journal of Anthropological Sciences 95: 67-108

Teaching and Supervisions


I co-ordinate papers A22/G04 (Palaeolithic Archaeology) and A50/B14 (A Technologically Dependent Lineage), and contribute to several other archaeology and biological anthropology papers. 

Research supervision: 

I am interested in supervising students who wish to study for an MPhil or PhD in topics related to:

- Palaeolithic 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 so, 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. 

Other Professional Activities

Associate Editor - Journal of Human Evolution.

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
Science, Technology and Innovation
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: