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Department of Archaeology



2017-present: PhD in Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge

2013-2016: BA in Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge. 1st Class.


My research interests are broad. In my undergraduate dissertation, I isolated sections of Denisovan ancient DNA likely contributed by a “ghost” hominin with which it interbred. For my PhD research, I shifted focus from interactions between hominin species to the processes that generate diversity at various levels of the taxonomic hierarchy, and crucially, how these interact. This work is primarily based on phylogenetic comparative methods, with the overall aim being the use of extant mammalian species to derive frameworks for understanding and contextualizing the processes that shaped the evolutionary history of our lineage. Key questions this approach will shed new light on are how and why new hominin species appeared, why the hominin lineage contains so many more extinct species than its panin sister clade, and how hominin evolution conforms (or does not) to general trends in primate and/or mammal diversification?


Key publications: 

Posth, C., Wißing, C., Kitagawa, K., Pagani, L., van Holstein, L., Racimo, F., Wehrberger, K., Conard, N.J., Kind, C.J., Bocherens, H. and Krause, J., 2017. Deeply divergent archaic mitochondrial genome provides lower time boundary for African gene flow into Neanderthals. Nature Communications, 8, p.16046.

van Holstein, L. and Foley, R.A. 2017. Hominin Evolution. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. 1. pp.1-22

van Holstein, L. Early Species Concepts. 2019. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.

van Holstein, L. Darwin on Speciation. 2019. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.

van Holstein, L. and Foley, R.A. 2020. Terrestrial habitats decouple the relationship between species and subspecies diversification. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.


Forthcoming popular science book

van Holstein, L. 2021. Soort van wel: Biologische soorten en menselijk hokjesdenken. Prometheus, Amsterdam. (Translation: ‘The pigeonholing species: how humans categorise the world’) 


Teaching and Supervisions


I am involved in the teaching of the following courses:

Humans in Biological Perspective
Human Evolution and Palaeolithic Archaeology
Major Topics in Human Evolutionary Studies
Human Culture and Behaviour

Research supervision: 

Supervisor: Prof. Robert Foley

Other Professional Activities

Organiser - Cambridge Biological Anthropology Seminar Series

Job Titles

PhD student in Biological Anthropology

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Human Evolution

Contact Details


Person keywords: 
Mammalian evolution
Hominin speciation
Biological Anthropology
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: