Stephen Shennan

  • MA, PhD
  • Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology
  • Professor of Theoretical Archaeology
  • PI, EUROEVOL Project 2010-2014 (European Research Council Advanced Grant)

  • PI, The Origins and Spread of Stock-Keeping in the Near East and Europe 2007-2010 (AHRC)
  • Invited Member of the Academia Europaea in September 2013.  Read more»
  • Elected Fellow of the British Academy in July 2006: The Academy stated: “He is one of Europe’s leading theoretical and prehistoric archaeologists. From an initial focus on the Copper and Bronze Ages in central Europe, he moved on to pioneer statistical methods in archaeology. He is internationally renowned not only as a European prehistorian but as a highly innovative thinker who has introduced evolutionary models into the study of later prehistory.”
  • Trustee: Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies (IAMS)

Research Interests

  • Application of biological evolutionary theory and methods to archaeology
  • Prehistoric demography
  • Ethnicity
  • Prehistoric social and economic institutions

First Announcement - Culture, Climate and Environment Interactions at Prehistoric Wetland Sites
11 – 14 June 2014, University of Bern, Switzerland
The University of Bern, Institute of Archaeological Science IAW and the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research OCCR, and the IGBP Past Global Changes PAGES program will organize an international conference on ‘Culture and Climate’. The interdisciplinary conference will gather researchers working in paleoecology, climate change research and prehistory.

Research Directory Records


Educational Background

  • MA University of Cambridge
  • PhD University of Cambridge

Authored books

  • Shennan, S.J. (2002). Genes, Memes and Human History: Darwinian Archaeology and Cultural Evolution. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Shennan, S.J. (1997). Quantifying Archaeology. 2nd edition. Edinburgh University Press.

Edited books

  • Layton,R., Shennan,S.J., Stone,P. (ed.) (2006), A Future for Archaeology: The Past in the Present, London: UCL Press.
  • J. Cherry, C. Scarre and S.J. Shennan (eds), (2004). The Explanation of Culture Change: Papers in Honour of Colin Renfrew. Cambridge: McDonald Institute of Archaeology.
  • Shennan, S.J. June (2002). Edited with introduction. Archaeology and Evolutionary Ecology. World Archaeology 34,1
  • Shennan, S.J. (ed), (1998). Population and Demography. World Archaeology, 30(2)
  • Shennan, S.J. & Steele, J. (eds), (1996). The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition. London: Routledge

Articles & book chapters

  • Kandler, A. & Shennan, S.J. (2013). A non-equilibrium neutral model for analysing cultural change. Journal of Theoretical Biology 330:18-25
  • Shennan, S.J. (2013). Demographic Continuities and Discontinuities in Neolithic Europe: Evidence, Methods and Implications. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20 (2):300-311
  • Woodbridge J, Fyfe RM, Roberts N, Downey S, Edinborough K, Shennan S.J. (2012). The impact of the Neolithic agricultural transition in Britain: a comparison of pollen-based land-cover and archaeological 14C date-inferred population change. Journal of Archaeological Science 2012.
  • Shennan, S.J. (2011). Property and wealth inequality as cultural niche construction. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 366, 918-926.
  • Shennan, S.J. (2011). Descent with modification and the archaeological record. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 366, 1070-1079.
  • Conolly, J., Colledge, S., Dobney, K., Vigne, J.-D., Peters, J., Stopp, B., Manning, K. and Shennan, S.J. (2011) Meta-analysis of zooarchaeological data from SW Asia and SE Europe provides insight into the origins and spread of animal husbandry. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(3):538-545.
  • Conolly, J., Colledge, S. and Shennan, S.J. (2008) Founder effect, drift, and adaptive change in domestic crop use in early neolithic Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(10), 2797-2804.
  • Coward, F., Shennan, S.J., Colledge, S., Conolly, J. and Collard, M. (2008) The Spread of Neolithic Plant Economies from the Near East to Northwest Europe: a phylogenetic Analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(1), 42-56.
  • Collard,M., Shennan,S.J., Tehrani,J.J. (2006). Branching, blending, and the evolution of cultural similarities and differences among human populations. Evolution and Human Behavior 27, 169-184
  • Collard,M., Shennan,S.J., Tehrani,J.J. (2006). Branching versus blending in macroscale cultural evolution: a comparative study. in Lipo,C.P.,O'Brien,M.J., Collard,M., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) Mapping our Ancestors: Phylogenetic Methods in Anthropology and Prehistory. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction, 53-64
  • Colledge,S., Conolly,J., Shennan,S.J. (2006). The Evolution of Early Neolithic Farming from SW Asian Origins to NW European Limits. European Journal of Archaeology 8(2), 137-156. ISSN: 1461-9571
  • Layton,R., Shennan,S.J., Stone,P. (2006). Introduction. Chapter 1 in Layton,R., Shennan,S.J., Stone,P. (ed.) A Future for Archaeology: The Past in the Present. London: UCL Press, 1-6. ISBN: 1-84472-126-4
  • Lipo,C.P., O'Brien,M.J., Collard,M., Shennan,S.J. (2006), Mapping our Ancestors: Phylogenetic Methods in Anthropology and Prehistory, New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.
  • Lipo,C.P., O'Brien,M.J., Collard,M., Shennan,S.J. (2006). Phylogenetic analysis of cultural data. in Lipo,C.P., O'Brien,M.J., Collard,M., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) Mapping our Ancestors: Phylogenetic Methods in Anthropology and Prehistory. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction, 3-18
  • Shennan, S.J. (2006). From cultural history to cultural evolution: an archaeological perspective on social information transmission. Chapter 46 in Wells,J., Strickland,S., Laland,K. (ed.) Social information transmission and human biology. Society for the study of human biology series. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press, 173-190. ISBN: 0849340470 [Eprint]
  • Shennan,S.J. (2006). The evolutionary dynamics of cultural traditions. in Kienlin,T. (ed.) Das Ding als Zeichen: kulturelles Wissen und materielle Kultur. Universitaetsforschungen zur praehistorischen Archaeologie series. Bonn: Habelt, 133-141. ISBN: 3-7749-3317-0
  • Mace,R., Holden,C., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) (2005), The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach,London: UCL Press. ISBN: 10: 1-84472-065-9. 291pp.
  • Bentley,R.A., Lake,M.W, Shennan,S.J. (2005). Specialisation and Wealth Inequality in a Model of A Clustered Economic Network. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(9), 1346-1356. ISSN: 0305-4403
  • Biagi,P., Shennan,S.J., Spataro,M. (2005). Rapid Rivers and Slow Seas? New data for the radiocarbon chronology of the Balkan peninsula. in Nikolova,L., Higgins,J. (ed.) Prehistoric Archaeology and Anthropological Theory and Education. Reports of Prehistoric Research Projects 6-7 series. , 43-51
  • Holden,C.J., Shennan,S.J. (2005). Introduction to Part I: How Tree-like is Cultural Evolution. Chapter 2 in Mace,R., Holden,C.J., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. London: UCL Press, 13-29
  • Jordan,P., Shennan,S.J. (2005). Cultural Transmission in Indigenous California. Chapter 9 in Mace,R., Holden,C.J., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. London: UCL Press, 165-196
  • Shennan,S.J., Collard,M. (2005). Investigating Processes of Cultural Evolution on the North Coast of New Guinea with Multivariate and Cladistic Analyses. Chapter 8 in Mace,R., Holden,C.J., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. London: UCL Press, 133-164
  • Shennan, S.J., (2004). Analytical Archaeology. In J. Bintliff (ed), A Companion to Archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Shennan, S.J., (2004). An evolutionary perspective on agency in archaology. In A. Gardner (ed), Agency Uncovered, pp. 19-31. London: UCL Press.
  • Bentley, R.A, M.W. Hahn and S.J. Shennan, (2004). Random drift and culture change. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences 271, 1443-1450.
  • Colledge, S., J. Conolly and S.J. Shennan, (2004). Archaeobotanical evidence for the spread of farming in the East Mediterranean. Current Anthropology 45.S4, S35-S58.
  • Shennan, S.J., (2004). Forty Years On: Review of Binford, Constructing Frames of Reference. Journal of Human Evolution 46: 507-515. (review article)
  • Steele, J., M. Gkiasta and S.J. Shennan. The Neolithic transition and European population history - a response. Antiquity 78: 711-713.
  • Gkiasta, M., T. Russell, S.J. Shennan and J. Steele (2003). Origins of European agriculture: the radiocarbon record revisited. Antiquity 77: 45-62.
  • Jordan, P. and S.J. Shennan (2003). Cultural transmission, language and basketry traditions amongst the California Indians. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 22: 42-74.
  • Bentley, R.A. and S.J. Shennan (2003). Cultural evolution and stochastic network growth. American Antiquity 68(3).
  • Shennan, S.J. (2002) Learning, pp. 182-200. In Hart, J. and J. Terrell (eds), Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.
  • Shennan, S.J. (2002) Archaeology evolving: history, adaptation and self-organization. Antiquity 76: 253-6. (Review article).
  • Shennan, S.J. (2001) Ceramic style change and neutral evolution: A case study from Neolithic Europe (with J.R. Wilkinson). American Antiquity 66 (4): 577-593.
  • Shennan, S.J. & Collard, M. (2000). Processes of culture change in prehistory: a case study from the European Neolithic, in C Renfrew and K Boyle (eds), Archaeogenetics: DNA and the population prehistory of Europe, 89-97. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
  • Shennan, S.J., (2000). Population, culture history and the dynamics of culture change. Current Anthropology, 41, 811-835
  • Shennan, S.J., (1999). Cost, benefit and value in the organization of early European copper production. Antiquity, 73, 352-363
  • Shennan S.J., (1999). The development of rank societies, in G Barker and A Grant (eds), The Companion Encyclopaedia of Archaeology, 870-907. London: Routledge
  • Shennan, S.J. & Steele, J. (1999). Cultural learning in hominids: a behavioural ecological approach, in H Box and K Gibson (eds), Mammalian Social Learning: Comparative and Ecological Perspectives, 367-388. (Symposia of the Zoological Society of London 72). Cambridge University Press
  • Shennan, S.J. (1998). Producing copper in the eastern Alps during the second millennium BC, in A B Knapp, V C Pigott and E W Herbert (eds), Social Approaches to an Industrial Past: The Archaeology and Anthropology of Mining, 191-204. London: Routledge
  • Shennan, S.J. (1997). Biology and archaeology. Part of a chapter entitled, Looking Back: Historical and Theoretical Context of Present Practice, in P Weingart, S D Mitchell, P J Richerson & S Maasen (eds), Human By Nature: Between Biology and the Social Sciences, 38-47. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
  • Shennan, S.J. (1997). Darwinian archaelogy. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 8, 1-6
  • Shennan, S.J. & Steele, J. (1996). Introduction, in J Steele & S J Shennan, (eds).The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition, 1-41. London: Routledge
  • Shennan, S.J. (1996). Social inequality and the transmission of cultural traditions in forager societies, in J Steele and S J Shennan (eds). The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition, 365-379. London: Routledge

Proposals are welcomed from prospective doctoral students interested in the application of biological evolutionary theory and methods to archaeology.

Current Students

  • Beatrijs De Groot Ceramic assemblages as evidence of social interaction in Neolithic Anatolia and the Balkans (second supervisor Ulrike Sommer)
  • Jill Goulder Changing techniques of transportation and traction in Mesopotamia and the Levant in the early 5th - early 3rd millennia BC (second supervisor Louise Martin)

Second Supervisor

  • Renata Franco Peters Redressing misrepresentation: The role of conservation (joint second supervisor with Elizabeth Pye, principal supervisor Tim Schadla-Hall)
  • Rebecca Beardmore Late Bronze and Early Iron Age land use and subsistence strategies in the ancient delta of the Syrdarya River, Kazakhstan: A geoarchaeological approach (principal supervisor Arlene Rosen)

Recently completed students


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