Noriyuki Shirai

  • BA, MA, PhD
  • Marie Curie Visiting Research Fellow (Gerda Henkel M4HUMAN Programme)

Current Research Project

How did cultural transmission and innovation occur when agriculture diffused from the Near East to Egypt in prehistory? A cultural evolutionary approach

This research, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s M4HUMAN Programme, is an archaeological study of the beginning of agriculture in Egypt in the 6th-5th millennia BC.

Egypt built one of the earliest civilisations in human history on the basis of agriculture which diffused from the Near East. The study of how the diffusion of agriculture took place over long distances and how inhabitants of Egypt abandoned a hunting-gathering way of life and increasingly relied on agriculture has immense significance for any academic disciplines dealing with the human past.

In order to answer these large questions, this research deals with a specific archaeological question as to how the diffusion of agriculture and the change of lifestyle are reflected in material culture. This research focuses on flint tools which were collected in a region of Egypt and are presently housed in museums in the UK, and demonstrates how material technologies have changed over time and how cultural transmission and innovation have occurred, by using a cultural evolutionary approach. 

Research Interests

  • Prehistory of North Africa and the Near East
  • Epipalaeolithic, Neolithic, Neolithisation
  • Beginning and dispersal of agriculture
  • Lithic technology
  • Cultural evolution
  • Human behavioural ecology

Educational Background

  • 2010  PhD Archaeology, Leiden University
  • 1995  MA Archaeology, Waseda University                                  
  • 1992  BA Archaeology, Waseda University


Book chapters and journal articles

  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2013. “What makes the Neolithic in northeastern Africa? A new debate on an old issue for eliminating neighbourly ignorance: Introduction,” in N. Shirai (ed.), Neolithisation of Northeastern Africa. ex oriente, Berlin, pp.1-3.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2013. “Was Neolithisation a struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest, or merely the survival of the luckiest? A case study of socioeconomic and cultural changes in Egypt in the Early-Middle Holocene,” in N. Shirai (ed.), Neolithisation of Northeastern Africa. ex oriente, Berlin, pp. 213-235.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2011. “A missing chapter of The Desert Fayum: Fayum lithic artefact collection in the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam,” Archéo-Nil 21, pp.115-146.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2006. “Supra-Regional Concepts in Near Eastern Neolithisation from a viewpoint of Egyptian Neolithic Research,” Paléorient 32.2, pp.7-21.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2005. “Walking with herdsmen: In search of the material evidence for the diffusion of agriculture from the Levant to Egypt,” Neo-Lithics 1/05, pp.12-17. 
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2002. “Helwan Points in the Egyptian Neolithic,” Orient 37, pp.121-135.

Conference proceedings

  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2012. “The Fayum Epipalaeolithic in the light of new discoveries,” in J. Kabaciński, M. Chrodnicki, and M. Kobusiewicz (eds.), Prehistory of Northeastern Africa: New Ideas and Discoveries, Poznan Archaeological Museum, Poznan, pp.225-254.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2011. “Did the diffusion of Levantine Helwan points to north-eastern Africa really take place? A study on side-notched and tanged projectile points in north-eastern Africa,” in E. Healey, S. Campbell and O. Maeda (eds.), The State of the Stone Terminologies, Continuities and Contexts in Near Eastern Lithics: Proceedings of the Sixth PPN Conference on Chipped and Ground Stone Artefacts in the Near East, Manchester, 3rd–5th March 2008, ex oriente, Berlin, pp.171-183.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2007. “Origins and development of bifacial stone tools and their implications for the beginning of animal herding in the Egyptian Western Desert,” in  M. Chlodnicki, K. Kroeper and M. Kobusiewicz (eds.), Archaeology of Earliest Northeastern Africa, Poznan Archaeological Museum, Poznan, pp.355-374.
  • Noriyuki Shirai, 2005. “Bifacial Technology, Socioeconomic Competition, and Early Farming and Herding in the Fayum,” in K. Piquette and S. Love (eds.), Current Research in Egyptology 2003, Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp.135-147.
  • The Archaeology of the First Farmer-Herders in Egypt
  • Neolithisation of Northeastern Africa
Noriyuki Shirai

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