The Archaeology of Human Evolution
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The Archaeology of Human Evolution

Excavations at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Roca dels Bous, Spain

The Archaeology of Human Evolution

The UCL Institute of Archaeology undertakes world-leading research in the archaeology of early humans. From projects focused on the origins of stone tools technology, through to fieldwork looking at the responses of both Neanderthals and modern humans to climate change, the Institute has a strong record of high quality fieldwork and research. The Archaeology of Human Evolution research network brings together the wide range of current Palaeolithic research and associated disciplines at the Institute and works to foster research partnerships within UCL and beyond.

Archaeological data provides an important contribution to the study of human evolution. Primary archaeological datasets are varied and include stone tools, butchered animal remains, modified organic materials, the remains of structures, and the traces of art.  From these sources we are able to develop robust models of past human behaviour and examine variation across the globe within a timeframe which now exceeds 2.6 million years.

Archaeological excavations also provide the best source for the recovery of high quality scientific data relating to ancient human anatomy, associated environmental evidence, and indications of dating. Consequently Palaeolithic field archaeology, with its distinctive approach to geological and sedimentary contexts alongside the need for detailed recording capable of answering complex taphonomic questions, can be considered a specialised sub-discipline of wider archaeological fieldwork.

Network Aims and Objectives

· To strengthen Palaeolithic studies at the Institute of Archaeology by creating synergies amongst members of staff undertaking research on behavioural aspects of human evolution.

· To widen links and develop research with other UCL departments.

· To expand the research undertaken by Masters and Doctoral students in these subject areas, and to actively develop doctoral and post-doctoral research projects, which can then be advertised for suitable students.

· To run workshops and seminar series on comparative and thematic issues relevant to these time periods.

· To develop fieldwork methodologies and offer high-quality field-training for students with interests in the Palaeolithic.

Network Research Themes

· Origins of Acheulean technology in East Africa.

· Taphonomic and Experimental Approaches to Stone Tool Assemblages.

· Late Neanderthal and Modern human interactions in the Near East and Europe 125 - 30 kya.

· Hunter-gatherer responses to the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene transition.

· Neanderthal origins: adaptive responses of Homo heidelbergensis to European environments, the origins and trajectory of Neanderthal specialisation.

Network Research Projects

The following projects are currently being run by network members:

ORACEAF: Origins of the Acheulean at Olduvai

Paleoanthropological Research in the Ethiopian Rift Valley

Percussive Technology in Human Evolution: A Comparative Approach

Prehistoric Hunting Strategies in Jordan

Threshold: Origins of Homebase Signatures in the Pleistocene

LAMP: La Manche Prehistoric Research Group

Boxgrove: Analysis and Publications of excavations 1987-1996

Network Field Projects

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Ice Age Island, Jersey Palaeolithic Survey

Azraq Basin Project, Jordan

Excavations at Buendía rockshelter, Spain

Beedings Palaeolithic Survey

Excavations at Cova Gran, Spain

Excavations at Roca dels Bous, Spain

Excavations at La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey

The Valdoe Survey: Boxgrove Palaeolandscape.

Qadisha Valley Project, Lebanon


Network members have received funding from the following sources, thus far, for their research activities:


· European Research Council

· Natural Environment Research Council

· British Academy


· English Heritage

· Society of Antiquaries

· Spanish Government

Network Co-ordinator:

Network Members:

  • Network leaders and members also collaborate with a wide range of staff and researchers from other universities in the UK and overseas


Further information:

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