Institute of Archaeology


Carmen Martín Ramos

Homo erectus behavioural and cognitive evolution at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). A technological approach

Carmen Martin Ramos

Email: carmen.ramos.11@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



Homo erectus behavioural and cognitive evolution at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). A technological approach

My PhD research focus on Homo erectus behavioural and cognitive evolution at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). It aims to reconstruct hominin behaviour from the material culture that our ancestors left behind, and thus, this project will be based on a re-evaluation of archaeological bone and stone handaxes from a series of Acheulean sites excavated by Mary Leakey and the Olduvai Geochronology Archaeology Project (OGAP) in Olduvai Gorge, located at the western margin of the East African Rift. In addition to reconstruction of the chaînes opératoires employed, this project aims to identify behavioural patterns in stone and bone LCTs (Large Cutting Tools) that can be correlated to cognitive development and the increase of working memory capacity.

In order to address hominin cognitive skills, this project is based on the analysis of LCTs from the different archaeological beds at Olduvai Gorge. These Large Cutting Tools are the most representative tool type in the Acheulean record and the first evidence of the deliberate imposition of shape and form. Among other factors, such intentional façonnage reflects the existence of a mental template in the minds of knappers, as well as degrees of forward planning. These characteristics, together with the fact that Acheulean handaxes become more standardised, symmetrical and refined through time, have made them a specific subject for inferring the mental capabilities of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis.

While relying on a technological approach, it is also the aim of this project to implement and test a model to infer cognitive development based on analysis of lithic remains. Traditionally, studies on the relationship between Acheulean technology and cognitive capabilities have been based primarily on variation in artefact shape. While not disregarding this approach, the current project aims to provide a reliable methodology to infer cognition from technological strategies. The methodology is based on the Working Memory approach (Baddeley and Hitch 1974; Baddeley 1993; Coolidge and Wynn 2009b) and aims to determine the level of behavioural complexity using problem-solution distance modelling (Haidle 2010, 2012; Muller et al 2017).




  • MA, Archaeological Practice, Birkbeck College, 2015
  • BA, History (Universidad de Sevilla, 2012)

    Pante, M. C., Njau, J. K., Hensley-Marschand, B., Keevil, T. L., Martín Ramos, C., Peters, R. F., & de la Torre, I. (2017). The carnivorous feeding behavior of early Homo at HWK EE, Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution (in press).

    Martín Ramos, C. (2017). Review of Westward on the High-Hilled Plains. The Later Prehistory of the West Midlands. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 27(1), Art. 16, page 1-4.

    De la Torre, I., Martín Ramos, C., & Mora Torcal, R. (2016). Trabajos arqueológicos en el lago Ndutu (Tanzania). Proyectos Arqueológicos en el Exterior, convocatoria de 2014. Informes Y Trabajos, 14, 268-275.

    Martín Ramos, C. (2016) Review of Sainz-Jiménez, C. (ed.) The Conservation of Subterranean Cultural Heritage. Revista PH. Instituto Andaluz de Patrimonio Histórico, no. 89, pp. 216-217.

    de la Torre, I., Arroyo, A, Proffitt, T., Martín Ramos, C., Theodoropoulou, A. (2015). Archaeological fieldwork techniques in Stone Age sites. Some case studies. In Métodos y técnicas para la recuperación del registro arqueológico: una mirada desde el presente. Roda, X., Mora, R. (eds.). Treballs d'Arqueologia, 20: Barcelona; 21-40. ISSN 2339-6490.

    Martín Ramos, C. (2015) Review of Beltrán Fortes, J. and Rodríguez Gutiérrez, O. (coord). Hispaniae urbes: investigaciones arqueológicas en ciudades históricas. Revista PH. Instituto Andaluz de Patrimonio Histórico, no. 87, pp. 254-255.

    Conference papers

    Conference "La Antigüedad en el Imaginario de Frank Miller. El cómic 300", in the seminar La Antigüedad en la novela histórica y el cómic. Universidad de Sevilla (May 2010).

    Conference poster: Neopeplum en el comic. "300": La Batalla de las Termópilas según Frank Miller y Lynn Varley. Universidad de Sevilla (April 2014).