James Steele

Research Interests

My research focuses on the evolution of speech, and on large-scale human population dispersals. I am currently working on experimental approaches to cultural transmission, and am collaborating on models of population dispersal and innovation diffusion in several case studies.

Research Directory Records

Current Projects

Learning to be Human (Leverhulme Trust funded project, 2010-2013; Co-PI, lead PI Bruce Bradley)

Recent Projects

Educational background

  • BA in Archaeology, University of Southampton, 1986
  • PhD in Archaeology, University of Southampton, 1993


  • Campbell, P., Huckvale, M., Martelli, S., Steele, J. & Tracy, C. (2010) Voice Box: The Physics and Evolution of Speech [SEP128] London: The Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme/Midddlesex University.
  • Rockman, M., Steele,J. (eds)(2003), Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: the Archaeology of Adaptation London: Routledge. ISBN: 0415256070.
  • Steele,J., Cullen, R., Chippindale, C. (eds) (2000), Contagious Ideas: on Evolution, Culture, Archaeology and the Cultural Virus Theory. Selected Writings of Ben Cullen. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Steele,J., Shennan, S. (eds) (1996), The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition London: Routledge.

Journal (whole issue)

  • Steele, J., Ferrari, P. & Fogassi, L. (eds) (2012) “From action to language: comparative perspectives on primate tool use, gesture, and the evolution of human language”. Special Issue of Phil. Trans . Roy. Soc. Series B 367: 4-160
  • Kandler, A. & Steele, J. (eds) (in press 2011) “Cultural Evolution in Spatially-Structured Populations” Special Issue of Advances in Complex Systems
  • Steele,J., Jordan,P., Cochrane,E. (eds) (2010) Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Phylogenetic Perspectives. Phil. Trans . Roy. Soc. Series B 365(1559): 3781-3933.
  • Steele,J., Shennan,S. (eds) (2009) Demography and Cultural Macroevolution. Human Biology, 81 [2-3]: 105-384.

Journal article

  • Bril, B., Smaers, J., Steele, J., Rein, R., Nonaka, T., Dietrich, G., Biryukova, L. & Roux, V. (2012) Functional mastery of percussive technology in nut-cracking and stone-flaking: experimental data and implications for the evolution of the human brain. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Series B 367: 59-74
  • Barney, A., Martelli, S., Serrurier, A. & Steele, J. (2012) Handedness and speech capacity in Neanderthals, a very recent and human-like fossil hominin. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Series B 367: 88-102
  • Ferrari, P., Fogassi, L. & Steele, J. (2012)From action to language: comparative perspectives on primate tool use, gesture, and the evolution of human language. Editors' Introduction. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Series B 367:4-9
  • Silva, F. & Steele, J. (in press 2011) Modelling boundaries between converging fronts in prehistory. Advances in Complex Systems
  • Kandler, A. and Steele, J. (forthcoming 2011) Cultural evolution in spatially-structured populations: modeling frameworks. Advances in Complex Systems
  • Smaers JB, Steele J, Zilles K. (2011) Modeling the evolution of cortico-cerebellar systems in primates. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1225(1):176-90.
  • Smaers JB, Steele J, Case CR, Cowper A, Amunts K, Zilles K (2011) Primate prefrontal cortex evolution: human brains are the extreme of a lateralized ape trend. Brain Behav Evol. 77(2): 67-78.
  • Steele, J. (2010). Radiocarbon dates as data: quantitative strategies for estimating colonization front speeds and event densities. J. Archaeological Science 37: 2017-2030.
  • Steele, J., Jordan, P., Cochrane, E. (2010) Evolutionary approaches to cultural and linguistic diversity. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 365: 3781–3785
  • Steele,J., Glatz,C., Kandler,A. (2010) Ceramic diversity, random copying, and tests for selectivity in ceramic production. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1348-1358.
  • Kandler ,A., Unger, R., Steele, J. (2010). Language shift, bilingualism, and the future of Britain’s Celtic languages. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 365: 3855–3864.
  • Steele, J. (2010) Using 14C dates to track early human dispersals. Revista de Arqueologia 23: 10-20.
  • Steele, J. (2010) Commentary on V.T. Holliday and D.J. Meltzer, "The 12.9ka ET Impact Hypothesis and North American Paleoindians".Current Anthropology 51: 594-596.
  • Steele,J., Kandler,A. (2010). Language trees ≠ gene trees. Theory in Biosciences 129:223-233
  • Duke,C., Steele,J. (2009) Geology and lithic procurement in Upper Palaeolithic Europe: a Weights-of-Evidence based GIS model of lithic resource potential. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 813-824.
  • Russell,T., Steele,J. (2009). A geo-referenced radiocarbon database for Early Iron Age sites in sub-Saharan Africa: initial analysis. South African Humanities 21: 327-344.
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2009). Innovation diffusion in time and space: effects of social information and of income inequality. Diffusion Fundamentals 11[3]: 1-17.
  • Steele,J. (2009). Human dispersals: mathematical models and the archaeological record. Human Biology 81, 121-140. ISSN: 0018-7143
  • Steele,J., Politis,G. (2009). AMS 14C dating of early human occupation of southern South America. Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 419-429. ISSN: 0305-4403
  • Steele,J., Shennan,S. (2009). Introduction: demography and cultural macroevolution. Human Biology 81, 105-119. ISSN: 0018-7143
  • Steele,J., Uomini,N. (2009). Can the archaeology of manual specialization tell us anything about language evolution? A survey of the state of play. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19, 97-110. ISSN: 0959-7743
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2008). Ecological models of language competition. Journal of Biological Theory 3, 164-173
  • Hazelwood,L., Steele,J. (2004). Spatial dynamics of human dispersals: constraints on modelling and archaeological detection. Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 669-679. ISSN: 0305-4403
  • Steele,J., Gkiasta,M., Shennan,S.J. (2004). The Neolithic transition and European population history - a response. Antiquity 78, 711-713. ISSN: 0003-598X
  • Gkiasta,M., Russell,T., Shennan,S.J., Steele,J. (2003). Neolithic transition in Europe: the radiocarbon record revisited. Antiquity 77(295), 45-62. ISSN: 0003-598X
  • Buckley,C., Steele,J. (2002). Evolutionary ecology of spoken language: co-evolutionary hypotheses are testable. World Archaeology 34(1), 26-46. ISSN: 0043-8243
  • Steele,J. (2002). When did directional asymmetry enter the record? Proceedings of the British Academy 106, 153-168. ISSN: 0068-1202
  • Steele,J. (2000). Handedness in past human populations: Skeletal markers. Laterality 5(3), 193-220. ISSN: 1357-650X
  • Cox,S., Sluckin,T., Steele,J. (1999). Effects of group size, memory, and interaction rate on the evolution of cooperation. Current Anthropology 40, 369-377. ISSN: 0011-3204
  • Mays,S., Steele,J., Ford,M. (1999). Directional asymmetry in the human clavicle. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 9(1), 18-28. ISSN: 1047-482X
  • Steele,J. (1999). Paleoanthropology - Stone legacy of skilled hands. Nature 399(6731), 24-25. ISSN: 0028-0836
  • Steele,J. (1998). Cerebral asymmetry, cognitive laterality, and human evolution. Current Psychology of Cognition 17, 1202-1214
  • Steele,J. (1998). Honour subcultures and the reciprocal model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21(3), 385-386. ISSN: 0140-525X
  • Steele,J., Adams,J., Sluckin,T. (1998). Modelling Paleoindian dispersals. World Archaeology 30(2), 286-305. ISSN: 0043-8243
  • Steele,J., Gamble,C. (1998). Inferring diet and range use from lithic transport data. Journal of Human Evolution 34(3), A20-A20. ISSN: 0047-2484
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (1996). A mutilated human skull from Roman St Albans, Hertfordshire, England. Antiquity 70(267), 155-161. ISSN: 0003-598X
  • Steele,J., Sluckin,T, Denholm,D., Gamble,C. (1996). Simulating hunter-gatherer colonization of the Americas. Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia 28, 223-227
  • Steele,J. (1995). Stone tools and conceptual structures. Behavioural and Brain Sciences 18, 202-203
  • Steele,J., Mays,S. (1995). Handedness and Directional Asymmetry in the Long Bones of the Human Upper-Limb. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 5(1), 39-49. ISSN: 1047-482X
  • Steele,J., Quinlan,A., Wenban-Smith,F. (1995). Stone tools and the linguistic capabilities of earlier hominids. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 5, 245-256. ISSN: 0959-7743
  • Steele,J. (1994). Communication networks and dispersal patterns in human evolution: a simple simulation model. World Archaeology 26, 126-143. ISSN: 0043-8243
  • Steele,J. (1989). Hominid evolution and primate social cognition. Journal of Human Evolution 18(5), 421-432. ISSN: 0047-2484

Conference paper (refereed)

  • Martelli, S., Serrurier, Antoine, Barney, Anna and Steele, J. (2010) 3-D morphometric and acoustic analysis of chimpanzee and human vocal tracts, and their use in the reconstruction of Neanderthal vocal tracts and their acoustic potential. In Smith, A.D.M., Schouwstra, M., de Boer, B. and Smith, K. (eds.) Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. London,GB, World Scientific, 449-450.
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2009). Innovation diffusion in time and space: effects of social information and of income inequality. Diffusion Fundamentals III, Series edited by Chmelik,C., Kanellopoulos,N., Karger,J., Theodorou,D. (eds). Leipzig: Leipziger Universitatsverlag, 82-98.
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2008). A reaction-diffusion approach to modelling language competition. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG7) Smith,A.D.M., Smith,K., Ferrer i Cancho,R. (ed.) Singapore:World Scientific Press, 447-448
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2007). Reaction-diffusion models of language competition. Emergence of Social Behaviour workshop. Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Artifical Life, series. Lisbon, Portugal. September 10-14, 2007
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2007). Innovation diffusion in time and space: social learning and threshold heterogeneity models. Proceedings of the European Conference on Complex Systems, Dresden, Germany, October 1-5, 2007,

Book chapter

  • Llobera, M., Wheatley, D., Steele, J., Cox, S., Parchment, O. (in press). Calculating the inherent visual structure of a landscape (inherent viewshed) using high-throughput computing. in Procs CAA 2004. BAR International Series. Oxford: Archaeopress
  • Politis,G., Steele,J. (in press). Cronologia de Arroyo Seco 2. in Politis,G., Gutierrez,M. (ed.) Estado actual de las Investigaciones en el sitio 2 de Arroyo Seco (región pampeana, Argentina). Serie Monográfica INCUAPA 5 series. Olavarría
  • Glatz,C., Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2011). Pottery production in the Hittite capital: Cultural selection and drift in the bowl repertoire. in Cochrane,E., Gardner,A. (ed.) Evolutionary and Interpretive Archaeologies. Left Coast Press
  • Kandler,A., Steele,J. (2009). Social learning, economic inequality and innovation diffusion. in O'Brien,M., Shennan,S.J. (ed.) Innovation in Cultural systems, pp. 193-214.. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press
  • Steele,J. (2009). Innovation diffusion and travelling waves. in Shennan,S.J. (ed.) Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 163-174
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (2008). The Human Burial Remains. in Jones,P. (ed.) A Neolithic Ring Ditch and Later Prehistoric Features at Staines Road Farm, Shepperton. Spoilheap Publications.
  • Steele,J. (2008). Population structure and diversity indices. In Matsumura,S., Forster,P., Renfrew,C. (ed.) Simulations, Genetics and Human Prehistory. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
  • Steele,J., Uomini,N. (2005). Humans, tools and handedness. in Roux,V., Bril,B. (ed.) Stone Knapping: The Necessary Conditions for a Uniquely Hominin Behaviour. McDonald Institute Monographs series. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 217-239. ISBN: 1902937341
  • Harding,I.C., Trippier,S., Steele,J. (2004). The provenancing of flint artefacts using palynological techniques. in Walker,E.A., Wenban-Smith,F., Healy,F. (ed.) Lithics in Action. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 78-88
  • Russell,T., Steele,J. (2004). Visualizing the Neolithic transition in Europe. in Radiocarbon and Archaeology – Proceedings Fourth Symposium, Oxford 2002. Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph 62 series. Series edited by Higham,T., Ramsey,C.B., Owen,C.. Oxford: OUSA, 43-52
  • Hazelwood,L., Steele,J. (2003). Colonizing new landscapes: archaeological detectability of the first phase. in Rockman,M., Steele,J. (ed.) Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: the Archaeology of Adaptation. London: Routledge, 203-221
  • Rockman,M., Steele,J. (2003). Editors' Introduction. in Rockman,M., Steele,J. (ed.) Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: the Archaeology of Adaptation. London: Routledge, xix-xxii
  • Steele,J., Rockman,M. (2003). "Where do we go from here?" Modelling the decision-making process during exploratory dispersal. In Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: the Archaeology of Adaptation, edited by Rockman,M., Steele,J.. London: Routledge, 130-143
  • Russell,T., Steele,J. (2002). Visualizing the Neolithic transition in Europe. in Burenhult,G. (ed.) Proceedings of the 28th CAA conference held at Visby, Gotland, Sweden, 25-29 April 2001. BAR International Series 1016 series. Oxford: Archaeopress
  • Steele,J. (2002). Biological constraints. in Hart,J., Terrell,J. (ed.) Darwin and Archeology. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc, 29-47
  • Steele,J. (2002). Evolution, ecology, and human adaptability. in Martínez,G., Lanata,J-L. (ed.) Perspectivas Integradoras entre Arqueología y Evolución: Teoría, Método y Casos de Aplicación. Olavarria: INCUAPA, 207-220
  • Steele,J., Mays,S. (2001). The Human Bone. in Filmer-Sankey,W., Pestell,T. (ed.) Snape Anglo-Saxon Cemetery: Excavations and Surveys 1824-1992. East Anglian Archaeology Report Series 95.
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (2000). The Human Bone. in Niblett,R. (ed.) The Excavation of a Ceremonial Site at Folly Lane, Verulamium. Britannia Monograph Series, 14 series. , 307-323
  • Steele,J. (2000). Skeletal indicators of handedness. in Cox,M., Mays,S. (ed.) Human Osteology. London: Greenwich Medical Media, 307-323
  • Steele,J. (2000). Introduction. in Steele,J., Cullen,R., Chippindale,C. (ed.) Contagious Ideas: on Evolution, Culture, Archaeology and the Cultural Virus Theory. Selected Writings of Ben Cullen. Oxford: Oxbow Books, xi-xiv
  • Steele,J., Gamble,C., Sluckin,T. (2000). Estimating the rate of Paleoindian expansion into South America. in O’Connor,T., Nicholson,R. (ed.) People as Agents of Environmental Change. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 125-133
  • Gamble,C., Steele,J. (1999). Hominid ranging patterns and dietary strategies. in Ullrich,H. (ed.) Hominid Evolution: Lifestyles and survival strategies. Gelsenkirchen: Edition Archaea, 369-409
  • Glass,C., Steele,J., Wheatley,D. (1999). Modelling spatial range expansion across a heterogeneous cost surface. in . Procs. CAA 97, Birmingham. BAR Int Series 750 series. , 67-72
  • Shennan,S., Steele,J. (1999). Cultural learning in hominids: a behavioural ecological approach. in Box,H., Gibson,K. (ed.) Mammalian Social Learning. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London 70. Cambridge: C.U.P., 367-388
  • Steele,J. (1996). Central and South America: Introduction. in Philip’s Atlas of Exploration. London: Reed Books, 90-91
  • Steele,J. (1996). North America: Introduction. in Philip’s Atlas of Exploration. London: Reed Books, 116-118
  • Steele,J. (1996). Weak modularity and the evolution of human social behaviour. in Maschner,H. (ed.) Darwinian Archaeologies. New York: Plenum, 185-195
  • Steele,J. (1996). On predicting hominid group sizes. in Steele,J., Shennan,S. (ed.) The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition. London: Routledge, 230-252
  • Steele,J. (1996). On the evolution of temperament and dominance style in hominid groups. in Steele,J., Shennan,S. (ed.) The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition. London: Routledge, 110-129
  • Steele,J., Shennan,S. (1996). Introduction. in Steele,J., Shennan,S. (ed.) The Archaeology of Human Ancestry: Power, Sex and Tradition. London: Routledge, 1-41
  • Steele,J. (1995). Talking to each other: why hominids bothered. in Hodder,I., et al (ed.) Interpreting Archaeology. London: Routledge, 81-86
  • Steele,J. (1991). Hominid evolution and primate social cognition. in Stephens,M.E., Paterson,J.D. (ed.) The Order Primates: An Introduction. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt, 125-139
  • Magazine article

  • Steele,J. (2006). The sociocultural theatre and the evolutionary play. Archaeology International 2005/6(9), 20-22. ISSN: 1463-1725
  • Report

  • Cherryson,A., Robb,J., Steele,J. (2000), Human Skeletal Remains. Huntsman’s Quarry (Phases 5-7): Excavations and Watching Briefs 1994-1996 series, Cheltenham: Patrick Foster Associates/Huntsman’s Quarries Ltd.
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (1995), The Romano-British Human Bone from Folly Lane, St Albans (1991-92 Excavations) A.M.L. Report 19/95 series,
  • Steele,J., Mays,S. (1993), Cremated Anglo-Saxon Human Bone from Snape, Suffolk (Excavated 1862-3, 1972, 1985-92) A.M.L. Report 102/93 series,
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (1992), Two Later Neolithic Burials from Staines Road Farm, Shepperton, Surrey, Excavated 1989. A.M.L. Report 62/92 series,
  • Mays,S., Steele,J. (1992), Two Romano-British Burials from Godfrey's Yard, Chelmsford, Excavated in 1987. A.M.L. Report 74/92 series,
  • Book Review

  • Steele,J., Buckley,C. (2002). J Hurford et al., eds, Social Dimensions of Language Evolution. Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • Steele,J. (1998). M Barton and G Clark (eds) Rediscovering Darwin. Antiquity 72, 961-963
  • Steele,J. (1997). C Keller and J Keller, Cognition and Tool Use. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 7, 314-316
  • Steele,J. (1997). P Mellars and K Gibson (eds), Modelling the Early Human Mind. Procs Prehistoric Society 63, 420-421
  • Steele,J. (1994). M and J Gribbin, Being Human. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 4, 147-149
  • Steele,J. (1994). M Sheets-Johnstone, The Roots of Thinking. PSYCOLOQUY 94, 5-27
  • Steele,J. (1993). KR Gibson and T Ingold (eds) Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution. Antiquity 66, 465-466


I would welcome enquiries about PhD supervision on the following topics:

  • experimental approaches to cultural transmission of artefact traditions (prior training in experimental psychology is desirable)
  • mathematical modelling of large time- and space-scale population dynamics (undergraduate maths or physics training and good programming ability are essential)
  • archaeology and the early population history of South America (solid archaeological training and a good reading knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese are essential)

Current Students

Stuart Page 'Cultural Transmission of Artefact Traditions: An Experimental Approach' (second supervisor: Ignacio de la Torre)

Fabio Silva 'Modeling anatomically modern human disperals by fitting analytical and numerical predictions to the archaeological and fossil records' (second supervisor: Andrew Garrard)

Former Students

Thembi Russell 'The Spatial Analysis of Radiocarbon Databases: the Spread of the First Farmers in Europe and of the Fat-Tailed Sheep in Southern Africa.' (PhD awarded 2002, Uni. of Southampton)

James Carey 'Ghost Walkers of Turtle Island : Submergence, Ecology and Coastal Migration into the Americas .' (M.Phil. awarded 2003, Uni. of Southampton)

Katharine MacDonald 'The Ecology and Evolution of Hominin Geographic Ranges: Setting a Context for Archaeological Interpretation Using Comparative Analysis.' (PhD awarded 2003, Uni. of Southampton)

Chris Duke 'Planning, Memory And Mobility In The European Palaeolithic: A Reassessment Of The Evidence From The Movement Of Lithic Raw Materials' (PhD awarded 2004, Uni. of Southampton)

Carina Buckley 'A Matter of Evolutionary Life and Death: an Ecological Model of Growth and Development in Homo erectus.' (PhD awarded 2006, Uni. of Southampton)

Hilary Snelling 'The Neolithic Transition in Europe: Evaluating Diffusion Mechanisms from Radiocarbon Proxy Data, Genetic Variation and Mathematical Models.' (PhD awarded 2008, Uni. of Southampton)

Natalie Uomini 'In the Knapper’s Hands: Testing Markers of Laterality in Hominin Lithic Production, with Reference to the Common Substrate of Language and Handedness.' (PhD awarded 2008, Uni. of Southampton)


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