Palaeolithic and Mesolithic


A wide range of topics and themes covering deep human history are studied in Oxford. The research is interdisciplinary and includes active fieldwork in a number of different geographical regions including Southeast Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe. Research is thematically led and includes interrelated topics such as the emergence of behavioural variability and the successive human dispersals between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Our research also examines early human behaviour, with laboratory studies specialising in stone artefact manufacture, mobility and exchange, ornamentation, hunting patterns, and plant collection. In the Asia-Pacific, research examines the complex dispersals of hominins across the islands of Indonesia into New Guinea and Australia, as well as long term processes of behavioural change in these islands. In Southern Africa, there is a particular emphasis on anthropological and archaeological research into early hunter-gatherers and the impact that pastoralists, farmers and later settler societies had on these communities. In North Africa, research concerns the spread of early technologies across the Sahara and the effects of environmental change on early human populations. In Europe, there has been a focus on the tempo of cultural change in glaciated landscapes of northern and central Europe, including work on the extinction of Neanderthals and the arrival of Homo sapiens in these areas, as well as changes to hunter-gatherer lifeways at the very end of the Pleistocene. Previous projects led by School of Archaeology faculty have also been carried out in the Arabian peninsula, India, the Caucasus, and Siberia, with research examining the palaeoenvironmental settings of archaeological sites, the dispersal of archaic and modern hominins, and the adaptive and behavioural capacities of early humans.

The extensive artefact and fossil collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Natural History Museum provide a major resource for research. The PalEvo seminar series provides a hub for the discussion of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology and cognate fields. Many of our projects involve international collaborations, as well as collaborations within the School and other departments of the University.