A wide range of topics and themes covering early prehistory are studied in Oxford. The research is mostly interdisciplinary and includes fieldwork in a number of different geographical regions including Europe, North Africa, Southern Africa, Arabia and South Asia. Research is thematically led and includes interrelated topics such as the origins of modern behaviour and the successive human dispersals from Africa to Asia and Europe as well as the study of more general models of hunter-gatherer economic and social organization. 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. This connects closely with projects in the Arabian peninsula and as far east as India with research into the palaeoenvironmental settings of archaeological sites, the dispersal of archaic and modern hominins, and the adaptive and behavioural capabilities of early humans. Linked to these themes is parallel research into the tempo of cultural change in glaciated landscapes of northern and central Europe, including work on the extinction of Neanderthals and the arrival of Upper Palaleolithic peoples in these areas, as well as wider Eurasia, including the Caucasus and Altai regions.
The extensive artefact collections of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museum provide a major resource for research. Long-standing seminar series such as the Palaeolithic and Quaternary Group and the Research Laboratory Seminars provide an additional forum for the discussion of the archaeology of prehistoric archaeology. Many of the projects listed below involve international collaborations, as well as collaborations within the School and other Departments of the University.