Dr Lambros Malafouris

Research Profile

Current Activities

My primary interest lies in the study of the interaction between cognition and material culture. I am studying the effects of materiality in human cognitive life (past and present). A major aspect of my work has been the development of Material Engagement Theory (MET) which forms the basis of my first authored book, How Things Shape the Mind (MIT Press) (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-things-shape-mind). I have been addressing empirical and theoretical questions on topics extending from early stone tools and personal decoration, to the emergence of symbolic technologies of more recent periods, to the latest innovations in digital techniques and media.

My approach to research has been intra- and cross-disciplinary. I am using the insights that we gain from the archaeological and anthropological study of material culture to establish a critical dialogue with the broader field of cognitive sciences about the boundaries, the ontology, and the uniqueness of human intelligence and its evolution. I have been trying to understand and to articulate the basic principles of the creative entanglement between the plasticity of the human mind and the plasticity of the material forms and techniques that we make (metaplasticity).

I am currently Principal Investigator of HANDMADE: Understanding Creative Gesture in Pottery Making (https://handmade.web.ox.ac.uk/home) funded through a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant. The HANDMADE project is focusing on the cognitive ecology and poetics of clay. HANDMADE attempts a comparative anthropological exploration of the creative dialogue between hands and clay through multi-sited participant observation in several traditional ceramic workshops spread around mainland Greece and the Islands.



Undergraduate teaching

I am teaching undergraduate tutorials in Archaeology and Anthropology (both at prelims and finals) and I am co-Director of Studies for undergraduates at Hertford College.

Graduate teaching

I am teaching the module on cognitive archaeology on the MSc Archaeology course. I am also supervising research students in the general areas of Cognitive, Anthropological and Theoretical archaeology. I welcome enquiries from individuals wishing to undertake doctoral or post-doctoral research in those fields, especially from students with an interest in cognitive archaeology and material engagement theory.