Personal profile

Scholarly biography

I am a Principal Lecturer in Archaeology and the Learning and Teaching Lead for the School of Applied Sciences. My teaching and research primarily focuses on:

  • Human Evolution and the development of symbolism and language within hominin ancestors.
  • Reconstructing social and cognitive complexity in hominin species through the remains of their material culture and treatent of the dead within the fossil record.

In order to further my research along these themes I conduct a number of fieldwork projects in East Africa and the United Kingdom. I am a member of the Past Human and Environment Dynamics and Society Space and Environment research groups. My research has been supported by the British Academy, AHRC, Society of Antiquaries and the University of Brighton.

I was awarded an Ig Nobel prize for Nutrition (2018) for his research on Prehistoric Cannibalism. More details of this can be seen here.

Approach to teaching

My teaching is focused around student engagement and discussion using specific case studies and the latest published research. I try to get my students to think for themselves, to question the status quo and engage with a wide range of published literature to formulate and support their own opinions. This is exemplified in my module ‘Human Origins and Evolution’ where students are expected to engage in class discussions on the ever changing evidence for human evolution involving Palaeogenetics, the fossil record, and the archaeological record.

I also like to encourage practical components to my teaching which is also evidenced with the ‘Human Origins and Evolution’ module where we visit the Brighton Museum collections to look at and learn from the amazing range of Palaeolithic artefacts stored there. In the first year module I lead a teaching team of colleagues across across the subject area ‘Global Environmental Issues’ where we encourage students to think critically on set themes (such as climate change and the biodiversity crisis) and discuss their opinions and positions within active workshops and discussion panels. Whilst my final year module ‘Humans of Ice Age Britain’ assesses my students across a range of mediums including a presentation and extended essay on a site in Britain that plays a significant role in understanding the past behaviours of our human ancestors.

Research interests

My research interests focus around understanding the fundamental question of what it means to be human. I am interested in knowing whether certain abilities that we all take for granted such as language, symbolism, and abstract thought are unique to our species (Homo sapiens) or were present in other ancient human species such as Homo heidelbergensis or the Neanderthals. In order to ascertain this I look at a range of evidence strands but I primarily focus on the stone tools left behind by our ancestors for clues to their mental capabilities. I am also interested in what cognitive, behavioural and social thresholds are needed by hominins in order to allow them to successfully disperse across the globe and overcome any environmental constraints. Finally, I am fascinated by how ancient hominins treated their dead, particularly how and why some of them seem to have practiced cannibalism. By understanding the treatment of the dead, we can gain greater insights to the lifeways and social structures of the living.

In order to try and understand our hominin ancestors I am involved with a number of archaeological projects here in the UK and in East Africa. My main research project is the Isimila Stone Age Project where I am the Director of a multi-institutional and international research collaboration between academic institutions in the UK and Tanzania.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: Human Evolution; Palaeolithic Archaeology; Acheulean handaxes; hominin dispersals; evolution of language; evolution of symbolism. 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Hominin cognitive and behavioural complexity in the Pleistocene: Assessment through identity, intentionality and visual display, University of Southampton

Award Date: 16 Dec 2011

Master, Human Origins, University of Southampton

Award Date: 1 Jul 2008

Bachelor, BA Archaeology, University of Southampton

Award Date: 1 Jul 2004

Fellow D2, Higher Education Academy, UK

External positions


Sept 2020 → …

Fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

9 Nov 2018 → …


  • CC Archaeology
  • Human Evolution
  • Palaeolithic
  • Stone Age Archaeology
  • Cognitive Evolution
  • origins of language
  • origins of symbolism
  • Cannibalism


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