I am an archaeologist whose work focuses on the multidisciplinary study of the evolution of human social life and cognition. I have a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Osteoarchaeology and PhD in Palaeolithic Archaeology from the University of Southampton. I am co-Deputy Director of and Director of Research for the Institute for Modelling Socio-Ecological Transitions (IMSET: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/centres-institutes/institute-modelling-socio-environmental-transitions).
I lead two second-year units, 'Themes in Archaeology and Anthropology' and 'Becoming Human' and teach on several other units including first year 'Ancient Peoples and Places', 'Study Skills' and 'Gathering Time'.
My research focuses on how and why humans were able to scale up their social lives from the very small social groups we lived in for much of our prehistory to the global social networks which characterise people’s lives today. My work takes a multidisciplinary perspective which emphasises the interrelations between the physical and social environments in which human evolution has taken place, and I am particularly interested in the role played by material culture in human social life.
Within this broad area I pursue two interlinked areas of research which focus on earlier and later periods of human social development. In the first I look at the relationship between physical and social environments during human evolution, and particularly the social changes that allowed our ancestors to expand out of African environments into Eurasia after around 1.7 million years ago. My second area of research focuses on the social developments which formed part of the shift from mobile hunting and gathering to settled village life from around 20,000BCE in the Near East.
My research focuses on the long-term evolution of hominin and human social lives throughout the Palaeolithic but also throughout the shift from mobile foraging to more settled and agricultural lifeways in the early Holocene. I use a variety of techniques including network analysis, GIS and agent-based modelling to investigate how past environments affected hominin life history and social structure, and how this impacted on the evolution of the human brain, life histories and cultural innovation and transmission.
My major research roles include:
- co-Deputy Director of Bournemouth University's Institute for Modelling Socio-Ecological Transitions (IMSET; www.bournemouth.ac.uk/imset).
- co-I on the SUNDASIA Project investigating human response to climate and environmental change in northern Vietnam (https://sundasia.com/).
- founding member of ‘The Connected Past’ project (http://connectedpast.soton.ac.uk/) developing methodologies derived from network science for use with archaeological and historical datasets.