Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the
Science of Human History in Jena, Germany and leader of the aWARE project.

The Demographic Context for Modern Human Dispersals

I am the Principal Investigator of this project, which is funded by the British Academy of Arts and Social Sciences. Through this project, I am exploring the temporal and spatial relationships between stone tools and palaeoclimates in North Africa between ~300-30 thousand years ago (ka), and their articulation with human dispersals. North Africa occupies a critical space between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia, which hominins had to cross in order to exit the continent. Significantly, dramatic climatic oscillations, affecting the expansion and contraction of the Sahara Desert calibrates the timing of potential dispersals, making North Africa particularly conducive to understanding such demographic processes. The presence in North Africa, of among the earliest examples of regional technological diversification and ‘symbolic’ material culture, also makes this region the perfect laboratory for understanding the factors driving social, and hence material culture, changes. I am the project principal investigator, and apart from coordinating the project, I engage in collecting data and applying new methods of analysis, such as geometric morphometrics to understand stone tool shape, structural equation models to classify artefacts and explore latent factors affecting their variability, phylogenetic inference to understand temporal relationships between artefacts and a range of multivariate statistics and models to query large and multidisciplinary datasets.

Collaborators include: Professor Nick Drake (Kings College London), Professor Mark Thomas (University College London), Professor Irini Moustaki (London School of Economics), Dr Andrea Manica (University of Cambridge), Professor Mark Collage (Simon Fraser University), Dr Richard Jennings (Liverpool John Moores), Dr Huw Groucutt (University of Oxford), Professor Nick Barton (University of Oxford) and Professor Michael Petraglia (Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History).