Contexts of human evolution

Exploring the changing place of humans in nature

Our research focuses on the archaeological, palaeontological and environmental analyses of human evolution.


Our research focuses on mammalian evolution, hominin behaviour and ecology, and patterns of faunal and floral distribution. We are interested in taxonomic, ecological and morphological studies of mammals, particularly ungulates and carnivores, from the Neogene onwards. Areas of particular strength include palaeoecological analyses (including taxon-free approaches), the evolution of carnivores and ungulates, biomechanical and morphological analyses and biostratigraphy. We examine the extent to which human evolution was driven by external events, the influence of which extended beyond human activity and impacted upon the entire biota. We are also engaged in studies of Plio-Pleistocene and Holocene climate change using a variety of proxies such as testate amoebae (also known as rhizopods), pollen, diatoms, fungal spores and ecomorph abundance. Group members have been active in both the Old and New World and are currently working on a series of field and laboratory projects throughout the Old World and South America (Brazil).

Impact case study: The impacts of human introductions on patterns of genetic diversity

Research areas and current projects

  • Ecogeographical variation of South American mammals
    The primary objective in studying the ecogeographical variation of South American mammals is to understand the role of the Amazonian forest and the Cerrado biome in favouring particular morphological adaptations on different mammalian lineages. (Dr Carlo Meloro. Funded by British Council Researcher Links 127432108)
  • Homa Peninsula Palaeoanthropology Project
    We are exploring Oldowan hominin behaviour and palaeoecology in Kenya. Excavations at Kanjera South are recovering rich concentrations of ca. 2.0 million year old Oldowan artifacts and fossils in several excavations, providing a new, major Oldowan assemblage with both artifacts and well-preserved fauna. Numerous other localities have been discovered and are slated for further exploration and excavation. (Prof Laura Bishop, Dr Elizabeth Whitfield. Funded by the National Science Foundation)


  • Pollen and fungal spore laboratory – to extract and analyse micropalaeontological samples
  • Molecular biology research laboratories – equipped with a fume hood, thermocyclers, electrophoresis systems, centrifuges, scales, thermal blocks, water baths, Milli-Q system, Real-Time PCR system, nanodrop and several fridges and freezers. Illumina sequencing is performed at the Centre of Genomic Research at the University of Liverpool.
  • Our labs offer opportunities to use digital calliper, digital photography, microscribe, laser scan next engine and software for shape analyses. In collaboration with LJMU’s General Engineering Research Institute (GERI) and the University of Liverpool and Natural Environment Research (NERC) we also offer the opportunity to perform microwear analyses on mammalian teeth, Finite Element modelling and isotopes.

Current collaborations

  • University of Liverpool
  • University of the Balearic Islands
  • China Jiliang University
  • Université Cadi Ayyad
  • General Engineering Research Institute (GERI), LJMU
  • University of Zurich
  • Università degli Studi del Molise
  • Università di Firenze
  • Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”
  • Hull York Medical School
  • Max Planck Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Università Roma 3
  • University of Durham
  • University of Queensland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Universidade Federal de Santa Maria
  • City University of New York
  • New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology
  • The George Washington University


Search publications on this topic:

Search for a research paper

15 papers found

  • Journal article

    Landscape resistance affects individual habitat selection but not genetic relatedness in a reintroduced desert ungulate

    Zecherle LJ, Bar-David S, Nichols HJ, Templeton AR, Hipperson H and Horsburgh GJ and Brown RP

    Publish date:01/12/2020

  • Journal article

    Dorsal Pigmentation and Its Association with Functional Variation in MC1R in a Lizard from Different Elevations on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

    Jin Y, Tong H, Shao G, Li J, Lv Y, Wo Y and Brown RP and Fu C

    Publish date:23/10/2020

  • Journal article

    Issues of theory and method in the analysis of Paleolithic mortuary behavior: a view from Shanidar Cave

    Pomeroy E, Hunt C, Reynolds T, Abdulmutalb D, Asouti E, Bennett P, Bosch M, Burke A, Farr L, Foley R, French C, Frumkin A, Goldberg P, Hill E, Kabucku C, Mirazón Lahr M, Lane R, Marean C, Maureille B, Mutri G, Miller CE, Kaify AM, Nymark A, Pettitt P, Sala N, Sandgathe D, Stringer C and Tilby E and Barker G

    Publish date:16/10/2020

  • Book

    Temple landscapes: Fragility, change and resilience of Holocene environments in the Maltese Islands

    French C, Hunt C, Grima R, McLaughlin R and Stoddart S and Malone C

    Publish date:01/10/2020

  • Journal article

    Morphological and genetic diversity of the Balearic lizard,Podarcis lilfordi(Gunther, 1874): Is it relevant to its conservation?

    Perez-Cembranos A, Perez-Mellado V, Alemany I, Bassitta M, Terrasa B, Picornell A, Castro JA and Brown RP and Ramon C

    Publish date:30/09/2020

  • Journal article

    Multilocus and morphological analysis of south-eastern Iberian Wall lizards (Squamata,Podarcis)

    Bassitta M, Buades JM, Perez-Cembranos A, Perez-Mellado V, Terrasa B, Brown RP, Navarro P, Lluch J, Ortega J, Castro JA and Picornell A and Ramon C

    Publish date:20/09/2020


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