Archaeology

William Davies

Primary position:
Senior Lecturer
Other positions:
Head of Teaching

Background

The University of Southampton

I joined Archaeology as a research fellow in 2001, working on the S2AGES project (2001-2004) with Prof. Clive Gamble, and became a Lecturer in September 2006.  Since 1992, my research has focussed on mobility/dispersal, interaction and innovation in Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, particularly in late Neanderthals and in early Homo sapiens.  I was a founder member of the Stage 3 Project (1996-2001), which aimed to set the extinction of Neanderthals and the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe into a broad and coherent ecological and climatic framework. Between 2004 and 2009, I was closely involved with two NERC-funded projects to obtain new, more reliable radiocarbon dates for diagnostic artefacts in eastern and western Europe (50-20 thousand years ago).  I am currently involved in the NERC-funded "RESET" consortium (2008-2013), which uses microscopic volcanic ash layers to provide a chronological framework for Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens sites in Europe, the Levant and North Africa.  From May 2013 I shall be running a 3-year, Leverhulme Trust funded, project to explore innovations and manufacturing techniques in the c.10,000 ceramic figurines known from Eurasia and North Africa between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.

I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and sit on the NERC Radiocarbon facility steering committee.

Dr William Davies's photo

Publications

The University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints)

Article

Lowe, J., Barton, N., Blockley, S., Bronk Ramsey, C., Cullen, V.L., Davies, William, Gamble, Clive, Grant, K., Hardiman, M., Housley, R., Lane, C.S., Lee, S, Lewis, M., MacLeod, A., Menzies, M.A., Mueller, W., Pollard, M., Price, C., Roberts, A.P., Rohling, E.J., Satow, C., Smith, V.C., Stringer, C., Tomlinson, E.L., White, D., Albert, P.G., Arienzo, I., Barker, G., Boric, D., Carendente, A., Civetta, L., Ferrier, C., Guadelli, J.-L., Karkanas, P., Koumouzelis, M., Mueller, U.C., Orsi, G., Pross, J., Rosi, M., Shalamanov-Korobar, L., Sirakov, N. and Tzedakis, P.C. Reset Team (2012) Volcanic ash layers illuminate the resilience of Neanderthals and early Modern Humans to natural hazards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, (34), 13532-13537. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1204579109).
Higham, T., Brock, F., Bronk Ramsey, C., Davies, William, Wood, R. and Basell, L. (2012) Chronology of the Grotte du Renne, Arcy-sur-Cure, France: a response to Zilhão et al (this issue). Before Farming [online version], 2011, (3), 1-5.
Higham, T., Brock, F., Bronk Ramsey, C., Davies, William, Wood, R. and Basell, L. (2012) Chronology of the site of Grotte du Renne, Arcy-sur-Cure, France: implications for Neanderthal symbolic behaviour. Before Farming , 2011, (2), 1-9.
Higham, T.F.G., Jacobi, R.M., Julien, M., David, F., Wood, Laura, Basell, Rachel, Davies, William and Bronk Ramsey, Christopher Bronk (2010) New dates for the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure and their implications for the evolution of symbolic behaviour. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 107, (47), 20147-20148. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1007963107 ).
Soares, Pedro, Achilli, Alessandro, Semino, Ornella, Davies, William, Macaulay, Vincent, Bandelt, Hans-Juergen, Torroni, Antonio and Richards, Martin B. (2010) The archaeogenetics of Europe. Current Biology, 20, (4), R174-R183. (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.054).
Davies, William (2009) The Abbé Henri Breuil (1877-1961). [in special issue: Lithics] Great Prehistorians: 150 years of Palaeolithic Research, 1859-2009 , 30
Richter, Daniel, Tostevin, Gilbert, Škrdla, Petr and Davies, William (2009) New radiometric ages for the Early Upper Palaeolithic type locality of Brno-Bohunice (Czech Republic): Comparison of OSL, IRSL, TL and 14C dating results. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36, (3), 708-720. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2008.10.017 ).
Davies, William and Hedges, R.E.M. (2008) Dating a type site: fitting Szeleta Cave into its regional chronometric context. Praehistoria, 9-10, 35-45.
Gamble, Clive, Davies, William, Pettitt, Paul, Hazelwood, Lee and Richards, Martin (2005) The archaeological and genetic foundations of the European population during the Late Glacial: implications for ‘agricultural thinking’. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 15, (2), 193-223. (doi:10.1017/S0959774305000107).
Gamble, Clive, Davies, William, Pettitt, Paul and Richards, Martin (2004) Climate change and evolving human diversity in Europe during the last glacial (one contribution of 14 to a discussion meeting issue 'The evolutionary legacy of the Ice Ages' ). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, series B, 359, (1442), 243-254. (doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1396).
Pettitt, P. B., Davies, W., Gamble, C. S. and Richards, M. (2003) Palaeolithic Radiocarbon Chronology: Quantifying our confidence beyond two half-lives. Journal of Archaeological Science, 30, (12), 1685-1693. (doi:10.1016/S0305-4403(03)00070-0).
Davies, S.W.G. (2001) A very model of a modern human industry: new perspectives on the origins and spread of the Aurignacian in Europe. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 67, 195-217.

Book

van Andel, Tjeerd H. and Davies, William (eds.) (2003) Neanderthals and modern humans in the European landscape during the last glaciation: archaeological results of the Stage 3 Project, Cambridge, UK, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research monographs, 265pp. (McDonald Institute monographs).

Book Section

Davies, William (2012) Chapter 8 - Climate, creativity and competition: evaluating the Neanderthal ‘glass ceiling’. In, Elias, Scott (ed.) Origins of Human Creativity and Innovation. Amsterdam, NL, Elsevier, 103-128. (Developments in Quaternary Science, 16). (doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-53821-5.00008-7).
Davies, William (2010) The emergence of the modern human trait list: testing the attributes of behavioural modernity. In, Pettitt, P, White, M and Gravina, B (eds.) Studies in Honour of Paul Mellars [working title]. Oxford, England, Oxbow Books. (Submitted).
Davies, William (2009) The emergence of homo sapiens sapiens. In, Cunliffe, Barry, Gosden, Chris and Joyce, Rosemary A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press, 290-331.
Davies, William and Nerudová, Z. (2009) Moravský Krumlov IV – its chronological place in a wider arena. In, Neruda, Petr and Nerudová, Zdeňka (eds.) Moravský Krumlov IV – Vícevrstevná lokalita ze středního a počátku mladého paleolitu na Moravě. Brno, CZ, Moravské Zemské Muzeum, 84-90.
Davies, William (2007) Re-evaluating the Aurignacianas an expression of modern human mobility dispersal. In, Mellars, Paul, Boyle, Katie, Bar-Yosef, Ofer and Stringer, Chris (eds.) Rethinking the Human Revolution: New Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origin and Dispersal of Modern Humans. Rethinking the Human Revolution: New Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origins and Dispersal of Modern Humans Cambridge, UK, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 263-274. (McDonald Institute Monographs).
Davies, W. and Gollop, P. (2003) The Human Presence in Europe during the Last Glacial Period II: Climate Tolerance and Climate Preferences of Mid- and Late Glacial Hominids. In, Van Andel, T.H. and Davies, W. (eds.) Neanderthals and modern humans in the European landscape during the last glaciation: archaeological results of the Stage 3 Project. Cambridge, UK, The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 131-146.
Davies, W., Van Andel, T.H. and Weninger, B. (2003) The Human Presence in Europe during the Last Glacial Period I: Human Migrations and the Changing Climate. In, Van Andel, T.H. and Davies, W. (eds.) Neanderthals and modern humans in the European landscape during the last glaciation: archaeological results of the Stage 3 Project. Cambridge, UK, The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 31-56.
Davies, William, Valdes, Paul, Ross, Cheryl and van Andel, Tjeerd H. (2003) The human presence in Europe during the last glacial period: III. Site clusters, regional climates and resource attractions. In, van Andel, Tjeerd H. and Davies, William (eds.) Neanderthals and modern humans in the European landscape during the last glaciation: archaeological results of the Stage 3 Project. Cambridge, UK, The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 191-220. (McDonald Institute Monographs).
 

Research

Research Interests

My research interest lie primarily in the analysis of mobility and dispersals in past hunter-gatherers, and in the development of what is often called "behavioural modernity" (the traits that archaeologists believe characterise humans today, such as language, music, symbolism, complex long-distance social networks).  Was "behavioural modernity" restricted to Homo sapiens, our own species, or did other hominin species, such as Neanderthals, show evidence of some of these traits as well?  Were these "modern" traits present as a coherent package from the start, or did they arise piecemeal in different places and at different times?  How does the process of innovation and transmission of ideas operate in mobile societies?  The intermittent representation of some of the key behavioural traits in the Palaeolithic archaeological record can be linked to mobility, dispersal and interaction patterns in hominins, set against a background of environmental and climatic change.  These ideas will be explored more between 2013 and 2016, with a recently-funded Leverhulme Trust project <Palaeolithic Origins of Ceramic Technology: innovative and creative revolutions>, which aims to study in detail the manufacturing and aesthetic choices made by the Palaeolithic manufacturers of figurines (40,000-10,000 years ago) in Eurasia and North Africa. The apparent invention of ceramic figurines in different places and at different times within the late Palaeolithic will be tested, as will alternative hypotheses (e.g. transmission of ideas between spatially and temporally separated populations).

For more than 16 years I have been closely involved in the reconstruction of past environments and climates, and the relationship of those models to the late Palaeolithic record (60-8 thousand years ago).  How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors respond to climatic and environmental change during the last Ice Age?  We should not suppose that Palaeolithic peoples simply endured whatever climates and environments characterised their landscapes; instead, much evidence points to active responses being made by these hunter-gatherers in deciding which environments and resources to exploit.  Improving the quality of our archaeological dating is crucial to enable us to relate past hunter-gatherer decisions and interactions to contemporary environmental conditions.  Thus, since 2004 I have thus been closely involved in three NERC-funded projects designed to improve our chronologies for the period 60-8 thousand years ago.

Primary research group:  Social prehistory

Affiliate research group:  Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins

Research projects

RESET (RESponse of humans to abrupt Environmental Transitions)

This research consortium, involving scientists from four institutions in the UK (the Geography and Earth Science Departments of Royal Holloway University of London, the School of Archaeology in Oxford University, the National Oceanography Centre and the Department of Archaeology in University of Southampton, and the Natural History Museum), has been awarded £3.4 million to develop a novel approach to assessing how humans may have responded to rapid environmental changes in the recent past.

Palaeolithic Origins of Ceramic Technology: innovative and creative revolutions

This project has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust (RGP - 2013-073) and will run for three years from May 2013.  It is the first comprehensive and comparative analysis of the more than 10,000 ceramic figurines found across Eurasia and North Africa dating to the late Palaeolithic (c.40,000-13,000 years ago).

Teaching Responsibilities

I welcome the opportunity to supervise postgraduate (PhD) research in the following areas: Neanderthals (society, technology and ecology), Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens (society, technology and ecology), hunter-gatherer mobility, innovation and social networks; music in the Palaeolithic.


PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhD research on:

  • Neanderthal landscape use in Northern Italy

Contact

Dr William Davies
Faculty of Humanities
University of Southampton
Avenue Campus
Highfield
Southampton
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

Room Number: 65A/2237

Telephone: (023) 8059 9408
Facsimile: (023) 8059 3032
Email: S.W.G.Davies@soton.ac.uk