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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities
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Professor Clive Gamble

Emeritus Professor

Professor Clive Gamble's photo

Clive Gamble is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton.

During my archaeological career I have led research projects and published widely on the archaeology of human origins. I undertook pioneering research into the social life of our earliest ancestors. I continue to have a particular interest in when, and why, we became a global species? To answer these questions my research has led me into many parts of the world, some of them remote. The key to understanding why this remarkable process that settled the earth took place so late in human evolution involves building and leading teams of Palaeolithic archaeologists, evolutionary psychologists, geneticists, quaternary scientists and anthropologists. The central issue is the evolutionary relationship between an expanding hominin brain, selected by the benefits of larger group sizes, and its extension across time and space by material means.

I am President of the Prehistoric Society, Fellow of the British Academy, Fellow and former Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries and Fellow and former President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. From 2010  -2018 I was a Trustee of the British Museum.

I have supervised thirty seven PhD students, many of whom are now Professors, Associate Professors, Senior lecturers and Lecturers in UK and International Universities.

I have recently completed two funded projects. Crossing the threshold: dynamic transformation in hominin societies during the Late Middle Pleistocene is supported by a major AHRC grant (2013-16) and has at its heart a re-imagining of the long sequence of lithics and fauna at La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey. The Research Fellows on the project are Dr Andy Shaw and Dr Marie-Anne Julien. Other project members are Dr Matt Pope, Dr Beccy Scott and Dr John McNabb. Seasonality, Mobility and Storage in Palaeolithic hunting societies is supported by a Leverhulme Trust grant (2014-2017). Here I am testing a model with Dr Alex Pryor and Dr Alistair Pike to determine food storage using seasonality data from charcoal and bone isotopes. We are collaborating with colleagues in Cambridge, Professor Martin Jones, Dr Tamsin O’Connell, Dr Rhiannon Stevens, Dr Philip Nigst and Dr David Beresford-Jones

I am writing an account of The time revolution of 1859 and beginning work on The things that made us human . I am a project member of the ERC funded ACROSS Project, led by Dr Helen Farr, and which examines the colonisation of south east Asia and Australia.

Reviews of my recent books

Thinking Big (2014) "is like the Big Bang: it probably isn't the total answer, but there is no doubt that it answers a large number of observable phenomena, and it will serve as the dominant model for debating and refining our ideas about the origins and evolution of human cognition for decades to come" SALON May 2014.

"The triumphant result of seven years collaborative research, this provocative, thoughtful book focuses on what the authors call the ‘social brain'. It has much to tell us not only about human behaviour in the past, but also about the importance of networking in our complex world today. Thinking Big is destined to become a classic" Brian Fagan

"Forget the tweets, blogs and PDFs; big ideas need books, and this one reminds us exactly why palaeoanthropology is the most exciting science of the 21st Century. This Curiosity Rover of the mind explains the major developments that made us human. The result is effervescent, compelling, and certainly required reading for anyone with an interest in our origins" Paul Pettitt

Settling the Earth (2013) “further establishes Clive Gamble’s reputation as one of the most imaginative, well-informed and sophisticated writers about the deep past” Martin Porr Antiquity 2015.

"In this book Clive Gamble reconfirms his status as the finest mind working in Palaeolithic studies. He presents a radical re-imaging of the global sweep of human history by rejecting the progress-bound divisions of previous summaries in favour of a partitioning based on brain expansion and population dispersal. The result is brilliant" Thomas Wynn

"Eclectic and authoritative, Gamble's engaging new book provides a fresh take on the evolution of the human brain, navigating the reader through the changing landscapes, minds and societies of our ancestors and revealing the complex physical and cultural dynamics behind our ultimate colonization of the Earth" Danielle Schreve

Origins and Revolutions (2007) "is an effervescent read that skilfully challenges many of the sacred cows of archaeology. It is rich and deep in the philosophical acumen and attention to social theory for which Gamble is known. He also writes with an admirable sense of humour and irony; he knows how to join humanistic flair with empirical rigour at the dig" Robert Proctor

Research interests

I have led two well-funded projects that deal with two of the most critical changes in human evolution. The first focuses on the coastal cave site of La Cotte on Jersey, the ice age island. Excavations by Charles McBurney in the 1970s (he was one of my PhD supervisors) recovered a vast number of stone tools that were made by Neanderthals over almost a quarter of a million years. This is an archaeological ‘super-site' by any measure. What interests us is the function this headland super-site played in the social and cultural landscapes of Neanderthal hunters and how widespread was such behaviour?

The second project examinesd the key innovation of food storage. Evidence for this basic behaviour has proved elusive in the Palaeolithic. However, with a well-thought out model and the latest scientific techniques we are confident that we can crack the problem. Food storage among hunters was the prelude at a much later date to the move to agriculture. We are examining the evidence at some Upper Palaeolithic super-sites in the Czech Republic (Pavlov and Dolni Vestonice) and southern Russia (Kostenki).

Following my involvement in the British Academy Centenary Project I continue to investigate the role of emotions and the aesthetics of materials as the resources that transformed social life. These basic resources were used to amplify such basic human skills as laughing, crying, music, language and artefact making. As a result these skills became social performances of far greater intensity and in so doing created stronger social bonds. This framework also set us on the human journey of ‘going beyond' where uniquely we construct and participate in social life with those who are not always in front of us; an achievement that happened long before agriculture, writing and the invention of Smart Phones.

Research group

Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins

Affiliate research group


Research project(s)

Crossing the Threshold: the evolution of place and landscape in earliest prehistory (Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) 2013-2016

With an award of £570,000 from the AHRC we will investigate a critical period in deep human history. The three year project "Crossing the threshold: the evolution of place and landscape in earliest prehistory" will focus on the unparalleled archive of one hundred thousand stone tools and ice age faunal remains from the site of La Cotte on Jersey.

Seasonality, mobility and storage in Palaeolithic hunting societies (Funded by the Leverhulme Trust) 2014-2017

Clive Gamble and Alistair Pike were awarded a grant of £163,228 from the Leverhulme Trust to investigate "Seasonality, mobility and storage in Palaeolithic hunting societies". This three year project examines one of the tipping points in deep human history, the first appearance of stored foods. The appearance of this ability in human history transformed the peripatetic lifestyles of people living by hunting and gathering. Storing food also opened up the way to domesticating plants and animals by enabling the capture of food via an annual harvest. This development created a whole new lifestyle that turned food into economic power.

From Lucy to Language: the archaeology of the social brain (Funded by the British Academy Centenary Project) 2004-2011

A full account of this project was published in May this year Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar (2014) Thinking Big: how the evolution of social life shaped the human mind London and New York: Thames and Hudson

Lynford Neanderthal project - Dormant

In 2012 Clive Gamble, Bill Boismier and Fiona Coward published the results of excavations at Lynford Quarry near the village of Mundford, Norfolk UK.

AHRC Acheulian Biface project - Dormant

The Acheulian represents the first truly global scale occupation of the old world by hominids. This projects aims to investigate the nature of this occupation by considering its most distinctive aspect, the manufacture of handaxes and cleavers. As such it is based partly on the pioneering work on bifaces undertaken by Derek Roe in the 1960s and more recently at Olduvai.

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising PhDs on the following topics:

  • Polished axes at the British Museum and the biography of objects:  Lizzie Norton
  • Collecting religion in the Palaeolithic:  Jemma Jones
  • Tracing Theory of Mind in human evolution:  Cory Cuthbertson
  • The evolution of emotions:  Dan Hunt
  • Complex modelling of global human dispersals:  Iza Romanovska
Professor Clive Gamble
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

Room Number : 65/3025

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