Lucy Timbrell

Twitter: lucytimbrell96



Previous Education

BSc Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Liverpool

MPhil Biological Anthropological Science, Clare College University of Cambridge


Thesis Title

Structured populations of Late-Middle Pleistocene Homo sapiens: creating a demographic model using climatic, fossil and archaeological data



Dr. Matt Grove

Dr. Kimberly Plomp

Dr. Mathew Fitzjohn (University of Liverpool)


Key Collaborators

Professor Andrea Manica, University of Cambridge, Evolutionary Ecology Group

Dr Eleanor Scerri: Max Plank Institute for the Science of Human History, Pan African Evolution Research Group

Dr James Blinkhorn: Max Plank Institute for the Science of Human History, Pan African Evolution Research Group

Research Summary

Climate change is a huge issue for human societies. Adaption to environmental fluctuations will be vital for our continued survival, as it has been since the origin of Homo sapiens. Shifting environmental conditions likely played a key role in shaping human evolution (Blome et al. 2012) and would have affected migratory patterns of early human groups. Early theories typically envisaged an eastern African origin for anatomically modern humans (AMH) (Stringer and Andrews, 1988), yet, patterns of diversity within the Late-Middle Pleistocene archaeological record do not support such simplistic models (Scerri et al., 2014; 2018). It appears to be more likely that complex migratory patterns of early human populations, facilitated and/or restricted by varying environmental conditions through time, led to complex interaction networks of early human groups (Scerri et al., 2019). As such, we now consider human evolution to be a structured and complex process (Scerri et al.,2018; 2019), yet few studies have been conducted to quantitively test or model this.

My PhD will be the first to synthesize climatic, fossil and archaeological data to create a ‘Pan-African’ structured model of human evolution. I will construct a climatically-driven model of Pleistocene Africa between 350-50kya using new simulated data to map how conditions conducive to early human habitation would have fluctuated through time and space. This will allow me to delineate both changing areas of occupation and the potential corridors between them. I will then correlate these patterns of connectivity with variation in fossil and archaeological data using 3D shape analysis techniques in order to test the predictions of the model, as these data are commonly used as demographic proxies in archaeology. Complex models such as this will no-doubt be needed to explain the ever richer African record, will help develop new anthropological theory and methods for understanding past population structure and will advance our knowledge about the effects of climate change on human evolution.


Research Interests

I am an NWC DTP funded PhD student at the University of Liverpool as part of the Archaeology of Human Origins research group. My research interests lie in biological anthropology, specifically the evolution of modernity and modern human diversity. My previous research has focused on applying geometric morphometric techniques to the analysis of human physical variation to explore questions of modern human demography and population history. My current work combines geometric morphometrics with statistical modeling approaches and Geographic Information Systems to investigate the articulation between material culture, fossil material and paleoclimatic conditions in Pleistocene Africa. Through this work, I am contributing to new theoretical and methodological frameworks for understanding early human complexity, specifically population substructure. Additional research interests include the ethics of data science, such as data handling, storage and sharing, and archaeogenetics. I am a member of the University of Liverpool Photogrammetry research group and organise the Evolutionary Anthropology Seminar Series (@livuni_evoanth)



Timbrell, L. (in prep). Conversations in Human Evolution: Volume 1. Archaeopress

Timbrell, L. (2020). How to read stone tools: A new mode system for describing variation in the Eastern African lithic record?. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews, 29(5): 280-282.

Timbrell, L., Plomp, K., Pomeroy, E., Grove, M. and Mirazón Lahr, M.  (in review). Diversity within recent Aboriginal crania supports a unitary origins model for the peopling of pre-contact Australia. Journal of Human Evolution.

Timbrell L. (in press). Strength in numbers: combining old datasets to answer new questions. In Cambridge Annual Student Archaeology Conference Proceedings 2019. Oxford: Archaeopress

Timbrell, L. and Plomp, K. (2019). Using the shape of the basicranial portion of the temporal bone to distinguish between relatively closely-related human groups. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 6(1)

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