Research

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I study a broad range of anthropological questions with evolutionary theory and methods providing the overriding theoretical and methodological linkage in my work. I am trained in both archaeology and physical anthropology and this is reflected in the multidisciplinary nature of my work, which makes extensive use of quantitative methods of analysis. My research focuses on understanding the links between social learning, cultural variation, artifactual change, and cultural evolution. Active research projects include:
 
 
1. The evolution of cultural variation and diversity


Cultural patterns, customs, and artifactual traditions are maintained by means of social learning between individuals. Cultural variation and patterns over time and space are a powerful means of understanding human social dynamics that shape the form these traditions take. We have also increasingly come to realize that human cultural patterns are part of our great ape evolutionary legacy and must be seen as part of this wider picture. I utilize and develop the application of evolutionary theory and quantitative methods to study cultural variation, artifactual traditions, and cultural transmission within an evolutionary framework. This work involves use and development of quantitative micro- and macro-evolutionary models to better understand cultural patterning. Currently, I am also lucky to be involved in several research projects on this topic that involve collaborations with Metin Eren, Alex Mesoudi, and Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel. I currently supervise Kerstin Schillinger (post-Doc) who is also working on projects relating to social learning and cultural evolution.

As part of this work, I have also recently begun a project that examines cultural variation, artifactual patterning, and the dynamics of cultural transmission in Native American groups of the post-contact period of the Great Plains.


Funding:  In recent years, my work in this area has been funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

Selected relevant publications: Full list of publications and reprints available here 

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2016). Transmission of biology and culture among post-contact Native Americans on the western Great Plains. Scientific Reports 6: 25695.

Lycett, S.J. (2016). The importance of a “quantitative genetic” approach to the evolution of artifact morphological traits. In Cultural Phylogenetics: Concepts and Applications in Archaeology, edited by L. Mendoza-Straffon. New York: Springer Press.

Lycett, S.J., Schillinger, K., Eren, M.I., von Cramon-Taubadel, N., & Mesoudi, M. (In Press). Factors affecting Acheulean handaxe variation: experimental insights, microevolutionary processes, and macroevolutionary outcomes. Quaternary International. (Available online)

Lycett, S.J. (2015). Differing patterns of material culture intergroup variation on the High Plains: a quantitative analysis of parfleche characteristics vs. moccasin decoration. American Antiquity 80 (4): 714-731

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2015). Toward a “quantitative genetic” approach to lithic variation. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22 (2): 646-675.

Lycett, S.J. (2015). Cultural evolutionary approaches to artifact variation over time and space: basis, progress, and prospects. Journal of Archaeological Science 56: 21-31.

Schillinger, K., Mesoudi, A. & Lycett, S.J. (2015). The impact of imitative versus emulative learning mechanisms on artifactual variation: implications for the evolution of material culture. Evolution and Human Behavior 36 (6): 446-455.

Lycett, S.J. (2014). Dynamics of cultural transmission in Native Americans of the High Great Plains. PLoS ONE 9 (e112244):1–8.

Kempe, M., Lycett, S.J. & Mesoudi, A. (2014). Cultural differences and cumulative culture: parameterizing the differences between human and nonhuman culture. Journal of Theoretical Biology 359: 29–36.

Lycett,S.J. (2013). Cultural transmission theory and fossil hominin behaviour: A discussion of epistemological and methodological strengths. In: Ellen, R.F., Lycett, S.J. & Johns, S.E. (Eds.) Understanding Cultural Transmission in Anthropology: A Critical Synthesis, pp.102–130. Berghahn: New York/Oxford.

Lycett, S.J. (2011).  “Most beautiful and most wonderful”: those endless stone tool forms.  Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 9 (2): 143-171.

Lycett, S.J. (2010). The importance of history in definitions of 'culture': implications from phylogenetic approaches to the study of social learning in chimpanzees. Learning & Behavior 38 (3): 252-264.

Lycett, S.J. (2010). Cultural transmission, genetic models, and lithic variability: integrative analytical approaches. In, New Perspectives on Old Stones: Analytical Approaches to Palaeolithic Technologies (Edited by Stephen J. Lycett & Parth R. Chauhan), pp.207–234. Springer: New York.


2. Palaeolithic Archaeology: The Behavior of Our Ancestors Left Behind in Stone
In this topic area, I have worked on several issues including extensive studies of Acheulean and Levallois technology, including comparative analyses of artifacts from sites across the Old World and experimental studies. This work has involved the development of new morphometric methodologies (including 3D analyses and geometric morphometrics) for studying variation within and between assemblages of stone artifacts within an evolutionary framework.



My work in lithic analysis involves collaboration with several colleagues including Christopher Bae, Parth Chauhan, John Gowlett, Metin Eren, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel and Wang Wei. I also make extensive use of experimental approaches, and through my collaborations with Metin Eren and Alastair Key, I have become increasingly interested in experimental flintknapping and its application to questions of our technological heritage.

Funding: In recent years, my work in this area has been funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

Selected relevant publications:  Full list here

Eren, M.I. & Lycett, S.J. (In Press). A statistical examination of flake edge angles produced during experimental lineal Levallois reductions and consideration of their functional implications. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. (Available online)

Key, A.J.M. & Lycett, S.J. (In Press). Reassessing the production of handaxes versus flakes from a functional perspective. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (Available online)

Lycett, S.J., Schilllinger  K., Kempe, M. & Mesoudi, A. (2015). Learning in the Acheulean: insights from experiments using handaxe form as a “model organism.” In Learning Strategies and Cultural Evolution during the Paleolithic (edited by A. Mesoudi & K. Aoki) pp.155-166. New York: Springer.

Key, A.J.M. & Lycett, S.J. (2015). Edge angle as a variably influential factor in flake cutting efficiency: An experimental investigation of its relationship with tool size and loading. Archaeometry 57 (5): 911-927.


Eren, M.I., Roos, C.I., Story, B., von Cramon-Taubadel., N. & Lycett, S.J. (2014). The role of raw material differences in stone tool shape variation: an experimental assessment. Journal of Archaeological Science 49: 472–487.

Key, A.J.M. & Lycett, S.J. (2014). Are bigger flakes always better? An experimental assessment of flake size variation on cutting efficiency and loading. Journal of Archaeological Science 41 (1): 140–146.

Lycett, S.J. & Eren, M.I. (2013). Levallois economics: an examination of ‘waste’ production in experimentally produced Levallois reduction sequences. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (5): 2384-2392.

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2013). A 3D morphometric analysis of surface geometry in Levallois cores: patterns of stability and variabilty across regions and their implications. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (3): 1508-1517.

Lycett, S.J. & Eren, M.I. (2013). Levallois lessons: The challenge of integrating mathematical models, experiments and the archaeological record. World Archaeology 45 (4): 519-538.

Eren, M.I. & Lycett, S.J. (2012). Why Levallois? A morphometric comparison of experimental 'preferential' Levallois flakes versus debitage flakes. PLoS ONE  7 (1)/e29273: 1-10.

Wang, W., Lycett, S.J., von Cramon-Taubadel, N., Jin, J.J.H., Bae, C.J. (2012). Comparison of handaxes from Bose Basin (China) and the western Acheulean indicates convergence of form, not cognitive differences. PLoS ONE  7 (4)/e35804: 1-7.

Lycett, S.J. & Chauhan, P.R. (2010). Analytical approaches to Palaeolithic technologies: An introduction. In, New Perspectives on Old Stones: Analytical Approaches to Palaeolithic Technologies (Edited by Stephen J. Lycett & Parth R. Chauhan) pp.1–22. Springer: New York.

Lycett, S.J. & Bae, C.J. (2010). The Movius Line controversy: the state of the debate. World Archaeology 42 (4):  521-544

Lycett, S.J. & Norton, C.J. (2010). A demographic model for Palaeolithic technological evolution: the case of East Asia and the Movius Line. Quaternary International 211 (1): 55-65.

Lycett, S.J., von Cramon-Taubadel, N. & Gowlett, J.A.J. (2010). A comparative 3D geometric morphometric analysis of Victoria West cores: implications for the origins of Levallois technology. Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (5): 1110-1117.


3. The Global Dispersal of Fossil Hominins and Anatomically Modern Humans
Our extinct hominin relatives, as well as our immediate ancestors, colonized large areas of the globe during the Pleistocene, in turn dealing with differing ecological zones and climatic change across space and time. The pattern of these dispersals and the legacy this left behind in physical, genetic and cultural datasets is of particular interest to me. This topic thus encapsulates work across the biological and cultural components of my research. It has led to collaborations with geneticists, archaeologists and physical anthropologists including Andrea Manica and Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel (see Links).

Funding: In recent years, my work in this area has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the European Union and the Wenner Gren.

Selected relevant publications:  Full list here

Betti, L., von Cramon-Taubadel, N., Manica, A. & Lycett, S.J. (2014). The interaction of neutral evolutionary processes with climatically-driven adaptive changes in the 3D shape of the human os coxae. Journal of Human Evolution 73: 64–74.

Eriksson, A., Betti, L., Friend, A.D., Lycett, S.J., Singarayer, J.S., von Cramon-Taubadel, N., Valdes, P.J., Balloux, F., Manica, A. (2012). Late Pleistocene climate change and the global expansion of anatomically modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109 (40): 16089–16094.

Betti, L., von Cramon-Taubadel, N. & Lycett, S.J. (2012). Human pelvis and long bones reveal differential preservation of ancient population history and migration out of Africa.  Human Biology 84 (2): 139–152. 

Lycett, S.J. (2009). Understanding ancient hominin dispersals using artefactual data: a phylogeographic analysis of Acheulean handaxes. PLoS ONE 4 (10)/e7404: 1–6.

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2008). Acheulean variability and hominin dispersals: a model-bound approach. Journal of Archaeological Science 35 (3): 553–562.

von Cramon-Taubadel & Lycett, S.J. (2008). Human cranial variation fits iterative founder effect model with African origin. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 136 (1): 108–113.
 
4. Evolutionary Morphology in Humans and Non-Human Primates
I have long term research interests in the phenotypic evolution of humans and non-human primates.

In regard to these issues, I have collaborated with colleagues such as Mark Collard, Andrea Manica, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel. One of my former PhD students, Lia Betti, worked with Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel and I on this topic for her dissertation (see Links).

Funding: In recent years, my work in this area has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the European Union and the Wenner Gren.

Selected recent publications: Full list here

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2016). Transmission of biology and culture among post-contact Native Americans on the western Great Plains. Scientific Reports 6: 25695.


Betti, L., Lycett, S.J., von Cramon-Taubadel, N., Pearson, O. (2015). Are human hands and feet affected by climate? A test of Allen’s Rule. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 158 (1): 132-140.

von Cramon-Taubadel, N. & Lycett, S.J. (2014). A comparison of catarrhine genetic distances with pelvic and cranial morphology: implications for determining hominin phylogeny. Journal of Human Evolution.

Lycett, S.J. & von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2013). Understanding the comparative catarrhine context of human pelvic form: a 3D geometric morphometric analysis. Journal of Human Evolution 64 (4): 300−310.

Betti, L., von Cramon-Taubadel, N. & Lycett, S.J. (2012). Human pelvis and long bones reveal differential preservation of ancient population history and migration out of Africa.  Human Biology 84 (2): 139-152. 

Collard, M. & Lycett, S.J. (2009). An assessment of the likely impact of strain-related phenotypic plasticity on hominin fossil species identification. South African Journal of Science 105 (7/8): 312–316.

Collard, M. & Lycett, S.J. (2008). Does phenotypic plasticity confound attempts to identify hominin fossil species? An assessment using extant Old World monkey craniodental data. Folia Primatologica 79 (3): 111–122.

Lycett, S.J. & Collard, M. (2005). Do homoiologies impede phylogenetic analyses of the fossil hominids? An assessment based on extant papionin craniodental morphology. Journal of Human Evolution 49 (5): 618-642.
 Stephen Lycett
 
 
 
 
 
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