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Dr Lambros Malafouris

Johnson Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture


I am a Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture and Tutor in archaeology, anthropology, and human evolution at Keble. Before coming to Oxford, I was a Balzan Research Associate in Cognitive Archaeology at the McDonald Institute, Cambridge University (2005-8), and a graduate student at Darwin College from 2000 to 2005. My research in the archaeology of mind is cross-disciplinary and besides teaching over a broad range of archaeological and anthropological courses I am also responsible for developing the Creativity research cluster at Keble. Creativity is one of a number of identified interdisciplinary research clusters being strongly supported within Keble. It brings together researchers from a range of disciplines including Archaeology, Anthropology, Neuroscience, Literature and Geography.

Research Interests

My primary research interests lie in the archaeology of mind, the philosophy and semiotics of material culture, and the anthropology of the brain-artefact interface. In recent years, I have been working, with Colin Renfrew, on the development of Material Engagement Theory (MET) and the research field of ‘neuroarchaeology’. The broad aim of my work has been to further our understanding of the constitutive intertwining of the mind with the material world by exploring the long-term implications and causal efficacy of innovation and material culture in the functional architecture and evolution of human intelligence. For instance, what implications follow the seemingly unique human predisposition to reconfigure our bodies and extend our senses by using tools and material culture? What can we learn about human Cognitive and Sensory Enhancement (CSE) by looking at the origin of Homo sapiens and the emergence of ‘modern’ human intelligence?

While my work has been largely developed in relation to early human prehistory, it can also be seen as a form of philosophical anthropology trying to investigate contemporary problems in philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences in their broader antropological, historical and evolutionary foundation. For instance, much of my recent work is centered on current interdisciplinary debates on topics such as the extended mind hypothesis, enactive perception, distributed cognition, the emergence of human self, or the so-called human enhancement debate. I have been addressing empirical and theoretical topics extending from early stone tools, personal ornamentation and the ‘exographic’ symbolic technologies of more recent periods, to the latest innovations in neuro-prosthetics and cognitive enhancement. In addition, I have written a number of articles on the impact of material engagement in the emergence of human self-awareness, the development of numerical thinking, symbolism, aesthetics and human creativity.

My research approach to the above themes and questions is strictly cross-disciplinary. It bridges perspectives and methods from archaeology, philosophy, anthropology and neuroscience. Taking a long term, comparative approach and focusing on the intersection between neural and cultural plasticity I seek to re-examine a number of ‘common wisdom’ assumptions, on the one hand, about the cognitive life of things, and on the other, about the boundaries, ontology and uniqueness of the human mind.

(I welcome applications for doctoral supervision in these or related areas).

Recent Publications

College Contact Details

Dr Lambros Malafouris
Keble College
Telephone: 01865 272727
Fax: 01865 272705

Faculty/Dept. Information

Institute of Archaeology,
University of Oxford
36 Beaumont Str,
Oxford OX1 2PG