Professor Robin Dennell


He obtained his undergraduate degree in archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University in 1969, specialising in the Palaeolithic. He then continued postgraduate study at Cambridge as part of the British Academy Project on the early history of farming, and obtained his Ph.D. in 1977, on the topic “Early farming in South Bulgaria: 6th to 3rd Millenium b.c. (see also British Archaeological Reports, International Series S47, 1978).

For the first part of his career, he was primarily interested in archaeobotany, early farming, and the neolithic of Europe and Southwest Asia. He began teaching prehistoric archaeology at Sheffield in 1973, and worked in Iran on two projects in the Zagros Mountains and Central Desert until 1978. He also wrote his first book, European Economic Prehistory: A New Approach (Academic Press, 1983), which was later translated into Spanish and Japanese.

He was made a Senior Lecturer in 1983, a Reader in 1994, and appointed a Professor in 1995. From 1981 to 1999, his main research was on the Palaeolithic and Pleistocene of Pakistan as part of a wider interest in early human evolution in Asia. He began working in Pakistan in 1981, and was appointed Field Director of the British Archaeological Mission to Pakistan in 1988, eventually conducting 12 field seasons of fieldwork in northern Pakistan, spanning 24 months, with another 12 months of study trips. The main part of this work was made possible by a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship from 1988-1991. This research was published in several papers, and two monographs.

After serving as Head of Department from 1999-2002, he was awarded a three-year British Academy Research Professorship (2003-2006), to undertake the writing of "The Early Hominin Settlement of Asia" (Cambridge University Press, 2009), which is the first overview of the Asian Early Palaeolithic and Pleistocene prior to the last interglacial, ca. 125 ka.


Since 2005, his main research interests have been in China, where he has worked on two projects in Central China and Inner Mongolia with colleagues from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP), Beijing.


After taking voluntary severance from Sheffield in 2009, he worked independently on research papers but also on World Heritage issues. He is a representative of ICOMOS (International commission on monuments on sites) which is one of the advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee, and is also a member of the UNESCO-sponsored HEADS (human evolution, adaptations, dispersals and social developments) programme that aims to raise the international profile of human evolution and Palaeolithic sites. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2012, and joined the department in Exeter in 2013.