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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Paul Pettitt, BA(hons), MA, PhD (Cantab), FSA

Professor in the Department of Archaeology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41169
Room number: 214B

(email at


I am a specialist in the European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, with research interests in the origins and nature of Palaeolithic art and mortuary activity, chronometry, the behaviour of the Neanderthals and Pleistocene members of our own species, and the British later Palaeolithic. After reading Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham (BA 1991) I took an MA in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (1992). Subsequently my doctoral research at Cambridge focussed on lithic technology of Middle Palaeolithic Southwest France and what it revealed about Neanderthal behaviour (PhD 1999). I was Senior Archaeologist at the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Oxford University (1995-2001) and Research Fellow and Tutor in Archaeology and Anthropology at Keble College, Oxford (1997-2003); Lecturer (2003-7), Senior Lecturer (2007-10) and Reader (2010-12) in Palaeolithic Archaeology at Sheffield University, until I joined Durham in January 2013 as a Professor of Archaeology.

I have researched various aspects of the European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. I've worked with numerous lithic assemblages, and on the dating of Neanderthal and early modern human remains. In 2003 I co-discovered Britain's only examples of Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags in the Midlands, and since then I've directed excavations at the Crags. I've also co-directed (with Mark White) excavations in the world famous site of Kent's Cavern, and with Mark I co-wrote The British Palaeolithic (2012). In recent years I've been researching aspects of earlier Upper Palaeolithic hand stencils in the caves of France and Spain, and have collaborated on the dating of Spanish cave art, a project which has identified Europe's oldest securely dated examples of figurative and non-figurative cave art. In my book The Palaeolithic Origins of Human Burial (2011) I proposed a long-term model for the evolution of human mortuary activity, and I'm now developing ways in which to further our understanding of early human mortuary activity and ritual in general, working with primatologists on long-term models of hominoid evolutionary thanatology. I retain an interest in radiocarbon dating within the Palaeolithic, and in the Late Upper Palaeolithic of Britain. Recently, I've begun collaborating with Durham colleagues in Psychology, Charlie Heywood and Bob Kentridge on the perception of Palaeolithic art.

Study the Palaeolithic at Durham

I would warmly welcome applications from students wishing to further their knowledge of the Palaeolithic at masters level, and those interested in researching aspects of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic archaeology for the PhD. I am especially keen to supervise projects in the fields of early human mortuary activity, ritual and art. Durham is an exceptionally fertile place to study and research Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology; with Mark White and Peter Rowley-Conwy we have expertise from the Lower Palaeolithic to Mesolithic, and we enjoy fruitful collaboration with various departmental colleagues working with dating methods, DNA and isotope study.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

  • Hand stencils in Upper Palaeolithic cave art
  • Palaeolithic art and archaeology of Creswell Crags, UK

Research Interests

  • Archaeology of the European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic
  • Evolutionary thanatology and early evolution of human mortuary activity
  • Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Britain
  • Neanderthal extinction and the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition
  • Palaeolithic chronometry
  • The origins and early evolution of human visual culture; Palaeolithic art


Authored book

  • Pettitt, P.B. & White, M.J. (2012). The British Palaeolithic: Human Societies at the Edge of the Pleistocene World. London: Routledge.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2011). The Palaeolithic Origins of Human Burial. Routledge.
  • Bahn, P. & Pettitt, P. B. (2009). Britain's Oldest Art: the Ice Age Cave Art of Creswell Crags. English Heritage.

Edited book

  • Pettitt, P. B., Bahn, P. & Ripoll, S. (2007). Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context. Oxford University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Pettitt, P. B. (2018). Palaeolithic Western and North Central Europe. In The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines. Insoll, T. Oxford University Press. 851-76.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2018). The rise of modern humans. In The Human Past (4th Edition). Scarre, C. Thames and Hudson. 108-48.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2016). Darkness visible. Shadows, art and the ritual experience of caves in Upper Palaeolithic Europe. In The Archaeology of Darkness. Dowd, M. & Hensey, R. Oxbow Books. 11-23.
  • Pettitt, P. B., García-Diez, M., Hoffmann, D., Maximiano Castillejo, A., Ontañon-Peredo, R., Pike, A. & Zilhão, J. (2015). Are hand stencils in European cave art older than we think? An evaluation of the existing data and their potential implications. In Prehistoric Art as Prehistoric Culture. Studies in Honour of Professor Rodrigo de Balbín-Behrmann. Bueno-Ramírez, P. & Bahn, P. Oxford: Archaeopress. 31-43.
  • Pettitt, P., Rockman, M. & Chenery, S. (2015). Creswell Crags in wider context. LA-ICP-MS trace-element analysis of Final Magdalenian lithics and mobility patterns in the British Late Upper Palaeolithic. In No Stone Unturned: Papers in Honour of Roger Jacobi. Ashton, N. & Harris, C. Lithic Studies Society Occasional Paper 9. 101-12.
  • Pettitt, P. (2015). Landscapes of the Dead: The evolution of human mortuary activity from body to place in Palaeolithic Europe. In Settlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution: Landscapes in Mind. Coward, F., Hosfield, R., Pope, M. & Wenban-Smith, F. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 258-274.
  • Pettitt, P. (2014). The European Upper Palaeolithic. In Cummings, V., Jordan, P. & Zvelebil, M. Oxford University Press. 279-309.
  • Pike, A. W. G. Hoffmann, D. L., García-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. B., Alcolea, J., de Balbín, R., González-Sainz, C., de las Heras, C., Lasheras, J. A., Montes, R. & Zilhão, J. (2013). En los origenes del arte rupestre Paleolitico: dataciones por la serie del Uranio en la cuevas de Altamira, El Castillo y Tito Bustillo. In Pensando el Gravetiense: Nuevos datos para la Región Cantábrica en su Contexto Peninsular y Pirenaico. Monografías del Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira. 461-75.
  • Pettitt, P., Rockman, M. & Chenery, S. (2013). Lateglacial landscape use: correlation of lithic artefacts from Wey Manor Farm and Church Lammas to source region through LA-ICP-MS trace element analysis. In Two Upper Palaeolithic Sites in the Lower Courses of the Rivers Colne and Wey: Church Lammas and Wey Manor Farm. Jones, P. & Poulton, R. English Heritage and Surrey County Council. 99-106.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2012). Fellow travellers on the ‘great trek’ some thoughts on British MIS3 Neanderthals and spotted hyaenas. In A mind set on flint. Studies in honour of Dick Stapert. Niekus, M. J. L. T., Barton, R. N. E., Street, M. & Terberger, T. Groeningen Archaeological Studies 16. 77-91.
  • Pettitt, P. B., Housley, R. & Higham, T. F. G. (2012). Radiocarbon chronology and faunal turnover in the Upper Pleistocene at Pontnewydd cave. In Aldhouse-Green, S. Walker, E. and Peterson, R. (eds.) Neanderthals in Wales. Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves. In Neanderthals in Wales. Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves. Aldhouse-Green, S., Walker, E. & Peterson, R. National Museums and Galleries of Wales.
  • Zvelebil, M., Lillie, M. C., Montgomery, J., Lukes, A., Pettitt, P. B. & Richards, M. P. (2012). The emergence of the LBK: Migration, Memory and Meaning at the transition to agriculture. In Population Dynamics in Prehistory and Early History. New Approaches Using Stable Isotopes and Genetics. Kaiser, E. & Burger, J.Schier, W. de Gruiter.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2011). The living as symbols, the dead as symbols: problematising the scale and pace of hominin symbolic evolution. In Homo Symbolicus. The Dawn of Language, Imagination and Spirituality. Henshilwood, C. & d'Errico, F. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 141-162.
  • Zvelebil, M., Lukes, A. & Pettitt, P. B. (2010). The emergence of the LBK culture: search for the ancestors. In The Spread of the Neolithic to Central Europe. Groenenborn, D. & Petrasch, J. Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum. 301-26.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2009). François Bordes. In Great Prehistorians: 150 years of Palaeolithic Research, 1859-2009. Hosfield, R., Wenban-Smith, F. & Pope, M. 201-12.
  • Pettitt, P. B., Bahn, P. & Züchner, C. (2009). The Chauvet conundrum: are claims for the ‘birthplace of art’ premature? In An Enquiring Mind: Studies in Honor of Alexander Marshack. Bahn, P. Oxbow and Cambridge MA: American School of Prehistoric Research Monograph Series. 239-62.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2009). The Neanderthals. In The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology. Cunliffe, B., Gosden, C. & Joyce, R. Oxford university Press. 332-70.
  • Pettitt, P. B (2009). The rise of modern humans. In The Human Past. Scarre, C. Thames and Hudson. 124-73.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2008). The British Upper Palaeolithic. In Prehistoric Britain. Pollard, J. Blackwell. 18-57.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2007). Cultural context and form of some of the Creswell images: an interpretative model. In Creswell Palaeolithic Cave Art in European Context. Pettitt, P. B., Bahn, P. & Ripoll, S. Oxford University Press. 112-39.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2007). Radiocarbon dating. In Maschner, H. & Chippindale, C. Altamira. 309-36.
  • Pettitt, P. B. & Bahn, P. (2007). Rock art and art mobilier of the British Upper Palaeolithic. In Art as Metaphor: the Prehistoric Rock Art of Britain. Mazel, A., Nash, G. & Waddington, C. Archaeopress. 9-38.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2007). The living dead and the dead living: burials, figurines and social performance in the European Mid Upper Palaeolithic. In The Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Knüsel, C. & Gowland, R. OxBow. 292-308.
  • Ashley, S., Bending, J., Cook, G., Corrado, A., Malone, C., Pettitt, P. B., Puglisi, D., Redhouse, D. & Stoddart, S. (2007). The resources of an upland community in the fourth millennium BC. In Upland Landscapes of Sicily. Fitzjohn, M. London University Accordia Research Centre. 59-80.
  • Pike, A. W. G., Gilmore, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2007). Verification of the age of the Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags. In Creswell Palaeolithic Cave Art in European Context. Pettitt, P. B., Bahn, P. & Ripoll, S. Oxford University Press. 34-45.
  • Pike, A. W. G. & Pettitt, P. B. (2005). Other dating methods. In Handbook of Archaeological Method and Theory. Maschner, H. & Chippindale, C. Altamira. 337-72.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2004). Ideas in relative and absolute dating. In Renfrew, C. & Bahn, P. Routledge. 58-64.

Journal Article

  • Ochoa, Blanca, García-Diez, Marcos, Maíllo-Fernández, José-Manuel, Arrizabalaga, Álvaro & Pettitt, Paul (2019). Gravettian Figurative Art in the Western Pyrenees: Stratigraphy, Cultural Context, and Chronology. European Journal of Archaeology 22(2): 168-184.
  • Pettitt, Paul & Anderson, James R. (2019). Primate thanatology and hominoid mortuary archeology. Primates
  • Hoffmann, D., Standish, C., Pike, A., Garcia-Diez, M., Pettitt, P., Angelucci, D., Villaverde, V., Zapata, J., Milton, J., Alcolea-Gonzalez, J., Cantalejo-Duarte, P., Collado, H., de Balbin, R., Lorblanchet, M., Ramos-Munoz, J., Weniger, G.-C. & Zilhao, J. (2018). Dates for Neanderthal art and symbolic behaviour are reliable. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2: 1044-1045.
  • Anderson, James R., Biro, Dora & Pettitt, Paul (2018). Evolutionary thanatology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373(1754): 20170262.
  • Pettitt, Paul (2018). Hominin evolutionary thanatology from the mortuary to funerary realm. The palaeoanthropological bridge between chemistry and culture. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373(1754): 20180212.
  • Sparacello, V. S., Rossi, S., Pettitt, P., Roberts, C., Riel-Salvatore, J. & Formicola, V. (2018). New insights on Final Epigravettian funerary behavior at Arene Candide Cave (Western Liguria, Italy). Journal of Archaeological Science (Reports)
  • Hodgson, D. & Pettitt, P. B. (2018). The Origins of Iconic Depictions: A Falsifiable Model Derived from the Visual Science of Palaeolithic Cave Art and World Rock Art. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 28(4): 591-612.
  • Hoffmann, D. L., Standish, C. D., García-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. B., Milton, J. A., Zilhão, J., Alcolea-González, J. J., Cantalejo-Duarte, P., Collado, H., de Balbín, R., Lorblanchet, M., Ramos-Muñoz, J., Weniger, G.-Ch. & Pike, A. W. G. (2018). U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art. Science 359(6378): 912-915.
  • Pike, A., Hoffmann, D. Pettitt, P., García-Diez, M. & Zilhão, J. (2017). Dating Palaeolithic cave art: why U-Th is the way to go. Quaternary International 432(B): 41-49.
  • Gittins, Rhiannon & Pettitt, Paul (2017). Is Palaeolithic cave art consistent with costly signalling theory? Lascaux as a test case. World Archaeology 49(4): 466-490.
  • Hoffmann, D., Pike, A., García-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. & Zilhão, J. (2016). Methods for U-series Dating of CaCO3 Crusts Associated with Palaeolithic Cave Art and Application to Iberian Sites. Quaternary Geochronology 36: 104-109.
  • Pettitt, Paul & Bahn, Paul (2015). An alternative chronology for the art of Chauvet cave. Antiquity 89(345): 542-553.
  • Richards, M., Pettitt, P., Karavanic, I. & Miracle, P. (2015). Isotope and faunal evidence for high levels of freshwater fish consumption by Late Glacial humans at the Late Upper Palaeolithic site of Sandalja II, Istria, Croatia. Journal of Archaeological Science 61: 204-212.
  • Pettitt, P. B. & Zilhao, J. (2015). Problematizing Bayesian approaches to prehistoric chronologies. World Archaeology 47(4): 525-542.
  • García-Diez, M. Garrido, D., Hoffmann, D. L., Pettitt, P., Pike, A. & Zilhão, J. (2015). The chronology of hand stencils in European Palaeolithic rock art: implications of new U-series results from El Castillo Cave (Cantabria, Spain). Journal of Anthropological Sciences 95: 1-18.
  • Pettitt, P. & Bahn, P. (2014). Against Chauvet-nism: a critique of recent attempts to validate an early chronology for the art of Chauvet Cave. Anthropologie 118: 163-82.
  • Pettitt, P., Maximiano Castillejo, A., Arias, P., Ontañon Peredo, R. & Harrison, R. (2014). New views on old hands: the context of stencils in El Castillo and La Garma Caves (Cantabria, Spain). Antiquity 88(339): 47-63.
  • Zvelebil, M. & Pettitt, P. (2013). Biosocial archaeology of the Early Neolithic: synthetic analyses of human skeletal remains from the LBK cemetery of Vedrovice, Czech Republic. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32(3): 313-29.
  • Pettitt, P. & White, M. (2013). John Lubbock, caves, and the development of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic archaeology. Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science 68(1): 35-48.
  • Magyari, E., Gaydarska, B., Pettitt, P. & Chapman, J. (2013). Palaeo-environments of the Balkan Lateglacial and their potential – were humans absent from the Garden of Eden? Bulgarian e-journal for archaeology 3(1): 1-30.
  • White, M. J. & Pettitt, P. B. (2012). Ancient digs and modern myths. The context and age of the Kent’s Cavern 4 maxilla and the spread of Homo sapiens in Europe. European Journal of Archaeology 15: 1-30.
  • Dodge, D. A., Bouwman, A. S., Pettitt, P. B. & Brown, T. (2012). Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes of Devensian hyaenas from Creswell Crags, England. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
  • Pettitt, P. B., Rockman, M. & Chenery, S. (2012). The British Final Magdalenian: Society, settlement and raw material movements revealed through LA-ICP-MS trace element analysis of diagnostic artefacts. Quaternary International 272-273: 275-287.
  • Pike, A. W. G., Hoffman, D. L., García-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. B., Alcolea, J., De Balbín, R. González-Sainz, C., de las Heras, C., Lasheras, J. A., Montez, R. & Zilhão, J. (2012). Uranium-series dating of Upper Palaeolithic art in Spanish caves. U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain. Science 336(6087): 1409-1413.
  • Pettitt, P.B & White, M.J. (2011). Cave Men: stone tools, Victorian science and the ‘primitive mind’ of deep time. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 65(1): 25-42.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2011). Comment on Golovanova et al. Ecological factors in the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition. Current Anthropology 51: 683-4.
  • White, M. J. & Pettitt, P. B. (2011). Neanderthals in Western Doggerland: towards an interpretative understanding of the Late Middle Palaeolithic Settlement of Britain. Journal of World Prehistory 24: 25-97.
  • Pettitt, P. B., Jacobi, R. M., Chamberlain, A. C., Schreve, D., Wall, I., Dinnis, R. & Wragg-Sykes, R. (2009). Excavations outside Church Hole, Creswell Crags: the first three seasons (2006-8). Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire 113: 35-53.
  • Zvelebil, M., Pettitt, P. B. & Lukes, A. (2009). Lives, loves and deaths of Neolithic farmers: bioarchaeology of burials from Vedrovice (Czech Republic) and the spread of agriculture in Europe. North Atlantic Archaeology 1: 103-115.
  • White, M.J. & Pettitt, P.B. (2009). The demonstration of human antiquity: three rediscovered illustrations from the 1825 and 1846 excavations in Kent's Cavern (Torquay, England). Antiquity 83(321): 758-768.
  • Hall, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2008). A pair of Merrels boards on a stone block from Church Hole cave, Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, England. Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire 112.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2008). Art and the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe: comments on the archaeological arguments for an Early Upper Palaeolithic antiquity of the Grotte Chauvet art. Journal of Human Evolution 55(5): 908-917.
  • Zvelebil, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2008). Biological and cultural identity of the first farmers: introduction to the Vedrovice bioarchaeology project. Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man 46(2-3): 117-124.
  • Zvelebil, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2008). Human condition, life, and death at an Early Neolithic settlement: bioarchaeological analyses of the Vedrovice cemetery and their biosocial implications for the spread of agriculture in Central Europe. Anthropologie (Brno) XLVI: 195-218.
  • Pettitt, P. B. & Pike, A. W. G. (2007). Dating European Palaeolithic cave art: progress, prospects, problems. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 14: 27-47.
  • Pestle, W., Colvard, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2006). AMS dating of a recently discovered juvenile human mandible from Solutré (Saône-et-Loire), France). Paleo 18: 285-92.
  • Zvelebil, M. & Pettitt, P. B. (2006). Contribution of Palaeolithic and Neolithic Y-chromosome lineages to the modern Czech population. Archeologické rozhledy LVIII(2): 250-260.
  • Pettitt, P. B. (2006). Homo neanderthalensis (King 1864). Guest editorial. Before Farming 2006(3): 1-3.
  • Zilhão, J. & Pettitt, P. B. (2006). On the new dates for Gorham’s Cave and the late survival of Iberian Neanderthals. Before Farming 2006/4: 1-9.
  • Gamble, C., Davies, W., Pettitt, P. B., Hazelwood, L. & Richards, M. (2006). The Late Glacial ancestry of Europeans: combining genetic and archaeological evidence. Documenta Praehistorica XXXIII: 1-10.
  • Pike, A. W. G., Gilmore, M., Pettitt, P. B., Jacobi, R. M., Ripoll, S., Bahn, P. & Muñoz, F. (2005). Independent U-Series verification of the Pleistocene antiquity of the Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags, UK. Journal of Archaeological Science 32: 1649-55.
  • Richards, M.P., Jacobi, R., Cook, J., Pettitt, P.B. & Stringer, C.B. (2005). Isotope evidence for the intensive use of marine foods by Late Upper Palaeolithic humans. Journal of Human Evolution 49(3): 390-394.
  • Pettitt, P. B. & Nyskanen, M. (2005). Neanderthals in Finland during the Last Interglacial? Fennoscandia Archaeologica XXII: 79-87.
  • Nielsen-Marsh, C.M., Richards, M.P., Hauschka, P.V., Thomas-Oates, J.E., Trinkaus, E., Pettitt, P.B., Karavanic, I., Poinar, H. & Collins, M.J. (2005). Osteocalcin protein sequences of Neanderthals and modern primates. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102(12): 4409-4413.
  • Formicola, V., Pettitt, P. B., Maggi, R. & Hedges, R. E. M. (2005). Tempo and mode of formation of the Late Epigravettian necropolis of Arene Candide Cave (Italy): evidence from the direct radiocarbon dates of the skeletons. Journal of Archaeological Science 32: 1598-1602.
  • Gamble, C. S., Davies, S. W. G., Pettitt, P. B., Richards, M. & Hazelwood, L. (2005). The archaeological and genetic foundations of the European population during the Lateglacial: implications for ‘agricultural thinking’. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 15: 193-230.
  • Formicola, V., Pettitt, P. B. & del Luccese, A. (2004). A direct AMS radiocarbon date on the Barma Grande 6 Upper Palaolithic skeleton. Current Anthropology 45: 114-8.
  • Gamble, C. S., Davies, S. W. G., Pettitt, P. B. & Richards, M. (2004). Climate change and evolving human diversity in Europe during the Last Glacial. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London series B 359: 243-54.
  • Pettitt, P. B. & Bahn, P. (2003). Current problems in dating Palaeolithic cave art: Candamo and Chauvet. Antiquity 77: 134-41.
  • Bahn, P., Pettitt, P. B. & Ripoll, S. (2003). Discovery of Palaeolithic cave art in Britain. Antiquity 77: 227-31.
  • Pettitt, P. B., Davies, S. W. G., Gamble, C. S. & Richards, M. (2003). Palaeolithic radiocarbon chronology: quantifying our confidence beyond two half-lives. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 1685-93.
  • Pettitt, P.B., Richards, M.P., Maggi, R. & Formicola, V. (2003). The Gravettian burial known as the Prince (‘Il Principe’): new evidence for his age and diet. Antiquity 77(295): 15-19.

Book review

  • Bahn, P. & Pettitt, P. (2013). Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind (review article). Antiquity 87: 905-8.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Evolution: Human evolution, especially Pleistocene (Ice Age), early art, origins of burial, radiocarbon dating.