Portrait of Dr Alastair Key

Dr Alastair Key

Lecturer in Biological Anthropology


Dr Alastair Key is a Palaeolithic archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist specialising in the interplay between cultural and biological aspects of our evolutionary history. His work applies advanced techniques more commonly used in mechanical and biomechanical engineering research to better understand the behaviour and evolution of prehistoric humans.

Recent research of his has investigated the ergonomic and mechanical design principles underpinning stone tool production during the Lower Palaeolithic, how the production and use of these tools may have influenced the evolution of the human hand, and how modern engineering research techniques may be integrated into Palaeolithic archaeological research. 

Prior to his current appointment, Dr Key was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. During this time his research used a combination of electromyography, grip analyses and geometric morphometrics to investigate the functional consequences of variable Lower Palaeolithic tool forms, and the extent to which early tool design choices were influenced by ergonomic principles. 

Previous to this, Alastair received his PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Kent and MSc in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology from University College London. 

He has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Spain, Southeast Asia, the USA and the UK. Currently, Alastair is directing excavations at a Lower Palaeolithic (> 400,000 year-old) site near the University of Kent’s campus in Canterbury, Kent.   



  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE541: Palaeoanthropology
  • SE567: Quanttitative Research Methods
  • SE625: Homo sapiens: Biology, Culture, Identity
  • SE307: Thinkers and Theories: An Introduction to the History and Development of Anthropology 


  • SE992: Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology


Dr Alastair Key can offer supervision of PhD and MA/MSc research within any of his areas of interest – Palaeolithic archaeology, human evolution, experimental archaeology/anthropology, gene-culture co-evolution, the history of human origins research, and the evolution of the hominin hand. 

Individuals interested in undertaking research at the interface of archaeology/anthropology and mechanical engineering are particularly encouraged to contact Dr Key.


For recent media coverage of Dr Key’s research, please see the following links:

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