Rebecca Wragg Sykes is a Palaeolithic archaeologist, specialising in the Neandertals. She is fascinated by this incredibly adaptable and successful ancient human species, and is passionate about improving their still lamentable public image as the ‘losers of the Ice Age’. She is a stone tool (lithic) expert, and held a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship at the at the PACEA laboratory, Université Bordeaux 2013-15. Her postdoctoral research project, funded by the European Commission 7th Framework, explored prehistoric landscapes and territories by looking at the technology and transport of stone tools from an open-air silcrete quarry in the Massif Central region of south-east France.
|Fossil Hunter Lottie doll, which TrowelBlazers co-developed, in the field in France|
What's this blog about?
The Rocks Remain is a place to share the excitement, fascination and complexity of the coolest hominins, the Neanderthals.
|Digging at Fishbourne Roman Palace, 1997|
But a family holiday in south-west France after I finished my A-Levels pushed me back further in time. Visiting the astonishing decorated caves in the Dordogne was a revelation and rekindled my fascination for the Ice Age, first shaped earlier in my teens through Jean Auel's incredibly well-researched Earth's Children novels, starting with Clan of the Cave Bear.
After an undergraduate degree at Bristol I won funding to take the MA Archaeology of Human Origins at Southampton University, where I was very fortunate to be supervised by John McNabb and Clive Gamble. While there I received training in lithic analysis, and I really began to focus on the Middle Palaeolithic, and its makers, the Neanderthals. My dissertation was the first analysis of the Middle Palaeolithic stone tools from Kent's Cavern since the 1970s.
|Holding a Late Upper Palaeolithic reindeer bone from the 2008 Church Hole excavations, Creswell Crags.|
Delving into the entire British record of late Neanderthals was the subject of my PhD at University of Sheffield. My thesis was the first comprehensive examination of the lithics from well-dated Late Middle Palaeolithic sites (c. 60-35,000 or kyr before present) for two decades. It can be found here: http://u-bordeaux1.academia.edu/RWraggSykes/Papers
|The La Cotte de St Brelade collections, Jersey|
After my PhD I worked on the Quaternary Archaeology and Environment of Jersey Project, looking at lithics from La Cotte de St Brelade, but then was awarded a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship to work at the PACEA laboratory, Universite Bordeaux. The project TRACETERRE, 2013-15, looked at prehistoric landscape use in the Massif Central of south east France (Ardeche and Haute-Loire) through examining a massive silcrete quarry.
While I was in France I had two children, and return to the UK in late 2017 to finish my first book, Kindred: 300,000 years of Neanderthal Life and Afterlife for Sigma Science, Bloomsbury. See my author bio for more information.
I'm now working in other areas, having co-founded an outreach group in 2013 (TrowelBlazers) which continues to grow, managing a touring exhibition and working on heritage consulation.