Skip to main content

What I'm doing and what I've done

My background is in Palaeolithic archaeology, specialising in Neanderthals and stone tool analysis.

I worked in academia until late 2015, and have since been widening my activity to include other research, writing, outreach and consultation.

My first book, KINDRED: 300,000 years of Neanderthal Life and Afterlife, will be out with Bloomsbury Sigma in late 2018.

I also co-founded TrowelBlazers in 2013, and managed the Raising Horizons project, an exhibition that has been touring since 2017. 


My activities in more detail:

  • Academic research includes Neanderthal behaviour and cognition, the extent and organisation of prehistoric human mobility, and how we evolved understanding of landscape, territory, and social networks. 
  • Through TrowelBlazers I became interested in the diverse networks existing between women archaeologists and geoscientists through training, mentoring and collaboration in the early 20th century, and its relevance to buidling resilient frameworks for today's women in science.
  • I've written on archaeology, prehistory and human evolution for varied publications including the Guardian (here and here).
  • I aim to widen accessibility of archaeology, both within the profession (founding member of Inclusive Archaeology) and for its future members, through schemes around role models and work experience bursaries I'm developing as part of TrowelBlazers' work.


Multiple blogs for the Day of Archaeology project 2011-2017:


Hassett, B., Herridge, V., Wragg Sykes, R.M. and Pilaar Birch, S. 2018. TrowelBlazers: Accidentally crowdsourcing an archive of women in archaeology, In: Apaydin, V. and Johnston, J. (eds) Increasing Heritage Awareness through Participatory Public Archaeology. Springer.

Wragg-Sykes, R.M., Delvigne, V., Fernandes, P., Piboule, M., Lafarge, A., Defive, E., Raynal, J.P., 2017. “Undatable, unattractive, redundant”? The Rapavi silcrete source, Saint-Pierre-Eynac (Haute-Loire, France): challenges studying a prehistoric quarry-workshop in the Massif Central mountains. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. and Will, Manuel. 2017. Guest Editorial – Silcrete as a lithic raw material in global context: geology, sourcing and prehistoric techno-economics. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2017. Isolation, Exploration or Seasonal Migration? Investigating technological organisation in the Late Middle Palaeolithic of Britain during Marine Isotope Stage 3. In Lithic Technological Organization and Paleoenvironmental Change. (Eds. E. N. Robinson, F. Sellet). Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation. Springer.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2017. Neanderthals in the Outermost West: technological adaptation in the Late Middle Palaeolithic (re)-colonization of Britain, Marine Isotope Stage 4/3. Quaternary International.

Delvigne, V., Fernandes, P., Piboule, M., Chomette, D., Defive, E., Lafarge, A., Liabeuf, R., Moncel, M-H., Wragg Sykes, R., Raynal, J.P. 2016. Circulation du silex barrémo-bédoulien depuis le Paléolithique moyen de Vivarais en Velay par les monts du Mézenc. Ardeche Archeologie 33, 11-18

Ruebens, K and Wragg Sykes, R.M. In press; available online 10 June 2015. Spatio-temporal variation in Late Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal behaviour: British bout coupé handaxes as a case study. Quaternary International.

Wragg Sykes, R.M., Riel-Salvatore, J., Pilaar Birch, S. 2015. Reconstructing hunter-gatherer mobility: building new inter disciplinary frameworks in the Quaternary- 1502P. Quaternary Perspectives 22 (1): 9.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2015. To see a world in a hafted tool: birch pitch composite technology, cognition and memory in Neanderthals. In Settlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution: Landscapes in the Mind. (Eds F. Coward, R. Hosfield, M. Pope, F. Wenban-Smith). Cambridge University Press 

Hassett, B., Herridge, V., Wragg Sykes, R.M. and Pilaar Birch, S. 2014. TrowelBlazers: Accidentally crowdsourcing an archive of women in archaeology. 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. Abstracts of the Oral and Poster Presentations.: 167

Wragg Sykes, R.M., Herridge, V., Hassett, B., and Pilaar Birch, S. 2014. The Cave, The Skull and The Women. Proceedings of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution 3: 172

Raynal, J-P, Moncel, M-H, Daujeard, C., Argant, A, Bahain, J-J., Banks, W, Bearez, P., Bocherens, H. Chacon Navarro, G. Coutry, M-A., Crégut-Bonnoure, E., Debard, E., Delvigne, V., Desclaux, E., Ecker, M., Falgueres, C., Fernandes, P.,  Fiore, I.,  Foury, Y.,  Galloti, R.,  Guadelli, J-L., Hardy, B., Lafarge, A., La Porta A. O., Lateur, N.,  Lebon, M.,  Le Corre, M.,  LePape, J-M.,  Liabeuf, R.,  Manzano, A.,  Marcq, G.,  Piboule, M., Pike-Tay, A., Puaud, S., Queffelec, A.,  Richard, M.,  Rivals, F.,  Santagata, C., Sakai, S., Save, S., Servant, L., Roger, T., Rué, M., Wang, N., Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2013. Néanderthaliens sur les marges sud-est du Massif central. Espaces et subsistance au Paléolithique moyen. Nouvelles données dans le cadre d’un projet collectif de recherche. Ardèche Archéologie 30: 1–14

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2013. Exploration, Isolation, or Seasonal Migration? Idiosyncratic technological organization in the Late Middle Palaeolithic re-colonization of Britain, MIS 3. Proceedings of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution. 2: 239

Wragg Sykes, R.M. Herridge, V. Hassett, B. and Pilaar Birch, S. 2013 A Splendid Regiment of Women: 20th century research networks among women scientists in archaeology, geology and palaeontology. A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention. Charman-Anderson, S. (Ed). Ada LoveLace Day: Dorset

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2012. Neanderthals 2.0? Evidence for expanded social networks, ethnic diversity and encultured landscapes in the Late Middle Palaeolithic. Unravelling the Palaeolithic: Ten years of research at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO, University of Southampton) Ruebens, K., Romanowska, I., and Bynoe, R. (Eds). University of Southampton Archaeology Monograph Series 8.

Pope, M., Scott, B., Bates, M., Conneller, C., Cole,, J. Shaw, A., Wragg Sykes, R.M. Smith, G., Ruebens, K. and Underhill, D. 2012. Quaternary Environments and Archaeology of Jersey: A new multidisciplinary project looking at the early prehistoric occupation of the English Channel Region. Unravelling the Palaeolithic: Ten years of research at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO, University of Southampton) Ruebens, K., Romanowska, I., and Bynoe, R. (Eds). University of Southampton Archaeology Monograph Series 8.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2011. John Wymer Bursary 2011. Getting to grips with the last Neanderthals of La Cotte de St Brelade. Lithics 32: 72-73

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2010. Beyond Bout Coupés: the dynamic role of bifaces in the British Mousterian. Lithics 31, 20-32

Pettitt, P., Jacobi, R.M., Chamberlain, A., Pike, A., Wall, I., Dinnis, R. and Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2010. Excavations outside Church Hole, Creswell Crags, 2006-8. Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire. 113

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2009. Neanderthals in Britain: Late Mousterian Archaeology in Landscape Context. PhD Thesis: University of Sheffield.

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2006. Review of The Hominid Individual in Context: Archaeological Investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Landscapes, Locales and Artefacts. Edited by Clive Gamble and Martin Porr. Assemblage 9

Wragg Sykes, R.M. 2004. In Search of Mesolithic Shropshire: Analysis of a Museum Collection, Fieldwork and Research Synthesis. South West Shropshire Historical and Archaeological Society Journal. 15: 10-17


Wragg Sykes, R.M. In press. The Mousterian lithic assemblage from Picken’s Hole, Compton Bishop, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society.

Fernandes, P., Delvigne, V., Chomette, D., Defive, E., Lafarge, A., Liabeuf, R., Piboule, M., Tallet, P., Tuffery, C., Wragg Sykes, R., Raynal, J.P. Projet collectif de recherche. Rapport d'activité 2015. Réseau de lithothèques en Auvergne. Volume 1. [Technical report]

Wragg Sykes, R.M., Chomette, D., Defive, E., Delvigne, V., Lafarge, A., Fernandes, P., Piboule, M., Liabeuf, R., Raynal, J.P. 2015. Programme collectif de recherche "Espaces et subsistance au Paléolithique moyen dans le sud du Massif central", 2014. Volume 2 : sondages sur le gîte-atelier de Saint-Pierre-Eynac (Haute-Loire) et son environnement géologique. [Technical report]

Raynal, J-P., Moncel, M.-H., Moncel, Argant, A., Bailon, S., Banks, W., Béarez, P., Bindon, P., Bocherens, H., Courty, M.-A., Crégut-Bonnoure, E., Daujeard, C. Delvigne, V., Desclaux, E.,  Ecker, M., Falguères, C., Fernandes, P., Fiore, I., Foury, Y., Gallotti , R., Hardy, B.,Lafarge, A., Oriana La Porta, A., Lateur, N.,  Lepape, J.-M.,Liabeuf, R., Locht, J.-L., Alaric Manzano, A., Marcq, G., Piboule, M.,Richard, M., Roger, T.,Rué, M. Santagata , C., Sabrina Save, S., Wang, N., Wragg Sykes, R.M., 2013. Projet Collectif de Recherche: Espaces et subsistance au Paléolithique moyen dans le sud du Massif central. Travaux 2012 et 2013. [Technical report]


Invited contributions

Landscapes in Mind; conference in honour of Clive Gamble • London 2015
Invited discussion panel member

Revealing lives: women in science 1830-2000. Conference at the Royal Society • London 2014
Co-author in presentation for panel discussion

Other presentations

ISKM (International Symposium on Knappable Materials) • Barcelona 2015
The exploitation of silcrete during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in the Massif Central, France. A rare silicified material in a volcanic environment: the Rapavi silcrete, Saint-Pierre-Eynac (Haute-Loire). (first author)

ISKM (International Symposium on Knappable Materials) • Barcelona 2015
Is there a socio-economic interpretation for the sustained exploitation of flint and the diversity of raw material sources used during the Middle Palaeolithic in the south-eastern Massif Central and adjacent Rhone Valley? (co-author)

INQUA XIX (International Union of Quaternary Sciences) • Nagoya 2015
Integrating methodological approaches to identification and measurement of hunter-gatherer mobility: the potential of Late Glacial to Holocene contexts: INQUA Project 1502P. (first author)

SAA (Society for American Archaeology) • San Francisco 2015
Where does your community live? The TrowelBlazers experience. (co-author)

ESHE (European Society for study of Human Evolution) • Florence 2014
The Cave, the Skull, and the Women: female representation in Palaeolithic research- Pecha Kucha presentation (first author)

EAA (European Association of Archaeologists • Istanbul 2014
TrowelBlazers: Accidentally crowdsourcing an archive of women in archaeology (co-author)

UISPP • Burgos 2014
Spatio-temporal variation in Late Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal behaviour: British bout coupé handaxes as a case study (co-author)

CAA (Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology) • Paris 2014
TrowelBlazers: A collaborative, crowd-sourced project born on social media (co-author)

  • 2016 Varied funding raised for Raising Horizons project: including Curry Award from Geologists’ Association, sponsorship from Museum of London Archaeology, Prehistoric Society and others, plus over £11,000 from crowdfund campaign.
  • 2016 Author's Society Grant
  • 2015 Funding from INQUA, Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council ($10,000CAD) and Université de Montreal ($10,000 CAD) for RPHGM workshop (see Organisational Experience section).
  • 2013-15 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (Post-doctoral European Commission Funding under the 7th Framework Programme).


Popular posts from this blog

Wherefore Art Thou, Neanderthal?

Adventures in Silcrete: "It's flint Jim, but not as you know it!"

Something that everyone who works in the archaeology of deep prehistory has to get to grips with is the technology of stone tools, or lithics. This includes thinking about the ways in which people made their tools, which techniques they chose to use, etc. It also means that Palaeolithic archaeologists, alongside needing to know stuff about climatology, palaeontology, and ecology, need to delve into the science of geology. People in prehistory might not have understood the origins of different kinds of rocks, but they certainly appreciated the diversity in stone qualities, not only between very different rock types but also within geological/mineral categories.

These two Neandertal tools that I studied for my PhD, called handaxes, are both very finely worked, but made from completely different rocks. The one on the left (Castle Lane, Bournemouth) is made from Cretaceous flint found in the south and east of Britain, and the one on the right (Coygan Cave) from rhyolite, a volcanic stone…

Geological Road Trip: Volcanic landscapes of the Massif Central

Geology and geography are fundamental to archaeologists in understanding the landscape contexts that people of the past lived within. While climate and environments have drastically altered over the time span of the Palaeolithic, the topography often, on a broad scale, remains relatively similar. Erosion can be extensive, river systems can change course (the Thames used to flow much further north than it now does for example), and the great depth of sediment accumulation in some areas changed local situations. But the big stuff made of rock like plateaux, mountains and watersheds have remained relatively static over the time hominins have been around. There are exceptions to this however, primarily in the form of volcanism and tectonic action, and the region I'm working in is a textbook example. Here in the Massif Central, there is a long history of volcanic action of many types, the most recent of which occurred less than 5000 years ago- well within the history of human settleme…