Steven E. Churchill

Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

External address: 
Duke University, Evolutionary Anthropology, 130 Science Drive, Room 108, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Duke Box 90383, Durham, NC 27708-0383
(919) 660-7314


I am a human paleontologist studying morphological and behavioral adaptation in archaic and modern humans of the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Through comparative functional-morphological analysis of human fossil remains, coupled with investigation of the archeological record of prehistoric human behavior, my students and I conduct research in the following inter-related areas:

1) The ecology, energetics and adaptive strategies of premodern members of the genus Homo (especially the Neandertals [Homo neanderthalensis] of Europe and western Asia and Middle Pleistocene archaic humans of Africa [variously attributed to H. heidelbergensis, H. rhodesiensis or H. helmei] ) and early members of our own species [H. sapiens] in Africa, the Near East and Europe.

2) The evolution of human subsistence strategies across the Middle and Late Pleistocene, with an emphasis on the nature of the hunting methods employed by various groups.

3) The evolution of subsistence technology, especially the origins of true long-range projectile weaponry.

4) The community ecology of humans and large-bodied carnivores in Pleistocene Europe and Africa.

In addition to this basic research, our team is also actively engaged in fieldwork in southern Africa, with the goal of improving our understanding of the morphology and behavior of Middle Stone Age-associated early modern humans and their immediate ancestors (African Middle Pleistocene archaic humans).

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., University of New Mexico 1994

  • M.A., University of New Mexico 1989

  • B.S., Virginia Polytech Institute and State University 1981

Dissertation Research: Determinants of Form in the Pubis of Middle-to-Late Pleistocene Homo awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2004

Cultures in Contact: The Italian-American Riparo Bombrini Project awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2002

Walker, CS, and Churchill, SE. "Territory size in Canis lupus: Implications for Neandertal mobility." Reconstructing Mobility: Environmental, Behavioral, and Morphological Determinants. April 1, 2014. 209-226. Full Text

Hawks, J, Elliott, M, Schmid, P, Churchill, SE, Ruiter, DJD, Roberts, EM, Hilbert-Wolf, H, Garvin, HM, Williams, SA, Delezene, LK, Feuerriegel, EM, Randolph-Quinney, P, Kivell, TL, Laird, MF, Tawane, G, DeSilva, JM, Bailey, SE, Brophy, JK, Meyer, MR, Skinner, MM, Tocheri, MW, VanSickle, C, Walker, CS, Campbell, TL, Kuhn, B, Kruger, A, Tucker, S, Gurtov, A, Hlophe, N, Hunter, R, Morris, H, Peixotto, B, Ramalepa, M, Rooyen, DV, Tsikoane, M, Boshoff, P, Dirks, PH, and Berger, LR. "New fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa." eLife 6 (May 9, 2017). Full Text

Walker, CS, Yapuncich, GS, Sridhar, S, Cameron, N, and Churchill, SE. "Evaluating morphometric body mass prediction equations with a juvenile human test sample: accuracy and applicability to small-bodied hominins." Journal of human evolution (May 2, 2017). Full Text

Churchill, SE, and Vansickle, C. "Pelvic Morphology in Homo erectus and Early Homo." Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007) 300.5 (May 2017): 964-977. Full Text

Marchi, D, Walker, CS, Wei, P, Holliday, TW, Churchill, SE, Berger, LR, and DeSilva, JM. "The thigh and leg of Homo naledi." Journal of human evolution 104 (March 2017): 174-204. Full Text

Feuerriegel, EM, Green, DJ, Walker, CS, Schmid, P, Hawks, J, Berger, LR, and Churchill, SE. "The upper limb of Homo naledi." Journal of human evolution 104 (March 2017): 155-173. Full Text

Williams, SA, García-Martínez, D, Bastir, M, Meyer, MR, Nalla, S, Hawks, J, Schmid, P, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "The vertebrae and ribs of Homo naledi." Journal of human evolution 104 (March 2017): 136-154. Full Text

Meyer, MR, Williams, SA, Schmid, P, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "The cervical spine of Australopithecus sediba." Journal of human evolution 104 (March 2017): 32-49. Full Text

Randolph-Quinney, PS, Williams, SA, Steyn, M, Meyer, MR, Smilg, JS, Churchill, SE, Odes, EJ, Augustine, T, Tafforeau, P, and Berger, LR. "Osteogenic tumour in Australopithecus sediba: Earliest hominin evidence for neoplastic disease." South African Journal of Science Volume 112.Number 7/8 (July 27, 2016). Full Text

Churchill, SE, Walker, CS, and Schwartz, AM. "Home-range size in large-bodied carnivores as a model for predicting neandertal territory size." Evolutionary anthropology 25.3 (May 2016): 117-123. Full Text

Kivell, TL, Deane, AS, Tocheri, MW, Orr, CM, Schmid, P, Hawks, J, Berger, LR, and Churchill, SE. "The hand of Homo naledi." Nature communications 6 (October 6, 2015): 8431-. Full Text


Sylvester, AD, Desilva, JM, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "Three-dimensional shape analysis of the distal femur of Australopithecus sediba." March 2015.

Brophy, JK, De Ruiter, DJ, Berger, LR, Churchill, SE, and Schmid, P. "Morphometric analyses of maxillary and mandibular first molars of Pleistocene hominins." March 2015.

Churchill, SE, Sridhar, S, Cameron, N, and Walker, CS. "Geometric methods of body mass estimation in small-bodied hominins." March 2015.

Ostrofsky, KR, Williams, SA, Churchill, SE, Berger, LR, and Richmond, BG. "Australopith lumbar vertebral morphology: Insights from Australopithecus sediba." March 2014.

Reed, ND, Hakki, L, and Churchill, SE. "Pelvic sexual dimorphism in the hominin fossil record." March 2014.

Williams, SA, Churchill, SE, Ostrofsky, KR, Schmid, P, Frater, N, and Berger, LR. "The number of vertebrae in early hominins: insights from Australopithecus sediba." 2013.

Macias, ME, Wall, CE, and Churchill, SE. "Size and shape in the primate forelimb." 2012.

Reed, ND, and Churchill, SE. "Acetabulocristal buttressing in hominins." 2012.