Steven E. Churchill

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

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

Dirks, PHGM, Berger, LR, Roberts, EM, Kramers, JD, Hawks, J, Randolph-Quinney, PS, Elliott, M, Musiba, CM, Churchill, SE, de Ruiter, DJ, Schmid, P, Backwell, LR, Belyanin, GA, Boshoff, P, Hunter, KL, Feuerriegel, EM, Gurtov, A, Harrison, JDG, Hunter, R, Kruger, A, Morris, H, Makhubela, TV, Peixotto, B, and Tucker, S. "Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa." eLife 4 (September 10, 2015). Full Text

Berger, LR, Hawks, J, de Ruiter, DJ, Churchill, SE, Schmid, P, Delezene, LK, Kivell, TL, Garvin, HM, Williams, SA, DeSilva, JM, Skinner, MM, Musiba, CM, Cameron, N, Holliday, TW, Harcourt-Smith, W, Ackermann, RR, Bastir, M, Bogin, B, Bolter, D, Brophy, J, Cofran, ZD, Congdon, KA, Deane, AS, Dembo, M, Drapeau, M, Elliott, MC, Feuerriegel, EM, Garcia-Martinez, D, Green, DJ, Gurtov, A, Irish, JD, Kruger, A, Laird, MF, Marchi, D, Meyer, MR, Nalla, S, Negash, EW, Orr, CM, Radovcic, D, and Schroeder, L et al. "Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa." eLife 4 (January 2015). Full Text

Macias, ME, and Churchill, SE. "Functional Morphology of the Neandertal Scapular Glenoid Fossa." ANATOMICAL RECORD-ADVANCES IN INTEGRATIVE ANATOMY AND EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 298.1 (January 2015): 168-179. Full Text

Ostrofsky, KR, and Churchill, SE. "Sex Determination by Discriminant Function Analysis of Lumbar Vertebrae." JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES 60.1 (January 2015): 21-28. Full Text

Harcourt-Smith, WEH, Throckmorton, Z, Congdon, KA, Zipfel, B, Deane, AS, Drapeau, MSM, Churchill, SE, Berger, LR, and DeSilva, JM. "The foot of Homo naledi." Nature communications 6 (January 2015): 8432-. Full Text

Cieri, RL, Churchill, SE, Franciscus, RG, Tan, J, and Hare, B. "Craniofacial Feminization, Social Tolerance, and the Origins of Behavioral Modernity." Current Anthropology 55.4 (August 2014): 419-443. Full Text

Churchill, SE, Holliday, TW, Carlson, KJ, Jashashvili, T, Macias, ME, Mathews, S, Sparling, TL, Schmid, P, de Ruiter, DJ, and Berger, LR. "The upper limb of Australopithecus sediba." Science 340.6129 (April 12, 2013): 1233477-. Full Text


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.

Desilva, JM, Zipfel, B, Kidd, RS, Carlson, KJ, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "The primitive aspects of the foot and ankle of Australopithecus sediba." 2012.