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

Selected Grants

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

De Ruiter, D. J., et al. Late australopiths and the emergence of homo. Vol. 46, 2017, pp. 99–115. Scopus, doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-102116-041734. Full Text

Churchill, S. E. Thin on the Ground: Neandertal Biology, Archeology and Ecology. 2014, pp. 1–453. Scopus, doi:10.1002/9781118590836. Full Text

Salem, P. E., and S. E. Churchill. “Penetration, tissue damage, and lethality of wood-versus lithic-tipped projectiles.” Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, 2016, pp. 203–12. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-94-017-7602-8_14. Full Text

Walker, C. S., and S. E. Churchill. “Territory size in Canis lupus: Implications for Neandertal mobility.” Reconstructing Mobility: Environmental, Behavioral, and Morphological Determinants, 2014, pp. 209–26. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-7460-0-12. Full Text

de Ruiter, D. J., et al. “Australopithecus sediba from Malapa, South Africa.” Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, 2013, pp. 147–60. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5919-0_9. Full Text

Churchill, S. E., and J. A. Rhodes. “The Evolution of the Human Capacity for “Killing at a Distance”: The Human Fossil Evidence for the Evolution of Projectile Weaponry.” Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, 2009, pp. 201–10. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9699-0_15. Full Text

Churchill, S. E. “Bioenergetic perspectives on Neanderthal thermoregulatory and activity budgets.” Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, 2006, pp. 113–33. Scopus, doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-5121-0_7. Full Text

Yapuncich, Gabriel S., et al. “Predicting body mass of bonobos (Pan paniscus) with human-based morphometric equations.American Journal of Primatology, vol. 82, no. 2, Feb. 2020, p. e23088. Epmc, doi:10.1002/ajp.23088. Full Text

Walker, Christopher S., et al. “Morphology of the Homo naledi femora from Lesedi.American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 170, no. 1, Sept. 2019, pp. 5–23. Epmc, doi:10.1002/ajpa.23877. Full Text

Di Vincenzo, F., et al. “Distinct among Neanderthals: The scapula of the skeleton from Altamura, Italy.” Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 217, Aug. 2019, pp. 76–88. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.11.023. Full Text

Friedl, Lukas, et al. “Femoral neck and shaft structure in Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber (Rising Star System, South Africa).Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 133, Aug. 2019, pp. 61–77. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.06.002. Full Text

Brophy, J. K., et al. “A comparison of hominin teeth from Lincoln Cave, Sterkfontein L/63, and the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.” South African Journal of Science, vol. 115, no. 5–6, May 2019. Scopus, doi:10.17159/sajs.2019/5739. Full Text

Miller, Ian F., et al. “Speeding in the slow lane: Phylogenetic comparative analyses reveal that not all human life history traits are exceptional.Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 130, May 2019, pp. 36–44. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.12.007. Full Text

Holt, B., et al. “The Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in Northwest Italy: new evidence from Riparo Bombrini (Balzi Rossi, Liguria, Italy).” Quaternary International, vol. 508, Mar. 2019, pp. 142–52. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.11.032. Full Text

VanSickle, Caroline, et al. “Homo naledi pelvic remains from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 125, Dec. 2018, pp. 122–36. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.10.001. Full Text

Yapuncich, Gabriel S., et al. “Morphometric panel regression equations for predicting body mass in immature humans.American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 166, no. 1, May 2018, pp. 179–95. Epmc, doi:10.1002/ajpa.23422. Full Text Open Access Copy

Walker, Christopher S., et al. “Evaluating morphometric body mass prediction equations with a juvenile human test sample: accuracy and applicability to small-bodied hominins.Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 115, Feb. 2018, pp. 65–77. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.03.009. Full Text Open Access Copy


Williams, Scott A., et al. “Relative size and scaling of the lumbo-sacral joint in fossil hominins: Implications for function and phylogeny.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 301–301.

Friedl, Lukas, et al. “Femoral neck and shaft structure in Homo naledi.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 90–90.

Feuerriegel, Elen M., et al. “The upper limb of Homo naledi: New material from the Lesedi Chamber, Rising Star System, South Africa.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 84–84.

De Ruiter, Darryl J., et al. “New craniodental remains of the type specimen of Australopithecus sediba.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 65–66.

Walker, Christopher S., et al. “Accuracy of human-based morphometric equations for predicting bonobo body mass.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 292–292.

Cook, Rebecca W., et al. “A comparison of lateral iliac flare measurement methods and their correlation with lesser gluteal moment arms.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 53–53.

Green, David J., et al. “Three-dimensional morphology and comparative anatomy of the Australopithecus sediba scapula.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 165, WILEY, 2018, pp. 105–105.

Churchill, Steven E. “The functional significance of iliac buttressing in the genus Homo.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 162, WILEY, 2017, pp. 144–45.

Bastir, Markus, et al. “Geometric morphometrics of hominoid thoraces and its bearing for reconstructing the ribcage of H. naledi.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 162, WILEY, 2017, pp. 111–12.

Garvin, Heather M., et al. “Body size and sexual dimorphism in H. naledi.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 159, WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2016, pp. 152–152.