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

Ruiter, DJD, Brophy, JK, Lewis, PJ, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "Faunal assemblage composition and paleoenvironment of Plovers Lake, a Middle Stone Age locality in Gauteng Province, South Africa." Journal of Human Evolution 55.6 (2008): 1102-1117. Full Text

Hartstone-Rose, A, De Ruiter, DJ, Berger, LR, and Churchill, SE. "A sabre-tooth felid from Coopers Cave (Gauteng, South Africa) and its implications for Megantereon (Felidae: Machairodontinae) taxonomy." Palaeontologia Africana 42 (May 1, 2007): 99-108.

Hartstone Rose, A, de Ruiter, DJ, Berger, LR, and Churchill, SE. "A saber-tooth felid from Coopers Cave (Gauteng, South Africa) and its implications for Megantereon taxonomy." Paleontologica Africana 42 (2007): 99-108. (Academic Article)

Lewis, PJ, Johnson, E, Buchanan, B, and Churchill, SE. "The evolution of Bison bison: A view from the Southern Plains." Bull. Texas Arch. Soc. 78 (2007): 197-204. (Academic Article)

Yokley, TR, and Churchill, SE. "Archaic and modern human distal humeral morphology." J Hum Evol 51.6 (December 2006): 603-616. Full Text

Churchill, SE, and Rhodes, JA. "How strong were the Neandertals? Leverage and muscularity at the shoulder and elbow in mousterian foragers." Periodicum Biologorum 108.4 (2006): 457-470.

Brophy, JK, de Ruiter, DJ, Lewis, PJ, Churchill, SE, and Berger, LR. "Preliminary investigation of the new Middle Stone Age site of Plovers Lake, South Africa." Curr. Res. Pleistocene 23 (2006): 41-43. (Academic Article)

Churchill, SE, Shackelford, LL, Georgi, JN, and Black, MT. "Morphological variation and airflow dynamics in the human nose." Am J Hum Biol 16.6 (November 2004): 625-638. Full Text

Brink, , S, J, Berger, LR, Churchill, SE, Rossouw, L, and d, DSN. "Mid-Late Quaternary mammalian fossils from the Sand River drainage, Free State Province, central southern Africa (In preparation)." Paleontol. Afr. (2004). (Academic Article)

Schmitt, D, Churchill, SE, and Hylander, WL. "Experimental Evidence Concerning Spear Use in Neandertals and Early Modern Humans." Journal of Archaeological Science 30.1 (January 2003): 103-114. Full Text


Georgi, JN, Churchill, SE, Shackelford, LL, and Black, MT. "Nasal valve function and location as determined by in vitro fluid flow studies." 1999.

Churchill, SE, Shackelford, LL, Georgi, JN, and Black, MT. "Morphological variation in the upper respiratory tract and airflow dynamics." 1999.

Hambrick, MW, Churchill, SE, Schmitt, D, and Hylander, WL. "Tool use in Homo and Australopithecus." April 1997.