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School of Geography

Professor Simon Lewis

Simon

Professor of Quaternary Science and Co-Director of Education for Physical Geography and Environmental Science

Email: s.lewis@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8923
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 120

Profile

My research focus is in Quaternary science, in particular geoarchaeology and the Palaeolithic record in Britain. I have been involved in a number of major UK Palaeolithic archaeological research projects including the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) Project (2001-12), the Pathways to Ancient Britain Project and the Happisburgh Palaeolithic Project. I was a Co-Investigator on the Mapping Palaeolithic Britain Project (2013-16) and Principal Investigator on the Breckland Palaeolithic Project (2016-19), both funded by the Leverhulme Trust and I am a co-director of the Barnham Palaeolithic Excavation. The discovery of ancient human footprints at Happisburgh received the Current Archaeology 2015 “Rescue Dig of the Year” award. I was awarded the Henry Stopes Medal by the Geologists’ Association in 2015.

I am currently President of the Quaternary Research Association.

Key publications

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Davis, R.J., Hatch, M., Hoare, P.G., Voinchet, P., Bahain, J-J. 2021. A revised terrace stratigraphy and new ESR geochronology of the early Middle Pleistocene Bytham River in the Breckland of East Anglia. Quaternary Science Reviews 269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107113

Davis, R.J., Ashton, N., Hatch, M. Hosfield. R., Lewis, S.G. 2021. Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic of Southern England: the evidence from the River Test. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 4, 23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-021-00096-3

Davis, R.J., Ashton, N., Hatch, M., Hoare, P.G., Lewis, S.G. 2021. Palaeolithic archaeology of the Bytham River: human occupation of Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene and its European context. Journal of Quaternary Science 36, 526-546. http://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.3305

 

Bynoe, R., Ashton, N., Grimmer, T., Hoare, P.G., Leonard, J., Lewis, S.G., Nicholas, D., Parfitt, S.A. 2021. Coastal curios? An analysis of ex situ beach finds for mapping new Palaeolithic sites at Happisburgh, UK. Journal of Quaternary Science 36, 191-210. http://10.1002/jqs.3270

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Field, M.H., Hoare, P.G., Kamermans, H., Knul, M., Mücher, H.J., Parfitt, S.A., Roebroeks, W. and Sier, M.J. 2019. Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13. Happisburgh Site 1 (Norfolk, UK) and its European context. Quaternary Science Reviews 211, 34-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.02.028

 

Harris, C.R.E., Ashton, N. and Lewis, S.G. 2019. From site to museum: a critical assessment of collection history on the formation and interpretation of the British early Palaeolithic record. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-018-0019-5

Ashton N., Harris, C.R.E., Lewis S.G. 2018. Frontiers and route-ways from Europe: the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Britain. Journal of Quaternary Science33, 194-211. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.3015.

Hatch, M., Davis, R.J., Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Briant, R. and Lukas, S. 2017. The stratigraphy and chronology of the Pleistocene fluvial sediments at Warsash, Hampshire, UK: implications for terrace stratigraphy and Palaeolithic archaeology of the River Test. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 128, 198–221. DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2016.12.001.

Davis, R.J., Hatch, M., Ashton, N., Hosfield, R.,Lewis, S.G. 2016. The Palaeolithic record of Warsash, Hampshire, UK: implications for late Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic occupation history of Southern Britain. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 127, 558-574

Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., De Groote, I., Duffy, S., Bates, M.B. Bates, C.R., Hoare, P.G., Lewis, M., Parfitt, S.A., Peglar, S., Williams, C., Stringer, C.B. 2014. Hominin footprints from Early Pleistocene deposits at Happisburgh, UK. PLoS ONE9(2): e88329. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088329

Parfitt, S.A., Ashton, N.M., Lewis, S.G., Abel, R.L., Coope, G.R., Field, M.H., Gale, R., Hoare, P.G., Larkin, N.R., Lewis, M.D., Karloukovski, V., Maher, B.A., Peglar, S.M., Preece, R.C., Whittaker, J.E., Stringer, C.B. 2010. Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe. Nature466, 229–233. DOI: 10.1038/nature09117.

 

Teaching

I am involved in a wide variety of teaching activities, ranging from lecture-based courses, to practical and field based teaching. I have led field classes to a variety of UK locations, mainly in upland environments and I ran the 1st year field class to the Cairngorms, Scotland for a number of years. For 2021-22 I will be teaching on the following modules:

  • GEG4210 Getting Started in Geographical and Environmental Research (module convenor)
  • GEG5214 Research Design (tutor)
  • GEG5229 Past Environmental Change (module convenor)
  • GEG5231/6231 Fragile Environments (module convenor)
  • GEG6000/GEG6212: Independent Geographical Study/ Project in Environmental Science (supervisor)

Research

Research Interests:

My research focuses on geoarchaeology and the Palaeolithic record in Britain, with contributions to a number of research projects concerning the Palaeolithic archaeological record, particularly in Eastern England.

The Pathways to Ancient Britain (PAB) project (2012- ) is a collaborative project involveing researchers from teh British Museum, Natural History Museum, Queen Mary and othe insitutions. The PAB project has continued some of the work of the AHOB project (2001-12) and also developng new and distinctive research foci across different timefames of the British Palaeolithic record. Within the PAB project I have been involved in two particular areas of research:

  • Happisburgh Paleolithic Project: Research at Happisburgh has continued to explore this important Palaeolithic locality. Following the initial discoveries and excavation of sites 1 and 3 the discovery of hominin footprints, the oldest examples outside Africa, added further to the importance of this stretch of Norfolk's coastline. Recent work at Hapisburgh has involved monitoring the rapidly eroding coastline and recording new exposures, working with collectors to record and analyse material being found on the beach at Happisburgh and also assesing teh impact of teh Sandscaping work at Bacton and Walcott on Happisburgh's Paleolithic record. Papers from this research have been published in Nature, PlosOne, Journal of Quaternary Science and Quaternary Science Reviews.
  • Barnham Palaeolithic Project: The PAB project is also undertaking new excavations at East Farm, Barnham, Suffolk (2013- ). This research is building on previous work at the site by the research team (1989-1994) to investigate a number of key questions about the relationship between different artefact assemblages and the environmental signal at the site.

The Breckland Palaeolithic Project (2016-19) was a 3 year, Leverhulme Trust funded project that explored the Palaeolithic record of the Breckland region of East Anglia. It focused on the evidence for the earliest human presence in the area, the environment and lithic record of MIS 11 and the Lower/Middle Palaeolithic transition. The project involved collaboration with the British Museum, Natural History Museum and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Papers arising from this project have been published in the Journal of Quaternary Science and Quaternary Science Reviews.

I was also a member of a consortium led by British Museum on an English Heritage funded project Understanding the Cromer Forest-bed Formation which sought to establish the extent on-shore and off-shore of the archaeologically important deposits at Happisburgh. My role concerned the onshore geological investigations, these results were integrated with onshore and offshore geophysical surveys and used to assess the potential threat to the archaeological record at Happisburgh from coastal erosion.

I was a co-investigator on the Mapping Palaeolithic Britain project (2013-16), which is exploring the route-ways, dispersals and landscape use of different colonising populations over the last 800,000 years (800 ky) using datasets comprising 80,000 artefact records from over 600 sites held at the British Museum and in other collections. Papers from this project were published in the Journal of Quaternary Science and the Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology.

An AHRC CDA research project: Palaeolithic archaeology of the Solent River: human occupation in its stratigraphic context (2010-14), in conjunction with British Museum and Reading University, focused on the stratigraphy and Palaeolithic archaeology of the Solent River in southern England. Two graduate students completed PhD theses based on the work of this project. In addition papers from this project have been published in Lithics, the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association and the Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology.

I was a member of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project (2001-12) funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This multi-institution project has examined the record of human presence in Britain from the oldest Lower Palaeolithic evidence at Happisburgh through to the end of the last ice age and the close of the Upper Palaeolithic. This project has made a significant contribution to understanding the nature and timing of human occupation of Britain and the environmental constraints on human presence. My involvement has mainly been on the older part of the record, including sites such as Happisburgh, High Lodge and Hoxne, but I was also involved in the excavations at the Neanderthal site at Lynford.

 

Publications

A full list of publications is available here.

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Davis, R.J., Hatch, M., Hoare, P.G., Voinchet, P., Bahain, J-J. 2021. A revised terrace stratigraphy and new ESR geochronology of the early Middle Pleistocene Bytham River in the Breckland of East Anglia. Quaternary Science Reviews 269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107113

Davis, R.J., Ashton, N., Hatch, M. Hosfield. R., Lewis, S.G. 2021. Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic of Southern England: the evidence from the River Test. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 4, 23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-021-00096-3

Davis, R.J., Ashton, N., Hatch, M., Hoare, P.G., Lewis, S.G. 2021. Palaeolithic archaeology of the Bytham River: human occupation of Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene and its European context. Journal of Quaternary Science 36, 526-546.

Bynoe, R., Ashton, N., Grimmer, T., Hoare, P.G., Leonard, J., Lewis, S.G., Nicholas, D., Parfitt, S.A. 2021. Coastal curios? An analysis of ex situ beach finds for mapping new Palaeolithic sites at Happisburgh, UK. Journal of Quaternary Science 36, 191-210.

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Hoare, P.G., Parfitt, S.A., 2019. Human occupation of Northern Europe in MIS 13: a response to comments by Gibbard et al. (2019). Quaternary Science Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.07.033.

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Field, M.H., Hoare, P.G., Kamermans, H., Knul, M., Mücher, H.J., Parfitt, S.A., Roebroeks, W. and Sier, M.J. 2019. Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13. Happisburgh Site 1 (Norfolk, UK) and its European context. Quaternary Science Reviews 211, 34-58. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.02.028.

Harris, C.R.E., Ashton, N. and Lewis, S.G. 2019. From site to museum: a critical assessment of collection history on the formation and interpretation of the British early Palaeolithic record. Journal of Palaeolithic Archaeology. DOI: 10.1007/s41982-018-0019-5.

Ashton N., Harris, C.R.E., Lewis S.G. 2018. Frontiers and route-ways from Europe: the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Britain. Journal of Quaternary Science  33, 194-211. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.3015.

Davis, R.J., Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Parfitt, S.A., Hatch, M. and Hoare, P.G. 2017. The early Palaeolithic archaeology of the Breckland: current understanding and directions for future research. Journal of Breckland Studies 1, 28-44.

Hatch, M., Davis, R.J., Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N., Briant, R. and Lukas, S. 2017. The stratigraphy and chronology of the Pleistocene fluvial sediments at Warsash, Hampshire, UK: implications for terrace stratigraphy and Palaeolithic archaeology of the River Test. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 128, 198-221. DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2016.12.001

Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., Parfitt, S.A., Davis, R.J. and Stringer, C.B. 2016. Handaxe and non-handaxe assemblages during MIS 11 in northern Europe: Recent investigations at Barnham, Suffolk, UK. Journal of Quaternary Science 31, 837-843. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2918

Davis, R.J., Hatch, M., Ashton, N., Hosfield, R., Lewis, S.G. 2016. The Palaeolithic record of Warsash, Hampshire, UK: implications for late Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic occupation history of Southern Britain. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 127, 558-574

Voinchet, P., Moreno, D., Bahain, J.-J. Tissoux, H., Tombret, O., Falgueres, C., Moncel, M-H., Schreve, D., Candy, I., Pierre Antoine, Ashton, N., Beamish, M., Cliquet, D., Despriée, J., Lewis, S.G., Limondin-Lozouet, N., Locht, J.-L., Parfitt, S., Pope, M. 2015. New chronological data (ESR and ESR/U-series) for the earliest Acheulian sites of north-western Europe. Journal of Quaternary Science. 30, 610-622. doi: 10.1002/jqs.2814.

Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., De Groote, I., Duffy, S., Bates, M.B. Bates, C.R., Hoare, P.G., Lewis, M., Parfitt, S.A., Peglar, S., Williams, C., Stringer, C.B. 2014. Hominin footprints from Early Pleistocene deposits at Happisburgh, UK. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088329

Bailiff, I.K., Lewis, S.G., Drinkall, H., White, M.J. 2013.  Luminescence dating of sediments from a Palaeolithic site associated with a solution feature on the North Downs of Kent, UK. Quaternary Geochronology 18, 135-148. doi:10.1016/j.quageo.2013.04.001

Ashton, N.M., Lewis, S.G., 2012. The environmental contexts of early human occupation of northwest Europe: the British Lower Palaeolithic record. Quaternary International 271, 50–64. (doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.10.022)

Lewis, S.G., Ashton, N.M., Jacobi, R.M. 2011. Testing human presence during the Last Interglacial (MIS 5e): a review of the British evidence. In: Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., Stringer, C.B. (Eds). The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain. Developments in Quaternary Science, 14. Elsevier, Amsterdam, p.125–164.

Abel, R.L., Parfitt, S., Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., Scott, B., Stringer, C.B. 2011. Digital preservation and dissemination of ancient lithic technology with modern micro-CT. Computers and Graphics 35, 878–884. (doi:10.1016/j.cag.2011.03.001)

Parfitt, S.A., Ashton, N.M., Lewis, S.G., Abel, R.L., Coope, G.R., Field, M.H., Gale, R., Hoare, P.G., Larkin, N.R., Lewis, M.D., Karloukovski, V., Maher, B.A., Peglar, S.M., Preece, R.C., Whittaker, J.E., Stringer, C.B. 2010. Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe. Nature 466, 229–233. (doi:10.1038/nature09117)

 

Supervision

Postgraduate research opportunities in Earth Surface Science

Current students

  • Benardout, Ginny (PhD) Quantifying Quaternary climate change: testing micropalaeontological proxy methods for palaeotemperature estimation. Queen Mary University of London.

Completed students

  • Anna March (PhD) Climate variability during MIS 11 in Britain. Queen Mary University of London Principal’s Studentship (2019)
  • Hatch, Marcus (PhD) Palaeolithic Archaeology of the Solent River: Human occupation in its stratigraphic context. (AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award). Queen Mary University of London (2014).
  • Forden, Stephen (MPhil) British palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates during the Hoxnian Interglacial (Marine Isotope Stage 11). Queen Mary University of London.
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