Personal profile

Personal profile

Simon Armitage graduated with a BA in Geography at the University of Oxford before moving to the University of Wales Aberystwyth to research his PhD entitled “Testing and application of luminescence techniques using sediment from the southeast African coast” under the supervision of Prof. Ann Wintle and Prof. Geoff Duller. He finished his PhD and moved back to Oxford where he was employed for four years as a postdoctoral researcher on two NERC funded projects. Simon was appointed Lecturer in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway in 2006.

Simon's research is based upon the application of Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating to late Quaternary sediments. In particular he is interested in climate change and archaeology in dryland environments. His current work focuses on the impacts of late Quaternary climatic changes upon pre-industrial human/hominin populations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Simon is working on research projects in Libya, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Research interests

Climate and archaeology of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
My recent and ongoing research is focussed on climate change and archaeology in drylands. In particular, I am interested in the impacts that Late Quaternary climatic changes have had upon pre-industrial human/hominin populations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. While environmental explanations for change are unfashionable in more humid areas of the globe, it is clear that climate is of critical importance in regions that are presently at the margins of habitability. In North Africa and Arabia, understanding the interplay between climate change and human populations is particularly important at times centered around the last two interglacials. Around the time of the last interglacial, anatomically modern humans (AMHs) migrated out of sub-Saharan Africa and began to colonise the rest of the globe (the so called “Out of Africa” migration). In North Africa, my research primarily concerns the environmental background to this migration, specifically testing the assumption that the Sahara acted as a powerful barrier to past human migrations. In addition, I am currently supervising a PhD student who is providing a chronology for human occupation in the landscape around the famous North Libyan cave site at Haua Fteah. This site potentially provides evidence for early human occupation at the northern end of a trans-Saharan migration route. In Arabia, my recent work has concentrated upon dating early evidence for AMH occupation of the Arabian Peninsula.

Research interests (continued)


Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating


My main tool for geographical research is optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. Over the last decade the single-aliquot regenerative dose technique has led to significant decreases in the uncertainties associated with OSL ages, but these improvements have led to the identification of additional sources of error which were previously of negligible importance. My research into the luminescence properties of quartz has been driven by the requirement to enhance the credibility of ages generated as part of my ongoing interests in climate change and archaeology. This has led to research into instrument calibration and the generation of accurate ages for sediments which are poorly-reset, very old or located within regions which experience extreme climatic conditions. Recent projects which rely on the expertise gained during this work include the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project (Haua Fteah, Libya) and dating of sites in the United Arab Emirates (Jebel Faya) and South Africa (De Hoop Nature Reserve).




Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

External positions

Principal Investigator, SFF Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), Institute for Archaeology, History, Culture and Religious Studies, University of Bergen, Norway

1 Oct 201730 Sept 2027


  • Archaeological techniques
  • Archaeology
  • Climate & climate change

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or
  • Earliest known human burial in Africa

    Martinón-Torres, M., d’Errico, F., Santos, E., Álvaro Gallo, A., Amano, N., Archer, W., Armitage, S. J., Arsuaga, J. L., Bermúdez de Castro, J. M., Blinkhorn, J., Crowther, A., Douka, K., Dubernet, S., Faulkner, P., Fernández-Colón, P., Kourampas, N., González García, J., Larreina, D., Le Bourdonnec, F. X. & MacLeod, G. & 16 others, Martín-Francés, L., Massilani, D., Mercader, J., Miller, J. M., Ndiema, E., Notario, B., Pitarch Martí, A., Prendergast, M. E., Queffelec, A., Rigaud, S., Roberts, P., Shoaee, M. J., Shipton, C., Simpson, I., Boivin, N. & Petraglia, M. D., 5 May 2021, In: Nature. 593, 7857, p. 95-100 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    53 Downloads (Pure)
  • Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years

    Groucutt, H. S., White, T. S., Scerri, E. M. L., Andrieux, E., Clark-Wilson, R., Breeze, P. S., Armitage, S. J., Stewart, M., Drake, N., Louys, J., Price, G. J., Duval, M., Parton, A., Candy, I., Carleton, W. C., Shipton, C., Jennings, R. P., Zahir, M., Blinkhorn, J. & Blockley, S. & 3 others, Al-Omari, A., Alsharekh, A. M. & Petraglia, M. D., 1 Sept 2021, In: Nature. 597, 7876, p. 376-380 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Human footprints provide snapshot of last interglacial ecology in the Arabian interior

    Stewart, M., Clark-Wilson, R., Breeze, P., Janulis, K., Candy, I., Armitage, S., Ryves, D., Louys, J., Duval, M., Price, G., Cuthbertson, P., Bernal, M., Drake, N., Alsharekh, A., Zahrani, B., Al-Omari, A., Roberts, P., Groucutt, H. S. & Petraglia, M. D., 18 Sept 2020, In: Science Advances. 6, 38, eaba8940.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • 78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later Stone Age innovation in an East African tropical forest

    Shipton, C., Roberts, P., Archer, W., Armitage, S., Bita, C., Blinkhorn, J., Courtney-Mustaphi, C., Crowther, A., Curtis, R., D'Errico, F., Douka, K., Faulkner, P., Groucutt, H., Helm, R., Herries, A., Jembe, S., Kourampas, N., Lee-Thorp, J., Marchant, R. & Mercader, J. & 8 others, Pitarch Marti, A., Prendergast, M., Rowson, B., Tengeza, A., Tibesasa, R., White, T., Petraglia, M. & Boivin, N., 9 May 2018, In: Nature Communications. 9, p. 1-8 8 p., 1832 (2018).

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Homo sapiens in Arabia by 85,000 years ago

    Groucutt, H., Grün, R., Zalmout, I., Drake, N., Armitage, S., Candy, I., Clark-Wilson, R., Louys, J., Breeze, P., Duval, M., Buck, L., Kivell, T., Pomeroy, E., Stephens, N., Stock, J., Stewart, M., Price, G., Kinsley, L., Sung, W. W. & Alsharekh, A. & 10 others, Al-Omari, A., Zahir, M., Memesh, A., Abdulshakoor, A., Al-Masari, A., Bahameem, A., Al Murayyi, K., Zahrani, B., Scerri, E. & Petraglia, M., 9 Apr 2018, In: Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2, p. 800–809 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    321 Downloads (Pure)