Katherine MacDonald is a Postdoctoral research at the Faculty of Archaeology.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
Three interconnected themes run through my research: brains and cognition, ecological niche and adaptive flexibility (an ability to develop novel solutions to problems, through processes including innovation and social learning). These themes are important throughout the history of the human lineage as well as for understanding the origins of Homo sapiens. In order to understand how these characteristics changed and interacted throughout human evolution, I focus on relevant case studies from a range of different Palaeolithic periods and regions. This has varied from a study of the role of adaptive flexibility in the earliest hominin expansion out of Africa, to Neanderthal learning of subsistence skills. I also draw on relevant data from other disciplines, particularly primatology and ethnography, which can address questions that are difficult to answer based on the archaeological record alone. My methodology is often characterized by analysis of large datasets, using computer applications.
A key part of my current research focuses on the earliest occupation of north-west Europe. At this north-western edge of their distribution the earliest occupants probably encountered new and challenging conditions. What biological and behavioural adaptations were necessary? Fire is often seen as one of the most valuable tools for coping with cold conditions. However, chronologies for the use of fire diverge dramatically. Clear traces of habitual fire use date to 400-300,000 years ago - substantially younger than evidence for the arrival of the first hominins in Europe, including the north-west. Could the early occupants have kept themselves warm in winter and processed their food without fire? This complements other research in the Human Origins Group aiming at narrowing down the chronology of fire use, and taking a long-term perspective on human adaptation to and manipulation of their environment.
I teach and supervise theses on topics related to my research.
I completed my graduate training at the University of Southampton, UK (MSc Archaeological Computing and PhD in Archaeology). I took up a research position in the Faculty of Archaeology University of Leiden in 1994. Since then I have worked here and also spent time at the Monrepos Research Institute in Germany.
- Roebroeks J.W.M., MacDonald K., Scherjon F., Bakels C.C., Kindler L., Nikulina A., Pop E. & Gaudzinski-Windheuser. S. (2021), Landscape modification by Last Interglacial Neanderthals, Science Advances 7(51).
- Vaesen K., MacDonald K., Scherjon F., Veen E. van & Roebroeks W. (2021), Reply to McGrew: chimpanzees do not exhibit widespread cultural diffusion, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 118(51): e2116917118.
- MacDonald K., Scherjon F., Veen E. van, Vaesen K., Roebroeks W. & Bakels C.C. (2021), Middle Pleistocene fire use: the first signal of widespread cultural diffusion in human evolution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 118(31): e2101108118.
- MacDonald K. (2021), Review of: Hosfield R. (2020) The earliest Europeans – a year in the life: survival strategies in the Lower Palaeolithic, The Holocene 31(9): 1507-1508.
- Roebroeks J.W.M., MacDonald K. & Scherjon F. (2021), Establishing patterns of early fire use in human evolution. In: Gaudzinski-Windheuser S. & Jöris O. (Eds.) The Beef behind All Possible Pasts. The Tandem Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street (Volume 1. Heidelberg: Propylaeum.
- Roebroeks W., MacDonald K., Scherjon F., Bakels C.C, Kindler L., Nikulina A., Pop E.A.L. & Gaudzinski-Windheuser S. (2021), Landscape modification by Last Interglacial Neanderthals, Science Advances 7(51): eabj5567.
- MacDonald, K. (2019), Strong differences between Neanderthals and AMHs cannot be inferred from ethnographic evidence for skill and learning in hunting [Strong differences between Neanderthals and AMHs cannot be inferred from ethnographic evidence for skill and learning in hunting] (translation: MacDonald K.). In: Jöris O., Nishiaki Y. (Ed.) Learning among Neanderthals and Palaeolithic Modern Humans: Archaeological evidence. Singapore: Springer.
- MacDonald K. (2018), Fire-Free Hominin Strategies for Coping with Cool Winter Temperatures in North-Western Europe from Before 800,000 to Circa 400,000 Years Ago, PaleoAnthropology 2018: 7-26.
- MacDonald K. (2017), The use of fire and human distribution, Temperature 4(2): 153-165.
- Aarts J.M.M.J.G., Alink G.M., Scherjon F., MacDonald K., Smith A.C., Nijveen H. & Roebroeks W. (2016), Fire Usage and Ancient Hominin Detoxification Genes: Protective Ancestral Variants Dominate While Additional Derived Risk Variants Appear in Modern Humans, PLoS ONE 11(e0161102).
- Scherjon F., Bakels C.C., MacDonald K. & Roebroeks W. (2015), Burning the Land. An Ethnographic Study of Off-Site Fire Use by Current and Historically Documented Foragers and Implications for the Interpretation of Past Fire Practices in the Landscape, Current Anthropology 56(3): 299-326.
- MacDonald K., Smaers J.B. & Steele J. (2015), Hominin geographical range dynamics and relative brain size: Do non-human primates provide a good analogy?, Journal of Human Evolution : 1-12.
- Heyes P. & MacDonald K. (2015), Neandertal energetics: Uncertainty in body mass estimation limits comparisons with Homo sapiens, Journal of Human Evolution : 1-5.
- Scherjon F., Bakels C.C., MacDonald K. & W. Roebroeks (2013), Burning the land: an ethnographic study of non-domestic fire use by recent and sub-recent foragers and implications for the interpretation of past fire practices in the landscape. Proceedings of the European society for the Study of Human Evolution 2: European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). 199.
- MacDonald K. Mac, Smaers J. & Steele J. (2013), Do non-human primates provide a good analogy for hominin dispersal?. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution..
- MacDonald K. & Roebroeks J.W.M. (2013), Neandertal linguistic abilities: an alternative view.. In: Botha R., Everaert M. (Eds.) The evolutionary emergence of language: evidence and inference. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 97-117.
- MacDonald K. & Roebroeks J.W.M. (2012), Guest editorial. The environment and chronology of the earliest occupation of north-west Europe: current knowledge, problems and new research directions, Quaternary International 271: 1-5.
- MacDonald K. & Roebroeks J.W.M. (2012), Member of editorial staff Quaternary International 271(2012).
- Cohen K.M., MacDonald K., Joordens J.C.A., Roebroeks W. & Gibbard P.L. (2012), The earliest occupation of north-west Europe: a coastal perspective, Quaternary International 271: 70-83.
- MacDonald K., Martinón-Torres M., Dennell R.W. & Bermúdez de Castro J.M. (2012), Discontinuity in the record for hominin occupation in south-western Europe: Implications for occupation of the middle latitudes of Europe, Quaternary International 271: 84-97.
- W. Roebroeks, Hublin J.-J. & MacDonald K. (2011), Continuities and discontinuities in Neandertal presence – a closer look at Northwestern Europe. In: Ashton N., Lewis S., Stringer C.B. (Eds.) The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 113-123.
- Fluck H., MacDonald K. & Uomini N. (Eds.) (2011), Innovation and the evolution of human behaviour. Philadelphia: Palaeoanthropology Journal.
- MacDonald K. (2011), Special Issue: Innovation and the Evolution of Human Behavior. Introduction, Palaeoanthropology 2011: 106-110.
- MacDonald K. (2010), Learning to hunt. In: Lancy D., Bock J., Gaskins S. (Eds.) The anthropology of learning in childhood. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. 371-396.
- MacDonald K., W. Roebroeks & Verpoorte A. (2009), An Energetics Perspective on the Neandertal Record. In: Hublin, J.-J. Richards, M.P. (Eds.) Evolution of Hominid Diets: Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence.: Springer. 211-220.
- MacDonald K. (2009), The British Lower Palaeolithic: Stones in contention, John McNabb. London, Routledge (2007) 420pp., Hardcover, € 64; Paperback, £ 25.99, ISBN:978-0-415-42728-9. Review of: John McNabb (2007) The British Lower Palaeolithic: Stones in contention, QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL 195: 164-165.
- MacDonald K. (2008), Book review: The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the Role of Women in Prehistory Review of: Adovasio, J.M., Soffer, O., Page, J. (2007) The invisible sex: uncovering the true roles of women in prehistory, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 136: 497-498.
- MacDonald K. (2007), Cross-cultural comparison of learning in human hunting: implications for life history evolution,, Human Nature 18: 386-402.
- MacDonald K. (2007), Ecological hypotheses for human brain evolution: evidence for skill and knowledge in the ethnographic literature on hunting. In: Roebroeks J.W.M. (Ed.) Guts and Brains. An Integrative Approach to the Hominin Record.: Leiden University Press.
- Anwar N., MacDonald K., W. Roebroeks & Verpoorte A. (2007), The evolution of the human niche: integrating models with the fossil record. In: W. Roebroeks (Ed.) Guts and brains: an integrative approach to the hominin record. Leiden: Leiden University Press. 235-269.
- MacDonald K. & Roebroeks W. (2006), Comment on S. Kuhn and M. Stiner, What's a mother to do?, Current Anthropology 47: 966-967.
- MacDonald K. (2006), The ecology and evolution of hominin geographic range: setting a context for archaeological interpretation using comparative analysis.. Oxford, UK: British Archaeological Reports.
- Copy-editing academic texts in English