Canada Research Chair in Human Evolutionary Studies
Professor of Archaeology and Biological Anthropology
Department of Archaeology
Simon Fraser University
EMAIL: mcollard[at]sfu.ca (replace [at] with @)
I am a bit of an odd anthropologist. Anthropology is usually defined as the scientific study of humans, past and present. In North America, anthropology is widely viewed as having four fields: archaeology, biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Typically, anthropologists work within one of these fields. That’s not been my approach. I’ve pursued questions that I think are interesting and important regardless of the field to which a given question is thought to “belong.” As a consequence, I’ve worked with many different types of data from a wide range of time periods and regions. Some of my studies have focused on early hominin fossils. Others have examined stone projectile points. Still others have concentrated on Neolithic pottery. I have even worked on the behaviour of living humans. The constants in my research have been evolutionary theory and the hypothesis testing approach. More or less every study I have pursued has combined the conceptual and analytical tools of evolutionary biology with explicit hypothesis testing. I have found it to be a productive and rewarding way of doing anthropology.
The following are among the topics I have worked on over the last 20 years:
– Species identification in the hominin fossil record.
– The phylogenetic relationships of the hominins and other primates.
– The origin and evolution of genus Homo.
– Modern human origins.
– The impact of thermoregulation on human evolution.
– Culture in non-human animals.
– The processes responsible for the evolution of cultural diversity.
– The determinants of variation in toolkit structure among non-industrial populations.
– The use of radiocarbon dates to investigate demographic change in the past.
– The transition to farming in Europe.
– The colonization and early history of the Americas.
– The evolution of religion.
I trained in both archaeology and biological anthropology. I read for a BA in Archaeology and Prehistory at the University of Sheffield. I then pursued a PhD in hominin palaeontology at the University of Liverpool. Subsequently, I spent three years as a Wellcome Trust Bioarchaeology Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at University College London. At Sheffield my main mentors were Marek Zvelebil and Andrew Chamberlain. At Liverpool I was supervised by Bernard Wood. My postdoc research was supervised by Leslie Aiello.
I have worked in a variety of capacities in the UK, the USA, and Canada. At the end of my postdoc, I was employed as a lecturer (the equivalent of an assistant professor) in the Department of Anthropology at University College London. In January 2003, I moved to the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University-Pullman to take up an assistant professorship. Eighteen months later, I joined the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia as an assistant professor. In July 2007, I moved to the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University to become an associate professor and Canada Research Chair. I was promoted to Full Professor in September 2011. Since 2013, I have also held a part-time personal chair in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen in the UK.
In addition to the foregoing positions, I am the director of the SFU Human Evolutionary Studies Program [website] and an associate member of the SFU Department of Biological Sciences [website]. I am also an adjunct member of the Environmental Futures Research Institute of Griffith University, Australia [website], an adjunct member of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witswatersrand in South Africa [website], and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden [website].
Lastly, I have recently been elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London [website].