Robert Foley (academic)

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Robert Foley
Professor Robert Foley,Wadi Mathendous, January 2011.jpg
Foley in 2011
Born Robert Andrew Foley
(1953-03-18) 18 March 1953 (age 62)
Sussex, England
Nationality British
Fields Biological anthropology
Prehistoric archaeology
Institutions University of Durham
University of Cambridge
Alma mater Peterhouse, Cambridge
Thesis  (1980)
Notable awards Fellow of the British Academy (2007)

Robert Andrew Foley, FBA (born 18 March 1953) is a British anthropologist, archaeologist, and academic, specialising in human evolution. From 1977 to 1985, he was a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Durham. He has been a fellow of King's College, Cambridge since 1987, and Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution at the University of Cambridge since 2003.[1]

Early career[edit]

Foley was born on 18 March 1953 in Sussex, England, to Nelson and Jean Foley.[2][1] He was educated at Ardingly College and Peterhouse, Cambridge where he earned an MA and PhD in archaeology.

Academic career[edit]

From 1977 to 1985, Foley was a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Durham. He then returned to the University of Cambridge to take up a post in the Department of Biological Anthropology. From 1986 to 1998, he was a lecturer in biological anthropology. Since 1987, he has been a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. From 1998 to 2003, he was Reader in evolutionary anthropology. He co-founded the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies in 2001 and has been its co-director since its inception. In 2003, he was appointed Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution.[1][3]

In 2001 Foley, with co-founder Marta Mirazón Lahr, established the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust. The Centre was designed to provide a home for the Duckworth Collection, and first class laboratories and facilities to support research in human evolution which integrated genetics, anthropology, and other fields.[4]


Foley has carried out research in many aspects of prehistory and human evolution. His early work was on the Later Stone Age of East Africa, where he developed off-site site archaeology as an approach to landscape distributions of artefacts.[5] In his work on human evolution he has emphasized an evolutionary ecological approach, seeing human adaptations as solutions to the problems faced by hominins in the environments in which they were living.[6] This evolutionary research has also explored the relationship between climate and evolutionary change,[7] the evolution of social behavior (finite social space model), and patterns of hominin diversity. This approach was summarized in two books – Another Unique Species, and Humans Before Humanity.

Since the 1990s Foley has collaborated with Marta Mirazón Lahr on research relating to the evolution of modern humans. Their work has argued for multiple dispersals of early humans out of Africa, and the use of the ‘southern route’. Their approach has emphasized the role of geographical factors in shaping human evolution, and a central role for dispersals as the process by which diversity evolves.[8][9][10]


In 2007, Foley was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[11]


  1. ^ a b c "FOLEY, Prof. Robert Andrew". Who's Who 2015. A & C Black. November 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Interview with Professor Robert Foley, Part 1". YouTube. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Fellows of King’s College, Cambridge". King’s College. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  4. ^ "Features of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  5. ^ Foley, R. A. (1981). "Off-site Archaeology and human adaptations in Eastern Africa". Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 5. 
  6. ^ Foley, R. & Gamble, C. (2009). "The ecology of social transitions in human evolution". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364: 3267–3279. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0136. 
  7. ^ Foley, R. (1994). "Speciation, extinction and climatic change in hominid evolution". Journal of Human Evolution 26: 275–289. doi:10.1006/jhev.1994.1017. 
  8. ^ Lahr, M. M. & Foley, R. (1994). "Multiple Dispersals and Modern Human Origins". Evolutionary Anthropology 3(2): 48–60. doi:10.1002/evan.1360030206. 
  9. ^ Lahr, M. M. & Foley, R. (1998). "Towards a theory of modern human origins: Geography, demography, and diversity in recent human evolution". Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 41: 137–176. 
  10. ^ Foley, R. & Lahr, M. M. (1992). "Beyond ’Out of Africa’: Reassessing the origins of Homo sapiens.". Journal of Human Evolution 22: 523–529. doi:10.1016/0047-2484(92)90085-n. 
  11. ^ "British Academy Fellows – FOLEY, Professor Robert". British Academy. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 

Selected publications[edit]

  • Foley, R.A (2005), "Species diversity in human evolution: challenges and opportunities", Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 60: 67–72, doi:10.1080/00359190509520479 
  • Lewin, Roger; Foley, Robert (2003), Principles of Human Evolution (Second Edition), Blackwells,UK 
  • Foley, R.A (2001), "Adaptive radiations and dispersals in hominin evolutionary ecology", Evolutionary Anthropology, Supp 1: 32–37, doi:10.1002/evan.10051 
  • Foley, Robert (1995), Humans before Humanity, Blackwells,UK 
  • Foley, R.A; Lee, P.C (1991), "Ecology and energies of encephalization in hominid evolution", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 334: 223–232, doi:10.1098/rstb.1991.0111 
  • Foley, Robert; Dunbar, Robin (14 October 1989), "Beyond the bones of contention", New Scientist 124 (1686): 21–25 

External links[edit]