Paul Lane
Director of HEEAL



Paul Lane is Director of the Marie Curie HEEAL project and served as President of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) between 2008-10. He is an archaeologist with over twenty years’ research experience in Africa. He did his undergraduate degree at Cambridge, where he specialised in later European prehistory. He returned to Cambridge to do his doctoral research with Ian Hodder as his supervisor. This consisted of an ethnoarchaeological study of space and time among the Dogon in Mali, West Africa, receiving his PhD in 1986. After a few years working in industrial archaeology and countryside interpretation in the UK, he took up a lectureship in archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1989. In 1992, he moved to a post at the University of Botswana, where he taught archaeology and museum studies and with colleagues was responsible for setting up and developing the first degree programme in archaeology at the university, remaining there until mid-1997. Prior to coming to York, he was Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, based in Nairobi, for eight years from 1998-2006, where he conducted research on the transition to farming around Lake Victoria, histories of soil erosion in northern Tanzania, the historical archaeology of Luo settlement, the maritime archaeology of the Indian Ocean coast, and the archaeology of pastoralist societies on the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya. His current research builds on this previous work, and he is now in the course of developing a programme in global historical ecologies, with particular emphasis on climate change.


1998-2006  Director , British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.


1998  Senior Research Fellow, McDonald Institute, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge


1992-1997  Lecturer, Archaeology Unit, Dept. of History, University of Botswana.


1991  Archaeological Consultant, for Vale of Pickering Research Trust.


1989-91  Lecturer, Archaeology Unit, Dept. of History, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


1989  Archaeological Consultant, for North York Moors National Park.


1987-89  Countryside Interpretation Officer, Weston-super-Mare Civic Society.


1986-87  Archaeology Team Leader, Avon Industrial Buildings Trust, Bristol.


1986  Archaeological Supervisor, East Brittany Survey, for University College, London University.




















Departmental roles

Paul is a member of the Department's Research Committee.



My main research interests are in the organisation and use of space and time in pre-industrial societies, the historical ecology of African landscapes, cultural perceptions of place, the materialisation of memory, maritime archaeology, the transition to farming in Africa, and indigenous archaeologies. In my spare time, I also work on aspects of the European Mesolithic, and until I moved to Kenya assisted on the Vale of Pickering Research Trust’s annual surveys and excavations on a regular basis, including excavation and field survey at the site of Star Carr.


Historical Ecologies of East African Landscapes (HEEAL)

This four-year project is funded by the EU through a Marie Curie Excellence Grant. It focuses on the environmental and social consequences of the intensification of agriculture, herding and the emergence of specialised hunting from c. 1500 AD in eastern Africa, so as to refine current understanding of the historical ecology of the region’s changing landscapes. In addition to the new data generated by three PhD projects and analysis of existing historical, archaeological, ethnographic and environmental data sets, it is anticipated that this project will entail landscape-scale surveys of settlement patterns, land use, place names and natural resources.

Researching Ivory: Integrating scientific analyses, historical data, artefact studies and conservations needs

This Research Network was established in 2009 in collaboration with Dr Sonia O’Connor (University of Bradford) with funding from the AHRC and EPSRC, as part of their joint Science and Heritage Programme.

The ultimate objectives of the research network are to highlight the research potential and vulnerability of items made from different types of ivory held in UK museums, and to provide working guidelines as to how curators and researchers can best maximise this research potential given different constraints arising from factors such as the condition of the material, the level of documentation, the rarity and/or aesthetic value of the piece, available funding and research context.

The more specific aims of the network are to develop a set of protocols and a decision tree that can be followed by museum curators, conservators and other researchers considering the investigation of the geographical and species origin of the ivories held in a particular collection. These will be accompanied by clear guidelines to the different analytical and other techniques currently available, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and the type of information that their application has the potential to reveal. The emphasis of this aspect of the network will be on making it easier for researchers to make informed choices. This is important for several reasons. These include differences in the levels of funding and expertise available to different museums for collections research; different levels of knowledge between curators, conservators, art historians, archaeologists, natural scientists and physical scientists concerning the nature of the techniques and their application; variations in the rarity, artistic merit, historical and/or scientific significance and condition of pieces of ‘ivory’, whether worked or not, held in different museum collections; differences in the specific research questions being posed; and differences in curatorial and conservation needs and priorities between institutions. For more information, please follow this link: Ebur.

The emergence of Tswana landscape practices in South Eastern Botswana: Exploring the ecological history of the Kanye-Ranaka area

This research builds upon previous work conducted in the area by Paul Lane and some of his students while he was teaching at the University of Botswana, between 1992-1997. The current project is being conducted in collaboration with Stefania Merlo at the University of Botswana, and her students. The project has two components. A research element, which aims to address unanswered questions on the emergence of Tswana landscape practices in South Eastern Botswana. An a data archiving element, which is intended to process the legacy field data from the previous phases of field work, digitally archive these for the benefit of future researchers and Botswana’s heritage resources manages, and publish reports on the surveys and excavations conducted between 1992 and 1996.

Research group(s)



I am Module Leader for the First Year History & Theory course, to which I contribute lectures on Antiquarianism and the Origins of Archaeological Thought, Culture History, Ethnoarchaeology & Experimental Archaeology, and The Legacies of Processualism, as well as the final wrap-up lecture which looks at how changes in archaeological thought, practice, methods and analytical techniques over 150 years has influenced interpretations of the site of Great Zimbabwe.

In addition, I teach a Third Year Special Topics module on The Archaeology of Colonialism in the Winter term.

I also serve as the Archaeology Department's Examinations Officer, and supervise a selection of undergraduate dissertations on an annual basis.


I teach a four-week MA Skills module in the Spring Term on Archaeological Theory and Interpretation.

As part of the EU-funded EUROTAST project I will be supervising one Early Stage Researcher (ESR 13) / PhD candidate on Public Understandings of the Legacies of Transatlantic Slavery


External activities


Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London

Society memberships: Prehistoric Society, Royal Archaeological Institute, Royal Anthropological Institute, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Cornwall Archaeological Society, Society of Africanist Archaeologists, Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists

Editorial duties


  • Editorial Board Member, World Archaeology
  • Editorial Advisory Board Member, Journal of Social Archaeology
  • Section Editor - Historical Archaeology, Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (ed. C. Smith)
  • Contributing Editor, The Review of Archaeology
  • Editorial Board Member, Afrique et Historie
  • Editorial Board Member, Azania
  • Editorial Board Member, African Archaeological Review


  • Editor, Azania 1998-2006
  • Issue Editor, Surface Archaeology, Archaeological Review from Cambridge 4.1 (1984)
  • Editorial Committee Member (1983-5), Archaeological Review from Cambridge
Paul Lane conducting survey along the Nile south of Juba, Southern Suda 2009.

Contact details

Dr Paul Lane

Tel: (44) 1904 433966