Nicholas is an archaeologist and a postdoctoral researcher based at Stony Brook University in the USA. Since completing his PhD in 2010 at the University of Liverpool, UK, he has held research positions at the University of Western Australia (2012-2013), and the Laboratoire de Préhistoire et Technologie (UMR 7055) of the CNRS in Paris, France (2014-2015). He has conducted fieldwork and specialist lithic analysis in Zambia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Australia, and Kenya. Nicholas became a member of the WTAP in 2014.
Nicholas’s primary research interest is in understanding the functions of stone tools in the African Early and Middle Stone Ages. As well as his expertise in analysing the technology of how stone tools were made, he harnesses a specialist technique called lithic use-wear analysis to determine how they were used. This approach involves carefully examining the edges and surfaces of excavated stone tools under the microscope at ~10-150x, and comparing any damage traces observed with those generated on experimentally-used tools whose uses are known (e.g. digging, wood-working, butchery etc). This kind of work is a significant challenge in Turkana because the types of rocks typically available to hominin toolmakers in the Pliocene and Pleistocene (phonolites, basalts, trachytes) are coarse grained, and do not easily develop wear traces. Nevertheless, the numerous sites dated between 3.3 million years ago and 700,000 years ago that have been discovered across West Turkana offer a unique opportunity to explore the critical issue of tool use by early humans.
In his own words
What do you like about being in the field in Turkana?
“The adventure; the remoteness. The feeling you get standing on a high outcrop, seeing nobody for miles around, and hearing only the wind. It’s a privilege.”
What do you miss when you are in the field?
“Smooth tarmac, my cat, and ice cream. In that order.”
How would you describe your role in the WTAP team?
For more information about Nicholas’s research or to contact him directly, please visit his page on Researchgate.