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Teresa E. Steele


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Stanford University, 2002
  • A.M., Anthropology (Human Biocultural Evolution), Stanford University, 1998
  • B.S., Anthropology & Human Biology, Emory University, 1996 (summa cum laude)


Teresa Steele is a paleoanthropologist who studies the later phases of human evolution – the emergence and evolution of people who were behaviorally and anatomically like recent humans. Her research focuses on why some of these human populations spread out of Africa about 50,000 years ago and were able to replace the Neandertals in Europe. She is particularly interested in the origins of modern human cultural abilities and the relationship between changes in technology, subsistence, and demography

Research Focus

Professor Steele’s research focuses on Middle and Late Pleistocene (780,000-10,000 years ago) archaeology – the Middle Paleolithic made by Neandertals in Europe and the Middle Stone Age (MSA) made by their contemporaries in Africa. She studies the mode and tempo of human behavioral evolution during this time through zooarchaeology – reconstructing human subsistence and ecology through the patterns of variation found in animal bones and mollusks preserved in archaeological sites. She conducts research in South Africa, Morocco and France.

Selected Publications

  • Stahlschmidt, MC, SM Mentzer, S Heinrich, A Cooper, MN Grote, PJ McNeill, JC-B Wilder and TE Steele. 2023. Impact of a recent wildfire on tortoises at Cape Point, South Africa, and implications for the interpretation of heated bones in the archaeological record. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 15: 126
  • Mackay A, SJ Armitage, EM Niespolo, WD Sharp, MC Stahlschmidt, AF Blackwood, KC Boyd, BM Chase, SE Lagle, CF Kaplan, MA Low, NL Martisius, PJ McNeill, I Moffat, CA O’Driscoll, R Rudd, J Orton and TE Steele. 2022. Environmental influences on human innovation and behavioural diversity in southern Africa 92–80 thousand years ago. Nature Ecology & Evolution.
  • Hallett EY, CW Marean, TE Steele, E Álvarez-Fernández, Z Jacobs, JN Cerasoni, V Aldeias, EML Scerri, DI Olszewski, MA El Hajraoui and HL Dibble. 2021. A worked bone assemblage from 120,000–90,000 year old deposits at Contrebandiers Cave, Atlantic Coast, Morocco. iScience 24:102988.
  • Martisius NL, F Welker, T Dogandžić, MN Grote, W Rendu, V Sinet-Mathiot, A Wilcke, SJP McPherron, M Soressi and TE Steele. 2020. Non-destructive ZooMS identification reveals strategic bone tool raw material selection by Neandertals. Scientific Reports 10:7746.
  • Steele TE, E Álvarez-Fernández and E Hallett-Desguez. 2019. A review of shells as personal ornamentation during the African Middle Stone Age. PaleoAnthropology 2019: 24-51.

  • Smith GM, K Ruebens, S Gaudzinski-Windheuser and TE Steele. 2019. Subsistence strategies throughout the African Middle Pleistocene: Faunal evidence for behavioral change and continuity across the Earlier to Middle Stone Age transition. Journal of Human Evolution 127:1-20.

  • Henn BM, TE Steele and TD Weaver. 2018. Clarifying distinct models of modern human origins in Africa. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 53:148-156.

  • Martisius NL, I Sidera, MN Grote, TE Steele, SP McPherron and E Schulz-Kornas. 2018. Time wears on: Assessing how bone wears using 3D surface texture analysis. PLoS One 13:e0206078.

  • Richter D, R Grün, R Joannes-Boyau, TE Steele, F Amani, M Rué, P Fernandes, J-P Raynal, D Geraads, A Ben-Ncer, J-J Hublin and SP McPherron. 2017. The age of the hominin fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and the origins of the Middle Stone Age. Nature 546:293-296.

  • Collins B and TE Steele. 2017. An often overlooked resource: Ostrich (Struthio spp.) eggshell in the archaeological record. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 13:121-131.
  • Steele TE, A Mackay, KE Fitzsimmons, M Igreja, B Marwick, J Orton, S Schwortz and MC Stahlschmidt. 2016. Varsche Rivier 003: A Middle and Later Stone Age site with Still Bay and Howiesons Poort assemblages in southern Namaqualand, South Africa. PaleoAnthropology 2016: 100-163.


I regularly teach:

  • ANT 003: Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANT 25: Ancient Animals and People
  • ANT 174: European Prehistory
  • ANT 177: African Prehistory
  • ANT 180: Zooarchaeology
  • ANT 216: Problems in Archeological Method: Advanced Zooarchaeology
  • ANT 216: Problems in Archeological Method: Proposal Writing


  • 2020 Graduate Program Advising and Mentoring Award
  • 2014-2019 University of California, Davis Chancellor’s Fellow
  • 2016-2017 Faculty Development Award
  • 2011 Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award