Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: April Nowell

Affiliation: University of Victoria

Dr. April Nowell is a Paleolithic archaeologist and Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Victoria.  She directs an international team of researchers in the study of Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites in Jordan and collaborates with colleagues on the study of Pleistocene rock art in Australia and Europe.  She is known for her publications on cognitive archaeology, Paleolithic art, the archaeology of children and the relationship between science, pop culture, and the media. Her edited volumes include  Stone Tools and the Evolution of Human Cognition (2010)  and Making Scenes: Global Perspectives on Scenes in Rock Art (2020), both with Prof. Iain Davidson; Archaeology of Night: Life After Dark in the Ancient World (2018) with Dr. Nancy Gonlin, and the forthcoming Culturing the Body: Prehistoric Perspectives on Identity and Sociality with Dr. Benjamin Collins.  Her single authored book Growing up in the Ice Age: Archaeological and Fossil Evidence of the Lived Lives of Pleistocene Children will be available in January 2021.


What today is a barren desert in Azraq, NW Jordan was once a thriving wetland, teeming with life—a true oasis. Azraq, as part of the Levantine corridor, lies at the crossroads between the Eurasian and African continents.  Over the millennia, Azraq has borne witness to multiple migrations of early human ancestors including Homo erectus and Neandertals, many of whom left behind clues about their ways of life in an often challenging environment. One particularly rich archaeological locale is the 250,000 year-old Shishan Marsh site in southern Azraq.  Based on studies of the inhabitants’ stone tools, including our detailed analysis of the oldest identifiable protein residues in the world, and of the diverse strategies they used to hunt and scavenge their prey, our team discovered that these early humans were surprisingly sophisticated technologically, socially and cognitively.

More than 40,000 years ago humans began to paint animals, mysterious symbols and even people on cave walls. For over a century, researchers have been interested in how these images were created  and what they might have meant.  Drawing on Dr. Nowell’s most recent work in Australia and Europe, this lecture will look at the science behind the art, and how it is leading to a new understanding of the lives of Ice Age children and teens.

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