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Dr Simon Underdown - University Alliance. Oxford, England, GB

Dr Simon Underdown

Reader in Biological Anthropology in the Human Origins and Paleo-Environments Research Group | Oxford Brookes University

Oxford, England, UNITED KINGDOM

He researches human evolution - examining ancient DNA to reconstruct past human and animal life.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Public Engagement in Science

Human Evolution


Ancient DNA



Dr Simon Underdown is Reader in Biological Anthropology in the Human Origins and Paleo-Environments (HOPE) Research Group at Oxford Brookes University. He researches human evolution - examining ancient DNA (drawn from soils at special archaeological sites, mostly in Africa and the Middle East) to reconstruct past human and animal life. He has particularly traced the origins, historical genetics and spread (from animals to humans) of certain viruses such as the herpes virus.

Simon is Chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Education Committee and is involved in broader science education and public engagement (in science) initiatives, as well as explores how human evolution is taught. He is a member of the Society for the Study of Human Biology.

Media Mentions (5)

Remains of Plymouth's 'first man' found by quarry workers

Plymouth Live  online


Dr Simon Underdown, senior lecturer in biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, said that the fact human remains had been found among Ice Age animal fossils suggested they were more than 10,000 years old.

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From Anthropology to Social Theory: Rethinking the Social Sciences, by Arpad Szakolczai and Bjørn Thomassen

Times Higher Education  online


Simon Underdown on a call for the discipline to reclaim its maverick heritage to rejuvenate itself and tackle dynamic real-world problems.

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We share even more DNA with Neanderthals than we thought

Wired UK  online


This new study highlights how little really separates us from our extinct cousins, says Simon Underdown at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. It could have just as easily been us that ended up going extinct around 40,000 years ago, he says. “I think that it might have been bad luck – we could be having this conversation as Neanderthals and thinking about how lucky those Homo sapiens were to get wiped out.”

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Was Charles Darwin a racist?

BBC Two Newsnight  online


In a controversial new book, AN Wilson suggests naturalist Charles Darwin was a racist and a proponent of slavery, and misguided in his famous theory of evolution. But is this accurate? Kirsty Wark discusses the controversial claims with AN Wilson and with Simon Underdown, research fellow in biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University.

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Human evolution lecturer: 'We need aggression' to survive

BBC Radio 4  online


Dr Simon Underdown, principal lecturer in human evolution at Oxford Brookes University and vice-president of the Royal Anthropology Institute, said being able to react aggressively to situations had assisted humans' evolutionary success.

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Multimedia Appearances





Ancient fecal specimen offers time capsule of our gut microbiome’s past



Education (2)

University of Cambridge: Ph.D., Biological Anthropology 2004

University of Leicester: B.Sc., Archaeology 2000

Affiliations (5)

  • Chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute Education Committee
  • Trustee of the Horniman Fund
  • Project mentor for the RAI-Leach Fellowship in the Public Understanding of Anthropology
  • QAA Anthropology Benchmark Review Panel member
  • Member of International Association for the Study of Arabia

Event Appearances (5)

Seminar for Arabian Studies

Conference Paper (2020)  Cordoba, Spain

RLAHA Martin Aitken Seminar Series

Seminar (2020)  Oxford, England

Department of Archaeology

Seminar (2019)  Cambridge, England

British Association of Biological Anthropology & Osteoarchaeology’s 20th Anniversary Conference

Keynote Lecture (2018)  Cranfield University

South West Wilts Virus Group

Invited Talk (2018)  Oxford Brookes University

Articles (5)

Human biology and ancient DNA: exploring disease, domestication and movement

Annals of Human Biology

2019 The development of ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis has radically transformed how we think about and study the past. The use of aDNA technology has permeated almost every area of anthropology and archaeology and continues to radically alter how we understand the past.

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The relative roles of maternal survival and inter-personal violence as selection pressures on the persistence of Neanderthal hypercoagulability alleles in modern Europeans

Annals of Human Biology

2019 Simonti et al. reported variation in the frequency of Neanderthal alleles found in modern humans and argued that they may have provided an evolutionary advantage. One such allele is SNP rs3917862, associated with hypercoagulability. rs3917862 can be deleterious, but can also help prevent blood loss.

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Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology

The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology

2018 Biological anthropology is a subject that draws from a remarkably diverse range of sciences to explore the biological aspects of humanity. However, it is unique in its focus on the interplay between biological and cultural adaptations.

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The role of aDNA in understanding the coevolutionary patterns of human sexually transmitted infections


2018 Analysis of pathogen genome data sequenced from clinical and historical samples has made it possible to perform phylogenetic analyses of sexually transmitted infections on a global scale, and to estimate the diversity, distribution, and coevolutionary host relationships of these pathogens, providing insights into pathogen emergence and disease prevention.

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Sceptical Perspectives on Melancholy: Burton, Swift, Pope, Sterne

The Review of English Studies

2017 This article examines common features in Swift, Pope and Sterne’s responses to Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the wider humoral tradition. It documents the willingness of Swift and Pope simultaneously to take the latter discourse seriously—even to value humoral delusion—and yet to satirize its explanatory pretensions and the behavioural states it postulates; their tendency, also, to take a Janus-faced view of associated kinds of madness, affirming and deriding these concurrently.

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