Dr Simon Armitage

Personal profile

Simon Armitage graduated with a BA in Geography at the University of Oxford before moving to the University of Wales Aberystwyth to research his PhD entitled “Testing and application of luminescence techniques using sediment from the southeast African coast” under the supervision of Prof. Ann Wintle and Prof. Geoff Duller. He finished his PhD in 2002 and moved back to Oxford where he was employed for four years as a postdoctoral researcher on two NERC funded projects. Simon was appointed Lecturer in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway in 2006.

Simon's research is based upon the application of Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating to late Quaternary sediments. In particular he is interested in climate change and archaeology in dryland environments. His current work focuses on the impacts of late Quaternary climatic changes upon pre-industrial human/hominin populations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Simon is working on research projects in Libya, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Research interests

Climate and archaeology of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
My recent and ongoing research is focussed on climate change and archaeology in drylands. In particular, I am interested in the impacts that Late Quaternary climatic changes have had upon pre-industrial human/hominin populations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. While environmental explanations for change are unfashionable in more humid areas of the globe, it is clear that climate is of critical importance in regions that are presently at the margins of habitability. In North Africa and Arabia, understanding the interplay between climate change and human populations is particularly important at times centered around the last two interglacials. Around the time of the last interglacial, anatomically modern humans (AMHs) migrated out of sub-Saharan Africa and began to colonise the rest of the globe (the so called “Out of Africa” migration). In North Africa, my research primarily concerns the environmental background to this migration, specifically testing the assumption that the Sahara acted as a powerful barrier to past human migrations. In addition, I am currently supervising a PhD student who is providing a chronology for human occupation in the landscape around the famous North Libyan cave site at Haua Fteah. This site potentially provides evidence for early human occupation at the northern end of a trans-Saharan migration route. In Arabia, my recent work has concentrated upon dating early evidence for AMH occupation of the Arabian Peninsula.

Research interests (continued)


Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating


My main tool for geographical research is optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. Over the last decade the single-aliquot regenerative dose technique has led to significant decreases in the uncertainties associated with OSL ages, but these improvements have led to the identification of additional sources of error which were previously of negligible importance. My research into the luminescence properties of quartz has been driven by the requirement to enhance the credibility of ages generated as part of my ongoing interests in climate change and archaeology. This has led to research into instrument calibration and the generation of accurate ages for sediments which are poorly-reset, very old or located within regions which experience extreme climatic conditions. Recent projects which rely on the expertise gained during this work include the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project (Haua Fteah, Libya) and dating of sites in the United Arab Emirates (Jebel Faya) and South Africa (De Hoop Nature Reserve).




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