Joanna Fairlie

Postgraduate Research Student


Joanna was awarded a MSc in Palaeoanthropology from the University of Liverpool.

Outside of her studies, Joanna worked for many years as an occupational therapist, specialising in neurological issues.

Research Interests

Thesis Title

"Getting a Handle on it: A First Step Towards Understanding the Cognitive Evolutionary Processes Underlying Changes in the Archaeological Record That Relate to Pliocene and Pleistocene Hand-Held and Hafted-Tool Technologies"

Joanna's project aims to describe cognitive changes underlying transitions between archaeological assemblages containing only reductive stone tools, and assemblages also containing stone inserts from hafted tools. Secondary aims involve creating a cognitive model that includes mechanisms of cognitive change over time, and integrating it with potential related socio-technological changes. A chaîne opératoire methodology was unsuitable for analysing cognitive processes and an innovative coding methodology was designed to observe and analyse relevant tool-making gestural sequences. Results show changes in gestural patterns through archaeological time in connection with reductive tools, and more markedly across the reductive-hafted-tool divide. They suggest an earlier effective task-structuring strategy based on rhythmic repetition which is gradually but increasingly combined with a more time-consuming strategy of managing task sub-sequences through the complex, specific but also variable sequencing of discrete gestures. Discrete gestural sequences have no rhythmic repetitive content and are specific to the haft engineering stages of hafted-tools.

Joanna's broader research interests include human cognitive evolution, tool use behaviours in human evolution and neurology.