Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the
History of Art
Dyson Perrins Building
South Parks Road
Publications and other interests
Prof. Tom Higham
I am the Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit and have more than 25 years experience in radiocarbon dating methods, particularly those applicable to building archaeological chronologies. I am interested in constructing reliable chronologies from the recent past right back to the emergence of modern humans. I am also a Fellow of Keble College.
I got interested in the Palaeolithic because it is so challenging to date. In order to obtain reliable chronologies we have had to work hard at improving the ways in which we pretreat and clean up our samples prior to AMS dating. Small amounts of contamination can have a huge impact on the accuracy of our measurements. We also have to select good samples, securely related to humans or their activities at the sites we are working on.
The movement of our earliest modern ancestors and their effects on other, now extinct, archaic humans living in Eurasia -such as Neanderthals and, of course, now the Denisovans- is one of the most important questions in Human Evolution studies. In order to understand the period we need a sturdy chronology underpinning the archaeology and molecular biology. That is where, I hope, PalaeoChron will make a contribution .
Read more about my recent work here in Nature: Date with History.
Previous work and education
I am originally from New Zealand, where I was the Deputy Director at the Waikato Radiocarbon Laboratory. My D.Phil research at the Department of Chemistry (1994) at Waikato University (New Zealand) focused on radiocarbon dating of the prehistory of New Zealand using high precision liquid scintillation spectrometry. Since 2001, I have worked in Oxford at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the pioneering accelerator facilities in the world.