Paul Mellars

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Paul Mellars
Born(1939-10-20)20 October 1939
Died7 May 2022(2022-05-07) (aged 82)
Spouse(s)Anny Mellars
AwardsGrahame Clark Medal (2006)
Knight Bachelor (2010)
Academic background
Alma materFitzwilliam College, Cambridge
Academic work

Sir Paul Anthony Mellars, FBA FSA (29 October 1939 – 7 May 2022)[1] was a British archaeologist and professor of prehistory and human evolution at the University of Cambridge.

Early life and academic career

Paul Mellars was born in 1939 in the village of Swallownest near Sheffield. His father, Herbert Mellars, was a miner and a member of the Plymouth Brethren. From the village school, he progressed to Woodhouse, a County Council Grammar School founded in 1909 in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which his mother Elaine (née Batty) had also attended. (Woodhouse has subsequently been incorporated into the newly built Aston Academy in Swallownest.)[2] Mellars obtained his MA, PhD and ScD degrees at the University of Cambridge, where he was a student of Fitzwilliam College.[3][4] He married his wife Anny in 1969, having first met in an archaeological field trip in the Dordogne in 1964.[5]

After his Ph.D., Mellars taught for ten years in the Archaeology Department at Sheffield University before returning to Cambridge in 1980, where he became a fellow of Corpus Christi College. He briefly served as acting master of the college in 2007, following the resignation of Sir Alan Wilson, but six months later lost the election to become the formal successor to Wilson to Oliver Rackham.[6] He has held visiting positions at the Binghamton University and the Australian National University.

He served as president of the Prehistoric Society. He was also a trustee of the ACE Foundation.


Melkars' recent research has concentrated on the behaviour and archaeology of Neanderthal populations in Europe, and their replacement by Homo sapiens 40,000 years ago. Mellars contributed to the three part BBC mini-series "Dawn of Man — The Story of Human Evolution" (2000).

He has also studied the way in which mesolithic hunter-gatherer populations in Britain adapted to climate changes following the last ice age. He has carried out excavations on early Mesolithic sites at Oronsay in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland and published the results from work at Star Carr in North Yorkshire.


Mellars was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) in 1977,[7] a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 1990 and a member of the Academia Europaea in 1999. In 2004, he was appointed an Officier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by the French Government.[4] In 2006, he was awarded the Grahame Clark Medal by the British Academy.[8]

He was knighted in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to scholarship.[9][5]

Selected publications

  • Mellars, Paul (2006). "Why did modern human populations disperse from Africa ca. 60,000 years ago?". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (25): 9381–6. Bibcode:2006PNAS..103.9381M. doi:10.1073/pnas.0510792103. PMC 1480416. PMID 16772383.
  • Mellars, Paul (2006). "Archeology and the Dispersal of Modern Humans in Europe: Deconstructing the "Aurignacian"" (PDF). Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews. 15 (5): 167–182. doi:10.1002/evan.20103. S2CID 85316570. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 December 2008.
  • Mellars, Paul; Dark, Petra (1998). Star Carr in Context: New Archaeological and Palaeoecological Investigations at the Early Mesolithic Site of Star Carr, North Yorkshire. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. ISBN 0-9519420-4-2.
  • Mellars, Paul (1996). The Neanderthal Legacy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03493-1.
  • Mellars, Paul (1990). The Emergence of Modern Humans. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-2614-6.
  • Mellars, Paul; Andrews, Martha V. (1987). Excavations on Oronsay: Prehistoric Human Ecology on a Small Island. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-85224-544-0.


  1. ^ Atta, Fareid (10 May 2022). "Cambridge University mourns passing of 'giant figure' archaeologist Professor Sir Paul Mellars". Cambridge News. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Professor Sir Paul Mellars obituary". The Times. 13 May 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2022.(subscription required)
  3. ^ Smith, Pamela Jane (2010). "Chapter 2. Paul Anthony Mellars from Swallownest to Cambridge, the Early Years". In Katherine V Boyle; Clive Gamble; Ofer Bar-Yosef (eds.). The Upper Palaeolithic revolution in global perspective : papers in honour of Sir Paul Mellars. McDonald Institute monographs. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. pp. 9–30. ISBN 9781902937533. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b Mellars, Paul (Easter 2005). "Emergence of new Homo-Sapiens" (PDF). Pelican, the Newsletter of Corpus Christi College Cambridge. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. 8: 12–13. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Sir Paul Mellars" (PDF). The Elsworth Chronicle. Elsworth. Issue 27. April 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  6. ^ Varsity report on Corpus Christi College
  7. ^ "Sir Paul Mellars". Society of Antiquaries of London. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Grahame Clark Medal". The British Academy. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  9. ^ "No. 59282". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2009. p. 1.

External links

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