Professor Trevor Watkins (BA, PhD, FSA, FSA Scot)

Emeritus Professor; Near Eastern Prehistory


I studied ancient history and archaeology at Birmingham University, and went on to write a doctoral thesis on the metal industry of Cyprus in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. Through that, I became interested in investigating the transition that introduced the radically new features of the Early Bronze Age to Cyprus. For several years I worked on new aspects of the Cypriot Neolithic, which led me to believe that there were earlier phases of the Neolithic that had not been discovered (which has proved true). In the late 1970s I excavated in northeast Syria, and in the 1980s joined the international salvage archaeology programme working on sites to be lost behind a dam on the Tigris in north Iraq. That work led to the opportunity to excavate a very early Neolithic settlement at Qermez Dere, near Telafar. Since 1990, my research has been increasingly theoretical, and, since retirement from active teaching in 2003, I have been able to pursue that work more productively.

Research summary


  • Europe
  • Mediterranean
  • Near East


  • Culture
  • Ideas
  • Landscapes & Monuments
  • Material Culture
  • Religion
  • Society


  • Prehistory
  • Antiquity

Current research interests

I have used a series of invitations to lecture (notably the Rhind Lectures of 2009) and to participate in workshops to cultivate the inter-disciplinary ground between the prehistoric archaeologist’s analysis of material culture and the theories of cognitive psychologists, philosophers, and evolutionary psychologists. I am currently seeking to establish direct relations with a number of specialists in those areas, together with semiologists and the anthropology and cognitive psychology of religion in order to develop new inter-disciplinary fields of study.

Past research interests

My research has increasingly focused on the Epi-palaeolithic and early Neolithic of southwest Asia. Following from my fieldwork in north Iraq and central Turkey, and continuing a long-held interest in the early prehistory of Cyprus, I have worked on the architecture of buildings and settlements, which are the first examples of the ‘built environment’ to be created. My interest is in seeing them as representing the ideas and social practices of the communities that built and inhabited them. I have sought to develop the ideas of Jacques Cauvin. In particular I have expanded his notion of a ‘psycho-cultural’ revolution in the Neolithic of southwest Asia by relating the archaeology and rich symbolism of the period to the theories of cognitive and evolutionary psychologists about the evolution of the human mind and culture, especially the emergence of the ‘modern’ human mind and cultural systems of symbolic representation.