Skip to main content

Pete Knowles

Postgraduate Research Student

BSc (Hons)

Postgraduate Research Student in the Department of Archaeology


Research Topic

Cultural Patterning in Early and Middle Palaeolithic Handaxe Technologies: The Kentish Stour Fluvial Archive


The Middle Pleistocene fluvial archive of the major English rivers is increasingly showing a hitherto unknown temporal pattern in artefact assemblages, suggesting that artefact assemblages carry chronological significance and might relate to the cultural preferences of different human groups over time, an interpretation previously abandoned. This has been made possible by the use of a new expanded chronostratigraphic framework based on the marine oxygen isotope record, and a scaffold of biostratigraphical and geochronological dating for glacial cycles, but has so far only been adequately demonstrated in the Thames Valley and its tributaries. The more general validity of the proposed cultural patterning of tool types needs to now be tested in other systems in the UK and further afield. The fluvial archives of the Kentish Stour, a valley with a clear (if inadequately dated) terrace staircase containing some of the UK’s most important museum collections of Palaeolithic artefacts, is ideal for this purpose.

My PhD project seeks to disentangle the artefact record of the Stour and place it in a coherent chronostratigraphic framework. Key objectives include:

1) Analysis and synthesis of long-neglected museum collections of artefacts, facilitating comparison with recent frameworks and the construction of a valley-wide understanding of variation through space and time.

2) Development of a definitive terrace model for the Stour, backed up by new OSL dating of the terrace sediments.

3) To devise a detailed set of recommendations for the Cultural Heritage Management of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic of this region.

4) To place the results within a modern empirical and theoretical framework

Academic Background/Biography

I am undertaking my doctoral research on a part-time distance basis from Kent, where I am the volunteer curator of the lithics and Quaternary fossil collection at The Seaside Museum - Herne Bay. I work part-time as a Palaeolithic specialist for developer-led commercial archaeology and also act as a lithics consultant for local museums.

I graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury in 1998 with a BSc(Hons) in Physics and Space Science Systems. I then spent the next twenty years working in the aerospace and automotive sectors, recently developing novel technologies to reduce NOx emissions for which I was awarded two patents.

During this time I started to collect Palaeolithic handaxes from the north Kent coast. I wanted to know how old these enigmatic artefacts were and who had made them? Simple questions which nobody had an answer for! Therefore, I began my own research, and a program of self-study to acquire the skills and knowledge required to complete this research. This research also led me to the finding of a missing historic collection of lithics. I arranged for this collections to be gifted to the Seaside Museum - Herne Bay. I was then mentored through the Society for Museum Archaeology Resources and Training project. This project highlighted that my existing research has shown the reassessment of historic museum collections and archives can unlock the lost provenance of artefacts which could then radically transform current understandings of technological developments by early humans.

Research interests

  • Palaeolithic Archaeology, Lithic Technology, Middle Pleistocene Landscapes and Environments, Museology, Photogrammetry