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Anthropology | Luke Premo

Ph.D., University of Arizona
Associate Professor
Evolutionary Anthropology

Research Interests

Agent-based modeling, cultural evolution and diversity, cultural transmission, evolution of altruism, gene-culture coevolution, human evolution, life history, multilevel selection, paleodemography, social networks, spatially explicit models

I encourage prospective graduate students who are interested in these or related topics to contact me via email or by phone.

Current Research

I am an evolutionary anthropologist. I study Pliocene and Pleistocene hominin behavior and paleodemography, mainly through computer simulation and population genetics.  My dissertation research focused on how the fragmentation of woodland habitat in East Africa during the Late Pliocene may have affected the evolution of altruistic food sharing among Plio-Pleistocene hominins and the formation of Lower Paleolithic archaeological landscapes.  After earning my degree, I worked for four years as a post-doc in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.  There, I began studying many other interesting topics.

Although I am still very much interested in the evolution of altruism in humans, lately I have been addressing other evolutionary anthropological questions. Why is the genetic diversity of modern humans and Neandertals so much lower than that of living hominoids?  Why does human life history differ so markedly from other large-bodied primates?  How might Pleistocene paleodemography help us better understand why the archaeological record of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic appear temporally staid and spatially homogeneous?  I am also interested in cultural transmission and, more specifically, in how various mechanisms of social learning affect levels of diversity and rates of change in attributes of material culture.  I have become increasingly interested in studying the effects of different types of social networks on cultural diversity and change.



  • ANTH 547 Models and Simulation
  • ANTH 548 Hunters and Gatherers: Past and Present
  • ANTH 562 Evolutionary Method & Theory in Anthropology & Archaeology
  • ANTH 565 Human Evolution


  • ANTH 101 General Anthropology
  • ANTH 260 Introduction to Physical Anthropology
  • ANTH 465 Human Evolution
  • ANTH 490 Integrative Themes in Anthropology: Evolution of Cooperation



Representative Publications

(Please see CV for a complete list)

Premo, L. S. and J. R. Brown (2019) The opportunity cost of walking away in the spatial iterated prisoner’s dilemma. Theoretical Population Biology.

Miller-Atkins, G. and L. S. Premo (2018) Time-averaging and the spatial scale of regional cultural differentiation in archaeological assemblages. Science & Technology of Archaeological Research. doi:10.1080/20548923.2018.1504490.

Tennie, C., L. S. Premo, D. Braun, and S. P. McPherron (2017) Early stone tools and cultural transmission: Resetting the null hypothesis. Current Anthropology 58:652-672.

Premo, L. S. (2016) Effective population size and the effect of demography on cultural diversity and technological complexity. American Antiquity 81:605-622.

Premo, L. S. and G. B. Tostevin (2016) Cultural transmission on the taskscape: Exploring the effects of taskscape visibility on cultural diversity. PLoS ONE 11(9):e0161766. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161766

Tennie, C., D. Braun, L. S. Premo, and S. P. McPherron (2016) The Island Test for Cumulative Culture in the Paleolithic. In The Nature of Culture, edited by M. Haidle, N. Conard, and M. Bolus, pp. 121-133. Springer Press, Berlin.

Premo, L. S. (2015) Mobility and cultural diversity in central-place foragers: Implications for the emergence of modern human behavior. In Learning Strategies and Cultural Evolution during the Palaeolithic, edited by Alex Mesoudi and Kenichi Aoki, pp. 45-65. Springer Press, Tokyo.

Premo, L. S. (2014) Cultural transmission and diversity in time-averaged assemblages. Current Anthropology 55(1):105-114.

Premo, L. S. (2013) What serves as evidence for the presence (or absence) of Pleistocene language? Journal of Anthropological Sciences 91:257-259.

Premo, L. S. (2012) The shift to a predominantly logistical mobility strategy can inhibit rather than enhance forager interaction. Human Ecology 40:647-649.

Premo, L. S. (2012) Hitchhiker’s guide to genetic diversity in socially structured populations. Current Zoology 58:287-297.

Premo, L. S. (2012) Local extinctions, connectedness, and cultural evolution in structured populations. Advances in Complex Systems 15:1150002:1-18.

Premo, L. S. and J. B. Scholnick (2011) The spatial scale of social learning affects cultural diversity. American Antiquity 76:163-176.

Premo, L. S. and S. L. Kuhn (2010) Modeling effects of local extinctions on culture change and diversity in the Paleolithic. PLoS ONE 5(12): e15582.

Premo, L. S. and J-J. Hublin (2009) Culture, population structure, and low genetic diversity in Pleistocene hominins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 106(1):33-37.



Contact Information

College Hall 208

Curriculum Vitae