Thomas Wynn, Ph.D.

Thomas Wynn, Ph.D.

Thomas Wynn, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor (Retired)


Thomas Wynn is CU Distinguished Professor of Anthropology (Retired) at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, where he has taught since 1977. He earned his AB in Sociology/Anthropology at Occidental College, and his MA and PhD in Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana. His training was in the archaeology of the Lower Palaeolithic (early Stone Age), and in the 1970s and 1980s he participated in field projects in Europe and Africa. In 1976 and 1980 he directed the first systematic archaeological field work in Mbeya Region, Tanzania. His doctoral research opened a hitherto unexplored direction in Palaeolithic studies - the explicit use of psychological theory to interpret archaeological remains. It applied Piagetian theory and concepts to document the evolution of hominin spatial cognition from the first stone tools to the appearance of modern humans. His 1979 article in the journal Man, "The intelligence of later Acheulean hominids", continues to be cited 35 years after its appearance, and is considered to be one of the foundation documents of evolutionary cognitive archaeology. He has published extensively in Palaeolithic studies (100+ articles and book chapters), with a particular emphasis on cognitive evolution.  His books include The Evolution of Spatial Competence (1989), The Rise of Homo sapiens: The evolution of modern thinking (with F. Coolidge 2009), and How to think like a Neandertal (with F. Coolidge 2012).  In 2011, he and Prof. Coolidge established the UCCS Center for Cognitive Archaeology, which offers on-line courses taught by world authorities on subjects related to the evolution of human cognition. With noted LA artist Tony Berlant, he recently curated an exhibition of Acheulean handaxes celebrating their importance in the evolution of aesthetic sensibility. Titled First Sculpture, the exhibition opened at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in early 2018.

Select publications

Authored Books

  • Berlant, Tony and Thomas Wynn 2018 First Sculpture: Handaxe to figure stone. Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.
  • Coolidge, F. L. and Thomas Wynn 2018 The Rise of Homo sapiens: The Evolution of Modern Thinking Revised Edition. Oxford University Press. 2009
    The Rise of Homo sapiens: The Evolution of Modern Thinking. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge 2012 How to Think Like a Neandertal. Oxford University Press.
    [2013 Denken wie ein Neandertaler. Trans. C. Hartz. Verlag Philipp von Zabern]
  • Wynn, Thomas 1989 The Evolution of Spatial Competence. University of Illinois Press.
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge 2012  How to Think Like a Neandertal. Oxford University Press     [2013 Denken wie ein Neandertaler. Trans. C. Hartz. Verlag Philipp von Zabern]
  • Coolidge, F. L. and Thomas Wynn 2009  The Rise of Homo sapiens:  The Evolution of Modern Thinking.  Wiley-Blackwell
  • Wynn, Thomas 1989 The Evolution of Spatial Competence.  University of Illinois Press.  

Edited Volumes 

  • Wynn, T., K. A. Overman, and L. Malafouris 2021 4E Cognition in the Lower Palaeolithic. Special Issue of Adaptive Behavior, Elsevier.
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge (eds.) 2017 Cognitive Models in Palaeolithic Archaeology. Oxford University Press.
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge (eds.) 2010 Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism. Current Anthropology International Symposia Supplement, Chicago University Press.
  • de Beaune, S., F. L. Coolidge, and T. Wynn (eds.) 2009 Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution. Cambridge University Press.
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge (eds.) 2010 Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism.  Current Anthropology International Symposia Supplement, Chicago University Press.
  • de Beaune, S., F. L. Coolidge, and T. Wynn (eds.) 2009  Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution.  Cambridge University Press.  

Recent Articles

  • Wynn, T., Overmann, K. A., and Malafouris, L. 2021 “4E cognition in the Lower Palaeolithic.” Adaptive Behavior 29:2:
  • Wynn, Thomas 2021 “Ergonomic clusters and displaced affordances in early lithic technology.” Adaptive Behavior 29:2:181-185
  • Coolidge, F. L., and T. Wynn 2020 “The evolution of working memory.” L’Année Psychologique, 120:103-134. doi:10.3917/anpsy1.202.0103.
  • Wynn, T. and F. L. Coolidge 2020 “Evolutionary cognitive archaeology.” Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology
  • Alperson-Afil N, Goren-Inbar N, Herzlinger G, and Wynn T. 2020 “Expert retrieval structures and prospective memory in the cognition of Acheulian hominins.” Psychology 11:173-189.


  • Wynn, T., A. Hernandez-Aguilar, L. Marchant, and W. C. McGrew 2011 "'An ape's view of the Oldowan' revisited." Evolutionary Anthropology 20:181-197.
  • Wynn, Thomas 2009  "Hafted spears and the archeology of cognition." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  106:24:9544-9545
  • Coolidge, F. and T. Wynn 2005  "Working memory, its executive functions, and the emergence of modern thinking."  Cambridge  Archaeological Journal 15:1:5-26.
  • Wynn, T. and F. Coolidge 2004  "The expert Neandertal mind."  Journal of Human Evolution 46:467-487.
  • Wynn, Thomas 2002 "Archaeology and cognitive evolution."  Behavioral and Brain Sciences (target article with commentary) 25:3:389-438.
  • Wynn, Thomas, F.  Tierson, and C.  Palmer 1996 "Evolution of sex differences in spatial cognition."  Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 39:11-42.
  • Wynn, Thomas  1995  "Handaxe enigmas."  World Archaeology 27:10-24.
  • Wynn, Thomas 1991 "Tools, grammar, and the archaeology of cognition."  Cambridge Archaeological Journal 1:191-206.
  • Wynn, Thomas 1979  "The intelligence of later Acheulean hominids."  Man 14:371-391.
  • Wynn, Thomas and W. C. McGrew 1989  "An ape's view of the Oldowan."  Man 24:3:383-398.
  • Wynn, Thomas 1981  "The intelligence of Oldowan hominids."  Journal of Human Evolution 10:529-541.  
  • Wynn, Thomas and Forrest Tierson 1990  "Regional comparison of the shapes of later Acheulean handaxes."  American Anthropologist  92:1:73-84.