Professor Stephen Oppenheimer

Stephen Oppenheimer

Research Affiliate

Summary of main research interests

My research over the past 40 years can be summarized as follows:

1)      Work on iron supplementation and malaria (1979-present): As a result of my own thesis findings and several updated meta-analyses of the world literature that I have published, it is clear there are risks of iron supplementation in malarious areas. It has been my long-term aim to change global policy on iron supplementation in malarious areas. This aim was achieved at meetings in 2006 with WHO & UNICEF.

2)      Work on alpha thalassaemia and its interactions with iron and malaria (1982-2005). I was the first to notice the altitudinal difference in alpha thalassaemia prevalence in Papua New Guinea and to suggest this was due to natural selection by malaria (Oppenheimer et al, Lancet, 1984 & ff. see publications). I carried on my interest in thalassaemia in Hong Kong with a PhD student and other collaborators in my department, setting up a project to look at non-immunological mechanisms of protection. This involved growth of malarial parasites in vitro in age-fractionated red cells under different stress conditions. This work has produced a robust and tested model of anti-malarial protection based on oxidant stress and schizont maturation arrest.

3)      My work on human migrations in the Pacific (1982-present), was first stimulated 27 years ago, when I started to examine the distribution of different single-deletion alpha-thalassaemia genotypes by language and geography in the Southwest Pacific. I have been interested in Pacific and Southeast Asian migrations ever since and this was the main impetus to write my first book Eden in the East (1998). I have published a number of peer-reviewed articles in this field. The core hypothesis in my work is an alternative model to the Holocene migrations to the Pacific from the orthodox ‘Express Train from Taiwan to Polynesia’. The orthodox model proposes a Late Holocene agriculturally driven expansion from Taiwan, while mine argues for a longer-term, environmentally-driven, staged-expansion beyond the Wallace Line starting in the Early Holocene.

4)      Work on the modern human exit from Africa (1999-present): I made a multidisciplinary reconstruction of a single successful exit from sub-Saharan Africa via the southern route across the mouth of the Red Sea in my book Out of Eden (2003). A 7,150-word summary I wrote in 1999, and an article in the Geographic Magazine in 2002 (The First Exodus) anticipated the reconstruction in my book.  I have since authored/co-authored several peer-reviewed publications on this in Science and other journals – listed in the CV. Out of Eden has become a best-seller in English, Spanish and Japanese.

5)      I published a third book, The Origins of the British: a genetic detective story in 2006, which has since become a bestseller and I have been asked to give numerous public and academic lectures on this and the previous two books.

6)      Apart from the areas mentioned above, my other research and publications as a tropical paediatrician have focused on infectious disease, epidemiology and on micronutrient deficiencies/supplementation such as iron, calcium and riboflavin.

For a brief biographical sketch please click here.

Recent publications


Mark Lipson, Pontus Skoglund, Matthew Spriggs, Frederique Valentin, Stuart Bedford, Richard Shing, Hallie Buckley, Iarawai Phillip, Graeme K Ward, Swapan Mallick, Nadin Rohland, Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, Olivia Cheronet, Matthew Ferry, Thomas K Harper, Megan Michel, Jonas Oppenheimer, Kendra Sirak, Kristin Stewardson, Kathryn Auckland, Adrian VS Hill, Kathryn Maitland, Stephen J Oppenheimer, Tom Parks, Kathryn Robson, Thomas N Williams, Douglas J Kennett, Alexander J Mentzer, Ron Pinhasi, David Reich. ‘Population turnover in remote Oceania shortly after initial settlement’ Current Biology, 28. 1157-1165 e7

Cosimo Posth, Kathrin Nägele, Heidi Colleran, Frédérique Valentin, Stuart Bedford, Kaitip W Kami, Richard Shing, Hallie Buckley, Rebecca Kinaston, Mary Walworth, Geoffrey R Clark, Christian Reepmeyer, James Flexner, Tamara Maric, Johannes Moser, Julia Gresky, Lawrence Kiko, Kathryn J Robson, Kathryn Auckland, Stephen J Oppenheimer, Adrian VS Hill, Alexander J Mentzer, Jana Zech, Fiona Petchey, Patrick Roberts, Choongwon Jeong, Russell D Gray, Johannes Krause, Adam Powell. Language continuity despite population replacement in Remote Oceania Nature ecology & evolution 2:4, 731.


Michael Haslam, Stephen Oppenheimer, Ravi Korisettar. ‘Out of Africa, into South Asia: A Review of Archaeological and Genetic Evidence for the Dispersal of Homo sapiens into the Indian Subcontinent’, In Beyond Stones and More Stones, Vol 1. Editor, Ravi Korisettar, The Mythic Society, Bengaluru, India. 2017, 117-148.

Khai C Ang, Victor A Canfield, Tiffany C Foster, Mee S Ngu, John Hawley, Mahani M Clyde, Badrul M Md-Zain, Gerhard Meisenberg, Stephen J Oppenheimer, Keith C Cheng ‘Mapping the Origins of Inter-Population Skin Color Variation with Admixed Indigenous PopulationsAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology, 162, 101-101.

Anders Bergström, Stephen Oppenheimer, Alexander Mentzer, Kathryn Auckland, Kathryn Robson, Robert Attenborough, Michael Alpers, George Koki, William Pomat, Peter Siba, Yali Xue, Manjinder Sandhu, Chris Tyler-Smith. 'A Neolithic expansion, but strong genetic structure, in the independent history of New Guinea' Science 357 (6356), 1160-1163.


Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, Michael C Westaway, Craig Muller, Vitor C Sousa, Oscar Lao, Isabel Alves, Anders Bergström, Georgios Athanasiadis, Jade Y Cheng, Jacob E Crawford, Tim H Heupink, Enrico Macholdt, Stephan Peischl, Simon Rasmussen, Stephan Schiffels, Sankar Subramanian, Joanne L Wright, Anders Albrechtsen, Chiara Barbieri, Isabelle Dupanloup, Anders Eriksson, Ashot Margaryan, Ida Moltke, Irina Pugach, Thorfinn S Korneliussen, Ivan P Levkivskyi, J Víctor Moreno-Mayar, Shengyu Ni, Fernando Racimo, Martin Sikora, Yali Xue, Farhang A Aghakhanian, Nicolas Brucato, Søren Brunak, Paula F Campos, Warren Clark, Sturla Ellingvåg, Gudjugudju Fourmile, Pascale Gerbault, Darren Injie, George Koki, Matthew Leavesley, Betty Logan, Aubrey Lynch, Elizabeth A Matisoo-Smith, Peter J McAllister, Alexander J Mentzer, Mait Metspalu, Andrea B Migliano, Les Murgha, Maude E Phipps, William Pomat, Doc Reynolds, Francois-Xavier Ricaut, Peter Siba, Mark G Thomas, Thomas Wales, Colleen Ma’run Wall, Stephen J Oppenheimer, Chris Tyler-Smith, Richard Durbin, Joe Dortch, Andrea Manica, Mikkel H Schierup, Robert A Foley, Marta Mirazón Lahr, Claire Bowern, Jeffrey D Wall, Thomas Mailund, Mark Stoneking, Rasmus Nielsen, Manjinder S Sandhu, Laurent Excoffier, David M Lambert, Eske Willerslev. “A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia” Nature 538 (7624), 207-214.

Andreia Brandão, Khen Khong Eng, Teresa Rito, Bruno Cavadas, David Bulbeck, Francesca Gandini, Maria Pala, Maru Mormina, Bob Hudson, Joyce White, Tsang‑Ming Ko, Mokhtar Saidin, Zainuddin Zafarina, Stephen Oppenheimer, Martin Richards, Luísa Pereira, Pedro Soares. ‘Quantifying the legacy of the Chinese Neolithic on the maternal genetic heritage of Taiwan and Island Southeast Asia’ Human Genetics, 135 (4), 363-376

Pedro A Soares, Jean A Trejaut, Teresa Rito, Bruno Cavadas, Catherine Hill, Ken Khong Eng, Maru Mormina, Andreia Brandão, Ross M Fraser, Tse-Yi Wang, Jun-Hun Loo, Christopher Snell, Tsang-Ming Ko, António Amorim, Maria Pala, Vincent Macaulay, David Bulbeck, James F Wilson, Leonor Gusmão, Luísa Pereira, Stephen Oppenheimer, Marie Lin, Martin B Richards. ‘Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking populations’ Human Genetics, 135(3), 309-26

S Underdown, SJ Oppenheimer, ‘Do patterns of covariation between human pelvis shape, stature, and head size alleviate the obstetric dilemma?’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA) 113 (3), 1


Stephen Oppenheimer, Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford, ‘Solutrean hypothesis: genetics, the mammoth in the room’, World Archaeology [Debates], 2014.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Modern Humans Spread from Aden to the Antipodes: With Passengers and When?’, In Robin Dennell & Martin Porr Southern Asia, Australia and the Search for Human Origins, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2014, pp. 228-242.


Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Humans’ Association with Water Bodies: The ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes’, Human Evolution: an International Journal 28 (3-4), 2013, pp. 137-170.

V.A. Canfield, Arthur Berg, Steven Peckins, Steven Wentzel, Khai Chung Ang, Stephen Oppenheimer and Keith C. Cheng, ‘Molecular phylogeography of a human autosomal skin color locus under natural selection’, G3: Genes Genomes Genetics 3 (11), 2013, pp. 2059-2067.


M Donohue, T Denham and Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘‘New methodologies for historical linguistics?: Calibrating a lexicon-based methodology for diffusion vs. subgrouping’, Diachronica 29 (4), 2012, pp. 505-522.

M Donohue, T Denham and Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Consensus and the lexicon in historical Linguistics: Rejoinder to “Basic vocabulary and Bayesian phylolinguistics”’, Diachronica 29 (4), 2012, pp. 538-546.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘A single southern exit of modern humans from Africa: before or after Toba?’, Quaternary International 258 , 2012, pp. 88-99.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Iron and Infection: Narrative review of a major iron supplementation study in Papua New Guinea undertaken by the Department of Tropical Paediatrics, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine 1979-1983, its aftermath and the continuing relevance of its results’, Annals of Tropical Paediatrics 32 (s2), 2012, pp. 21-29.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Out-of-Africa, the peopling of continents and islands: tracing uniparental gene trees across the map’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367, 2012, pp. 770-784.

Khai C. Ang mail, Mee S. Ngu, Katherine P. Reid, Mei S. Teh, Zamzuraida S. Aida, Danny XR. Koh, Arthur Berg, Stephen Oppenheimer, Hood Salleh, Mahani M. Clyde, Badrul M. Md-Zain, Victor A. Canfield and Keith C. Cheng mail, ‘Skin Color Variation in Orang Asli Tribes of Peninsular Malaysia’, PLoS ONE 7 (8), 2012, pp. e42752.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘The post-glacial peopling of the British Isles: can Celtic and Anglo-Saxon physical intrusions be defined and measured?’, In Daniel Le Bris, Marcel Otte and Francesco Benozzo Aires Linguistiques Aires Culturelles Etudes de concordances en Europe occidentale: zones Manche et Atlantique, Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique: Brest, 2012.


P. Soares, T. Trejaut, J. Mormina, Stephen Oppenheimer and S. Richards et al., ‘Ancient Voyaging and Polynesian Origins’, The American Journal of Human Genetics 88 (2), 2011, pp. 239-247.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘Consultant for chapters 174-196 (Out of Africa)’, In Alice Roberts Evolution: The Human Story, London: Dorling Kindersley, 2011.

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘MtDNA variation and southward Holocene human dispersals within Mainland Southeast Asia’, In N. J. Enfield (ed.) The Dynamics of Human Diversity: The Case of Mainland Southeast Asia, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2011, pp. 81-108.


Stephen Oppenheimer, Eden in the East: Benua yang Tenggelam di Asia Tenggara, 2010, Jakarta, Indonesia: Ufuk Publishers.

Stephen Oppenheimer, Comment on 'Farming and Language in Island Southeast Asia Reframing Austronesian History: Paradigms, especially old ones, die harder than Bruce Willis', Current Anthropology 51 (2), 243-244

Stephen Oppenheimer, ‘A Re-analysis of Multiple Prehistoric Immigrations to Britain and Ireland Aimed at Identifying the Celtic Contributions’, In Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch (eds) Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language and Literature, Oxford and Aberystwyth Universities: Oxbow Books, 2010, pp. 121-151.

Publications 1976-2009

Invited lectures, websites and TV series