Professor Laura FortunatoBack to People

Subjects: Archaeology and Anthropology, Human Sciences
Department: Anthropology
College appointment: Tutorial Fellow


I am an evolutionary anthropologist with training in both biology and anthropology, and with a strong commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship. My formal training includes a 5-year Laurea in biological sciences from the University of Padova (2003) and graduate degrees (MRes and PhD) in anthropology from University College London (2004 and 2009). Between 2010 and 2013 I held an Omidyar Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute, an independent research centre that brings together scientists from across the natural, social, and historical sciences. I joined the University of Oxford in 2013, as University Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology and Tutorial Fellow at Magdalen College.


Human Sciences


My research aims to understand the evolution of human social and cultural behavior. Among other topics, I focus on questions relating to the evolution of kinship and marriage systems, culture, and social complexity.


  • Laura Fortunato (2012) The evolution of matrilineal kinship organization, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279(1749), p. 4939–4945
  • Laura Fortunato (2011) Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: monogamy and polygyny, Human Biology 83(1), p. 87–105
  • Laura Fortunato (2011) Reconstructing the history of residence strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: neo-, uxori-, and virilocality, Human Biology 83(1), p. 107–128
  • Laura Fortunato, Marco Archetti (2010) Evolution of monogamous marriage by maximization of inclusive fitness, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23(1), p. 149–156
  • Laura Fortunato, Fiona Jordan (2010) Your place or mine? A phylogenetic comparative analysis of marital residence in Indo-European and Austronesian societies, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365(1559), p. 3913–3922
  • Laura Fortunato, Ruth Mace (2009) Testing functional hypotheses about cross-cultural variation: a maximum-likelihood comparative analysis of Indo-European marriage practices, in Pattern and process in cultural evolution, Stephen Shennan (ed.), p. 235–250, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
  • Laura Fortunato (2008) A phylogenetic approach to the history of cultural practices, Early human kinship: from sex to social reproduction, Nicholas J Allen, Hilary Callan, Robin Dunbar, Wendy James (ed.), p. 189–199, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Laura Fortunato, Clare Holden, Ruth Mace (2006) From bridewealth to dowry? A Bayesian estimation of ancestral states of marriage transfers in Indo-European groups, Human Nature 17(4), p. 355–376