Dr Laura Fortunato


Associate Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology

Fellow of Magdalen College

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 Associate Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology and Tutorial fellow at Magdalen College. I am currently a Research Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.


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

Past and current support for my research includes funding from the UCL Graduate School, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the National Science Foundation, as well as private foundations.

Personal website.

Research Spotlight: Reproducible Research Oxford 

Selected publications


‘Evolution of marriage systems’, In J.D. Wright (ed.) International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edn, Vol. 14, Oxford: Elsevier, 2015, pp. 611-619.


With Sergey Gavrilets, ‘A solution to the collective action problem in between-group conflict with within-group inequality’, Nature Communications 5 , 2014, pp. 3526.


‘The evolution of matrilineal kinship organization’, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279 (1749), 2012, pp. 4939-4945.


‘Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: monogamy and polygyny’, Human Biology 83 (1), 2011, pp. 87-105.

‘Reconstructing the history of residence strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: neo-, uxori-, and virilocality’, Human Biology 83 (1), 2011, pp. 107-128.


With Marco Archetti, ‘Evolution of monogamous marriage by maximization of inclusive fitness’, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23 (1), 2010, pp. 149-156.

With Fiona Jordan, ‘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), 2010, pp. 3913-3922.


With Ruth Mace, ‘Testing functional hypotheses about cross-cultural variation: a maxim-likelihood comparative analysis of Indo-European marriage practices’, In Stephen Shenna (ed.) Pattern and process in cultural evolution, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009, pp. 235-250.


‘A phylogenetic approach to the history of cultural practices’, In Nicholas J. Allen, Hilary Callan, Robin Dunbar, Wendy James (eds) Early human kinship: from sex to social reproduction, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008, pp. 189-199.


With Clare Holden and Ruth Mace, ‘From bridewealth to dowry? A Bayesian estimation of ancestral states of marriage transfers in Indo-European groups’, Human Nature 17 (4), 2006, pp. 355-376.