South Africa – 2015

I am an archaeologist who focuses on the study of human-environment interactions over archaeological timescales, using a unique suite of interdisciplinary methods. I am fascinated by the relationships between humans and their environment. Specifically I am interested in the ways in which societies adapt to different environmental conditions, and the ways in which they consciously and/or unconsciously shape their environment. The ways in which different societies derive sustenance, manage their landscape, interact economically and socially, and use technology – their livelihood systems – form the fulcrum of this relationship, and I seek to understand and constrain how agricultural developments affected these dynamics. My work combines the site based scale of archaeology with the big picture approach of global modeling.

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher and responsible for coordinating the Global Markers of the Anthropocene Project and the ArchaeoGLOBE Project. Both of these projects are concerned with understanding the large-scale impacts of human activities through time and involve extensive networks of international collaborators. I recently held an Early Postdoctoral Mobility fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation hosted by the University of Queensland and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. That project used a combination of macro and micro scale archaeobotanical methods to build a more complete picture of the human-environment interactions of early farming communities in Southern Zambia, as well as better constrain the dates of the introduction of farming to the region.

My PhD work involved researching the changes in subsistence strategies and land use in western Africa, from the mid-Holocene until AD 1500. This work included the review of archaeological and other literature relating to the way people lived and used the land around them. Different land uses had different effects on the local environment, e.g. cutting down or burning a patch of forest to plant a field of crops. By mapping these changes in land use through time and space, and comparing them with other proxies of human activity and environment, I was able to gain a better understanding the role of humans in the development of African environments over the late Holocene.

As a specialist in GIS and spatial analysis in archaeology, I have extensive experience with map-making and model building. As part of my MSc research, I developed an agent-based model of the neolithic transition in Europe, to explore social factors contributing to the spread of farming societies. I have worked on field projects in Zambia, the Comoros, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Hawaii, Wyoming, Montana, and Belize, spanning a range of historical periods and environmental settings. I have contributed to museum database management projects in the USA (Washington) and Egypt. I have also appeared as an expert presenter on two National Geographic Channel documentaries about Hellenistic period Egypt: Alexander the Great’s lost tomb and The Real Cleopatra.