Our lab is currently pursuing a number of research projects with collaborators from around the world. Also, read our Lab Blog for recent progress.

Doctoral projects

Our lab members are developing research projects across the world, from Northern China, the Tibetan Plateau, Ethiopia to South America. See their blogs about most recent updates.

Ximena Lemoine studies the domestication of pigs in northern China
Pigs into Dragons & Humans into Farmers: Studying Pigs, People, and Millet in Neolithic North China

Zhengwei Zhang studies animal management strategies in central Tibet
Exploring early Central Tibetan Agro-pastoralist Lifeways through Animal Bones

Xinzhou Chen investigates pastoral land use in central Tibet
Tibetan pastoralism ethnographic and archaeological survey: field work photos

Yufeng Sun investigates the management of earliest crops in China
Watered or not? That is the question

Mana Hayashi Tang’s research sheds light on plants that are largely missing from the narratives of early foodways in China
Studying Late Pleistocene plant foods and foodways in North China

Lucia Diaz investigates dietary patterns of people living in the Andean highlands
Introduction to the PIA Valle de Sama Project

Origins and spread of broomcorn and foxtail millet cultivation

  This project (funded by National Science Foundation senior archaeology program) considers two of the ecologically hardiest cereal crops: broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica). Today, these two minor cereals are consumed less frequently, thus attracting little scientific attention in comparison to their high-yielding, large-grained counterparts. However, they were once among the most expansive food crops in geographical terms, with a centre of origin in northern China and spreading to India and Europe in prehistory. Embracing multiple disciplinary approaches to study broomcorn millet and foxtail millet, we seek answers to two questions. First, when did millet first become a staple food for human consumption? Second, when and how did millet cultivation expand from its place of origin in North China to Central and South Asia? In answering these questions, we aim to raise awareness of the past, present and future utility of these crops, to understand the nature of primary producers of millets and their societies, and to situate their role in the broader trajectory of human agricultural systems. Read more here.

Animal trade economy in Roman Jerusalem

In this project, we will study the faunal material recently excavated under Wilson’s Arch just outside the Temple Mount area in the Old City of Jerusalem. These excavations, carried out by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, have uncovered the remains of an unfinished amphitheater. The faunal assemblage yielded a large number of teeth that hold clues to where the animals originated before they came to Jerusalem to be slaughtered for lavish Roman feasts. We will use a combination of isotopic indicators to trace where the animals were born and raised, and use this information to detect any patterns in exchange networks between the city and its hinterlands. Were the domestic animals reared in particular ‘hot spots’ in the surrounding Judean hills or the farther Mediterranean coastal zone? Did the patterns in animal trade change through time during this transformative period in Jerusalem’s history?

Food Globalisation in Prehistory

Many of today’s major food crops are distributed worldwide. While much of this ‘food globalisation’ has resulted from modern trade networks, it has its roots in prehistory. Recent investigations have shown that between 5000 and 1500 cal BC, the Eurasian and African landmass underpinned a continental-scale process of food ‘globalisation’ of staple crops. At the core of this process of globalisation is the movement of several principal staples. Free threshing wheat (Triticum cf. aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) moved from southwest Asia to Europe, India and China, while broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica) moved in the other direction: from China to the West, via Central and South Asia; rice (Oryza sativa) travelled across East, South and Southeast Asia; and African millets (Pennisetum glaucum and Eleusine coracana) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) moved across sub-Saharan regions and ultimately across the Indian Ocean to South Asia. Other economic important plant taxa, including pulses and fruits, as well as domesticated animals, also spanned across the Old World in various episodes of prehistory. By 1500 BC, this process of food globalisation had brought together previously isolated agricultural systems, to constitute a new kind of agriculture in which the bringing together of local and exotic crops enables a new form of intensification. Read more about the Food Globalisation Project here, and also see this article on the SOURCE.

Holocene terrestrial climate variability in the Horn of Africa 

A period of amenable climate in North and East Africa, known as the African Humid Period (AHP), is thought to have lasted from about 11 to 5 thousand years ago, but the precise timing and pacing of both the initiation and conclusion the AHP is disputed. Very few climate records are available from the Horn of Africa, making it a region of particular interest. Together with Wash U Anthropology Professor, Dr. Fiona Marshall, we are investigating past changes in aridity in the Horn of Africa using the geochemistry of sub-fossil mammal tooth enamel obtained from a unique archaeological faunal assemblage from southern Somalia.