Laurie Darcus


Areas of interest

African Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, Use-Wear


  • PhD: Simon Fraser University, 2022
  • MA: Simon Fraser University, 2014
  • BA: Simon Fraser University, 2011


Returning to SFU to do my PhD is exciting and scary at the same time. I am looking forward to meeting my new cohort and exploring all the opportunities to learn and research the topics I love most. Besides archaeology I love dancing, music (so obviously New Orleans is my favorite place to visit), kitties, my family and especially my hubby.

Research Interest

The cultural context of grinding stones, especially in my area of study, Ethiopia.  I want to learn as much as I can about these tools and how they were used and what they were used for in the past, and how they related to the overall social context of life a long time ago.

PhD Research

My research proposal is to expand on the research conducted for my MA, and incorporate use wear studies of grinding stones to further understand what and how people processed food in the past. Although use wear studies on flaked tools has been prominent since the 1980s, use wear on grinding stones is a new field of study with only a small number of researchers attempting to discern techniques for reading use wear on these stones (Jenny Adams, Laure Dubreuil, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski et al.). I propose to build on the research published by these individuals and develop specific analysis techniques for northern Ethiopia that may be applicable in other Old World archaeological investigations. I will be considering wear patterns resulting from adhesion (e.g. plant remains), abrasion (e.g. striations, scratches), fatigue (e.g. crushing, cracking) and the effects of tribochemical wear resulting from the chemical interactions of adhesion, abrasion and fatigue. The leading expert in this field, Dr. Jenny Adams, has agreed to mentor me and transfer the knowledge she has gained in this field of study.

It is important to understand what was being ground for food in the past. Combining this data with information about climate and soil conditions, we may have an opportunity to uncover information that could inform current farmers about crops that were successful in past under specific climatic and soil conditions. This information may prove very helpful in areas of stress due to climatic changes.

MA Thesis

The Cultural Context of Food Grinding Equipment in Northern Ethiopia: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach

Other Activities 

I do a lot of volunteering and find it fills my soul. Especially Camp Goodtimes, an oncology camp for kids with cancer and their families. If you want to change your life, contact me and I will tell you all about this incredible place that inspires and uplifts. 


Journal papers and book chapters:


L. Nixon Darcus, "Telling Textures: Surface Textures May Reveal Which Grains Were Ground in Northern Ethiopia," Proceedings of the Association for Ground Stone Research Meeting, Copenhagen, Archaeopress (2021, in press).

Nixon-Darcus, Laurie, & Meresa, Yemane. 2020. Men at work: Grinding stone production by the experts and others in northern Ethiopia. Journal of Lithic Studies(3), 1–24.

D’Andrea, A. Catherine, Linda Perry, Laurie Nixon Darcus, Ahmed G. Fahmy, Elshafaey A.E. Attia. 2018.  A Pre-Aksumite culinary practice at the Mezber site, Northern Ethiopia. In Plants and People in the African Past: Progress in African Archaeobotany, edited by Anna Maria Mercuri, A. Catherine D'Andrea, Rita Fornaciari and Alex Hohn, pp. 453-478, Springer Nature Switzerland, Cham, Switzerland

Nixon-Darcus, Laurie, A. Catherine D’Andrea. 2017.  Necessary for Life: Studies of Ancient and Modern Grinding Stones in Highland Ethiopia. African Archaeological Review, Vol 34 (2), 193-223

Hayden, Brian, Laurie Nixon-Darcus, Logan Ansell. 2016.  Our ‘daily bread’: The origins of grinding grains and breadmaking.  In Exploring the Materiality of Food 'Stuffs': Transformations, Symbolic Consumption and Embodiment edit by Louise Steel and Katharina Zinn, Chapter 4.  Routledge Studies in Archaeology.

Nixon-Darcus, Laurie. 2014. The Cultural Context of Food Grinding Equipment in Northern Ethiopia: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach. Thesis, Simon Fraser University.


Nixon-Darcus, Laurie. 2014.  Site Report: ETAP (Eastern Tigrai Archaeological Project) Annual Field Report 2014 (my section only on Ethnoarchaeology carried out as part of the project)

Nixon-Darcus, Laurie. 2013. Site Report: ETAP (Eastern Tigrai Archaeological Project) Annual Field Report 2013 (my section only on Ethnoarchaeology carried out as part of the project)

Darcus, Laurie. 2005.  Irish Passage Tombs and Megalithic Art at Knowth: From Minds or Moons? Electronic document,

Conference Presentations 

2013    Laurie Nixon-Darcus, A. C. D’Andrea
Making A Mat’han – The Manufacturing of a Grinding Stone in Northern Ethiopia. Society for American Archaeology Annual Conference, Hawaii. Presentation of paper.

2014    Laurie Nixon-Darcus, A. C. D’Andrea
Grinding For Life - The Cultural Context of Grinding Equipment in Northern Ethiopia: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach. Society for American Archaeology Annual Conference, Austin TX. Presentation of paper.

2014    Brian Hayden, Laurie Nixon-Darcus, and Logan Ansell
Origins of Beer and Bread. Embodied Encounters:  Exploring the Materialities of Food Stuffs. University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter

2015    A. C. D’Andrea, Fahmy A.G., Perry L., Richards M. P., Darcus L., Toffolo M., Attia E.S.A.E.
Ancient agricultural economy in the Horn of Africa: new evidence from grinding-stones and stable isotopes. 8th International Workshop for African Archaeobotany (IWAA), Modena

2015    Laurie Nixon-Darcus
Negotiating My Way Through Africa. Supply Chain Management Association British Columbia Annual Conference 2015

2017    Laurie Nixon-Darcus
Men at Work: Grinding Stone Production in Northern Ethiopia – the Experts and the Others. Association for Ground Stone Tool Research, International Conference, Mainz, Germany

Making some younger friends while interviewing Mom in Tigrai, northern Ethiopia.
A day of Rock Art admiration – Ethiopia.
Trying my hand at grinding, the ancient way. Northern Ethiopia.
I excavate too – Benin, West Africa.
Looking at use-wear with Lemlem, northern Ethiopia.
Because it can’t be all work and no play! Benin, West Africa.