My recent research has focused on early agricultural peoples and the rise of complex societies in the Horn of Africa. I have been involved in several ongoing archaeological projects as palaeoethnobotanist, ethnoarchaeologist, and initiated surveys and excavations in northern Ethiopia. Currently I am director of the Eastern Tigrai Archaeological Project (ETAP), an interdisciplinary group which includes participants from Canada, Ethiopia, Italy, USA, Egypt, and Turkey. The team is examining the dynamics of early state formation in northern Ethiopia, concentrating on the pre-Aksumite period (ca. 800-400 BC), and investigating questions of indigenous (East African) vs. imported (Sabaean) cultural influences in both rural and urban settings. Our research group is also consulting with rural farming communities in formulating plans to use local archaeological and cultural resources to support a fledging local tourism industry. This initiative will assist rural populations in achieving goals of sustainable economic development, education, poverty reduction, and food security.
My palaeoethnobotanical work has drawn attention to marginalised and poorly understood crops cultivated in Africa, including pearl millet, t’ef, fonio, cowpea, and emmer wheat. For t’ef and fonio I have proposed an alternate domestication cereal syndrome that differs from the accepted scheme based on Near Eastern cereals. This research has been informed by several years of ethnoarchaeological field studies of crop processing methods practiced by traditional (non-mechanised) farmers of northern Ethiopia, which has enabled me to blend scientific and traditional knowledge in elucidating the domestication history of African cereals. In addition to Ethiopian fieldwork, I developed an ethnoarchaeological project in northern Sudan where field studies on traditional sorghum cultivation were completed, and I am collaborating as a palaeoethnobotanist on research projects based in Ghana, Eritrea, and Turkey.
Since 2000, Archaeology Department members have donated 534 books to African archaeological institutions and university-based archaeology departments. For more information and how to donate, look here.
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