Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Chair

Department of Anthropology

University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

University of Pennsylvania

Teaching: Courses

Just a few examples of projects taking place in the lab:

1. Agrobiodiversity of traditional rice (Oryza sativa) cultivars in southern India. Diversity of crop landraces is a critical strategy for risk reduction and the satisfaction of culinary needs. Sustainable forms of production in the future will rely on the products of historical strategies of diversification in crop form and growing characteristics, and in farming strategies.  What forms of agrobiodiversity existed in the past? Can we identify varietal as well as specific variation in past crops? Where there patterns of change through time in crop yields or grain size? In strategies of irrigation or manuring?

2.  The intensification and expansion of rice agriculture in Asia.  Although most archaeological research on early rice has focused on the initial domestication and expansion of this critical grain crop, it is at least as important to understand when, where, how, and why rice agriculture was intensified (to wet paddy forms of cultivaiton) and expanded such that it came to be the single most important food crop across much of Asia.  This is a complex set of questions, involving social and political as well as environmental and land use factors.

3.  The development of elite cuisines in southern India. In this region, as in some other parts of Asia, there is a stark differentiation between the foods of the poor, centered around hrady millets and legumes, and elite cuisines based on rice and other irrigated and labor-intensive crops. When did this split first emerge? were newly differentiated ways of farming, cooking, and eating related to status differences right from the start? How many people actually had access to rice-based meals in the later Iron Age, Early Historic, and Middle periods? Where there other axes of differentation such as age, gender, or sect as well? This work centers right now on the identification and characterization of rice vs. millets in terms of land use, diet, food preparation, and cultural valorization.

4.  Links between land use, climate, and patterns of forest expansion and loss and changes in biodiversity in both the dry maidan and mesic malnad regions of Karnataka, India. This project is in development. During the summer of 2014 we were in India taking sediment samples from inselberg biodiversity "hotspots" to begin work on historical biodiversity indices of vegetation and ostrocodes. There will be a great deal of lab work related to this beginning autumn, 2014.

5.  Links between land use and erosion over the last 5kya. Geoarchaeological and remote sensing component (Bauer) linked to archaeological and faunal analysis component (Wilcox; herd structure and dental microwear)

6.  Changes in land use and vegetation in late precolonial and early colonial northern New Mexico. Using pollen, stable isotope, and archaeological evidence.