AEA Pests of Society: Outline Programme

The outline programme for the upcoming AAE spring conference Pests of Society, to be held at the University of Birmingham on 21st April 2018, has just been released. You can find out more about the conference on our events pages and view the programme here. We look forward to welcoming you to the conference next month!

What is the best Biomarker of the Anthropocene? Vote now!

As part of Science Week 2018, the Association for Environmental Archaeology is asking you to choose your favourite Biomarker of the Anthropocene.

In two-minute mini-podcasts, leading environmental archaeologists present the case for their favourite Anthropocene biomarker. See if you agree with them and then vote for one of them over on the Twitter poll pinned to the @EnvArch profile page.

Watch the podcasts on YouTube

Listen to the podcasts on Soundcloud

Vote on Twitter!


Booking now open for Pest of Society conference

Booking is now open for this year’s AEA Spring Conference at the University of Birmingham, 21st-22nd April 2018.

For more about the conference and to book head over to the Events section.

Desert zooarchaeology at Saruq al-Hadid – James Roberts

James Roberts (University of New England, Armidale) discusses his exciting research with the Saruq al-Hadid Archaeological Research Project:

Three years ago I was given the opportunity to head to a site in the United Arab Emirates to look at some animal bone. Along with my supervisor at the time, Professor Naomi Sykes, I found myself heading into the desert to the site of Saruq al-Hadid.


Saruq al-Hadid location

Excavations have been undertaken at the site since the early 2000s focusing mainly on the Early Iron Age (1300-800 BC locally) evidence for metal working. However, a survey undertaken in the mid-2000s identified a significant amount of archaeological remains in stratigraphic layers below this metal working debris. Upon commencing excavations at the site in 2015, the Saruq al-Hadid Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) focused on understanding the site’s stratigraphy.  Working alongside the local Dubai Municipality government the SHARP team were able to identify five broad archaeological horizons at the site, the earliest of which has been dated back to c.2200 BC, the Early Bronze Age in the region.

Compound at Saruq al-Hadid. © Qutaiba Dasouqi

The extensive excavations at the site undertaken by SHARP, over the course of three 4-5 month field seasons, found 1400 years’ worth of occupation at the site dating from 2200 BC – 800 BC. Currently defined as a ‘temporary, persistent place’, it appears that the site was never permanently occupied but rather frequented by human populations, perhaps on a seasonal basis. The excavations unearthed a wealth of material; from dozens of weapons and other metallic objects, to ornate jewellery and ceramics. A particularly notable competent of this material culture is the frequent occurrence of iconographic snake representations, primarily in copper and ceramic form. These representations tie into the wider regional phenomenon of snake depictions being found on objects excavated from multiple contemporary sites. Provisionally dubbed the ‘Snake Cult’, this phenomenon is yet to be fully explored.  Alongside these enigmatic artefacts approximately 1.5 tonnes of faunal remains were recovered from the site, with animal bone being one of the few materials that has been recovered from the site’s entire occupation history. This means that zooarchaeological studies have a great potential to inform on the multiple uses of the site through time.

Over the course of the eleven months I spent on site, I was able to record data from about two-thirds of this material. This analysis sheds new light on human behaviour at the site and in the wider region. From previously un-evidenced interactions between humans and wild animals in the region in the past to new information regarding the timing of camel domestication, the study of these remains has proved to be incredibly rewarding. By combining these results with the findings of the project’s archaeobotanist, we have also identified fairly compelling evidence that the arid environment of Saruq al-Hadid is somewhat different today to how it was 4000 years ago.

© James Roberts

All of these major findings will be written up into five main papers, as part of the PhD by publication that I am currently halfway through. There are many other ongoing studies into these faunal remains, many of which are collaborative with the other material studies being undertaken at the site; for instance, the analysis of blood residues on microliths from the bone midden, in order investigate the potential role of a microlithic tradition in hunting practices at Saruq al-Hadid during the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC).

Looking to the future, the site is still undergoing excavation and literal tonnes of recovered faunal remains are waiting to be analysed. Additionally a large portion of the known site is yet to be excavated and there is likely archaeology hidden under the sand throughout the surrounding area. Working on the remains from this site has truly demonstrated to me the valuable insights that the study of animal bone can give and its potential to be combined with other material studies. Who knows what new insights into humanity this site will provide in the years to come!

Sunset at Saruq. © SHARP-UNE

For More information on the site and the zooarchaeological studies, see:

STUDENT REVIEW of ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ – Youri van den Hurk

Another review of the recent AEA conference ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ hosted by Edinburgh is here!

Keep reading to see what  PhD candidate Youri van den Hurk thought of it all!

My name is Youri van den Hurk and I just entered the third year of my PhD in archaeology at University College London. I am deeply grateful the AEA provided me with a student conference grand to attend the conference. This was already the second I attended an AEA conference and again I greatly enjoyed it! The first time was in Kirkwall at the very beginning of my PhD where I presented my research project and some ideas. Now for the second time I was able to show more results to a comparable audience.

The AEA conferences always cover a wide variety of topics within the environmental archaeology discipline, exposing you to new methods, projects and ideas. As a student at the beginning of my academic career this is highly beneficial to my own current project as well as to future possibilities. The conference also gives the possibility to present your own research and allows you to get critical feedback which is of help for optimizing your research project. Previously, I have been awarded an AEA research grant and this conference provided me with the opportunity to present what I have done with this grant and the results of my research.

Additionally, many researchers I have been in contact with for several years also attended the meeting and I met them in person for the first time. The coffee breaks in between sessions were therefor a great opportunity to meet people, get or answer question or network with other researchers.

Both the AEA meeting I attended so far, were valuable experiences as I received great feedback and tips from other researchers. I am sincerely thankful for both the research grant and the conference grant the AEA provide me with and I will work hard to continue my research on environmental archaeology.


To have your say or to highlight some of your own research email 🙂

STUDENT REVIEW: Grand Challenges at the Edinburgh Meeting of Association for Environmental Archaeology – Abigail Buffington

Another review of the recent AEA conference ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ hosted by Edinburgh is here!

Keep reading to see what  PhD candidate Abigail Buffington thought of it all!


I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in and attend the meeting this December. Without the generous support of the conference fund, I likely could not have made the trip as a North American graduate student.

I am a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at The Ohio State University. As this is the last year of my degree, I am on the job market and the conference provided me with the opportunity to present my research and workshop my ideas with potential future colleagues and peers. I have presented previously at larger conferences, but this conference was an excellent opportunity to get critical feedback on my work as the attendees are closer to my field of study and methodology than is often the case at larger conferences. One attendee at my talk asked me to expand on how my research applied to the Grand Challenges theme of this conference. This question provided me with the opportunity to think on the relevance of my research beyond questions about how humans behaved in the past and how these results can inform our understanding of the sustainability of human systems in the present and future. The Association for Environmental Archaeology was important for my presentation for the following two reasons: 1) there was only one session at a time so all attendees could attend all talks and 2) Coffee breaks between all sessions provided a lot of time to discuss research beyond the question and answer sessions. As a result of these informal breaks, I made a number of important contacts. I was able to listen to all the presentations and engage all the speakers on their methods and a priori assumptions, which enabled me to contemplate my own research choices. I walked away from this conference inspired to continue my dissertation research and writing. I have since presented these research findings (with improvements from the conference feedback) to faculty and graduate students in my department.

I have encouraged the undergraduate student researchers in my lab and my fellow graduate paleoethnobotanists at The Ohio State University to look into the conference and the organization. I certainly plan to continue contributing to both over my academic career.

To have your say or to highlight some of your own research email ?


Student review of ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ – Nora Battermann

Our first review of the recent AEA conference ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ hosted by Edinburgh is here!

Keep reading to see what Zooarchaeology PhD candidate Nora M. Battermann thought of it all!


“In recent years pressure on researchers of all disciplines has increased considerably, with an emphasis on ‘impact’. Not only is research now required to lead to new knowledge, but preferably it is to ‘change people’s lives’. In this context, Kintigh et al. (2014, PNAS 111, 879-80) have identified what they term the ‘grand challenges for archaeology’ which include questions around emergence, communities, complexity, movement, mobility and identity as well as human-environment interactions. The AEA Autumn Conference in Edinburgh took up the challenge, and – stretched over three days – magnificently highlighted the powerful tools environmental archaeology offers for those purposes.

To summarise the whole conference goes beyond the scope of this short post, but I would still like to highlight the diversity of disciplines and techniques involved and their very broad application in the context of the grand challenges. Sessions focussed on human-environment interactions; landscape and sustainability; integration of data and interdisciplinary studies; colonisation, mobility and environment; food (oh, wait, sorry that was the conference dinner I was thinking about); archaeology in the contemporary world; climate change and adaptation; environment, identity and society; and approaches in palaeoenvironment studies. This in itself is an impressive summary of what environmental archaeology can achieve and highlights its relevance in the contemporary world. Add to that the diverse methods on which talks were delivered and the list becomes even more impressive: there were several zooarchaeological approaches including the study of mammals, birds, invertebrates; archaeobotanical investigations; isotope studies; phytoliths, pollen and sediments were evaluated; water and salt marshes (among
others) taught lessons about sustainability; and erosion and the management of data addressed problems relevant in the acquisition and subsequent storage/distribution of environmental material. In short, the conference offered an incredibly broad overview of what environmental archaeologists can – and perhaps should – do.

As a first year PhD student I think it is of particular importance to make sure not to lose sight of the ‘bigger picture’ whilst drowning in a heap of reading on a very specific research topic. Thus, the conference was a great opportunity to place my discipline at large as well as my own research in the context of the ‘grand challenges for archaeology’ and I am very grateful to have received funding from the AEA to support me on my trip to Edinburgh.”


To have your say or to highlight some of your own research email 🙂

‘Rediscovering Doggerland- latest member of the Lost Frontiers Project’

Below we have a lovely introduction to one of our newest AEA student members and information on her exciting project!! ENJOY!


Hello everyone, as a new student member of the AEA, I thought I’d write a small introduction to my project- always good to put a voice out there!

I’ve just started a PhD at the University of Warwick, looking at the application of sedimentary DNA (sedaDNA) as a tool for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. I am very lucky, as I am also part of the Lost Frontiers Project (, in which my project forms a small part of the wider research within the group.

The Lost Frontiers Project is a project based across the UK, examining the relationship between global climate change during the Early Holocene period and the impact that coastal inundation and the subsequent land-loss had on the plant, animal and Mesolithic human communities of the North Sea plain . From an anthropogenic perspective, the project also aims to explore the relationship between the Mesolithic communities on the Doggerland plain and the known Neolithic communities on mainland Europe, and how this influenced the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the UK.













Extent of Doggerland (Source: Lost Frontiers Project online)

As part of this team, myself and a fellow sedaDNA PhD student (Becky Cribdon) are looking at the extraction and analysis of sedaDNA taken from cores located in the North Sea (Becky) and the Irish Sea (myself). The overall aim is to provide an additional proxy for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, as well as examining DNA specific issues such as long-term survival in terms of degradation and bias in the record (as experienced with more traditional proxies such as pollen).

As you all have experienced, starting any new project is a pretty daunting process, and this has definitely been no exception to the rule. I’m an archaeologist by trade (mainly based in near-surface geophysics and a bit of consultancy), in which my undergraduate experience in paleoecology led me to this project; so, trying to get my head certain aspects, in particular coding (using Perl), has been the first major challenge…and I’m still battling on! However, I am so excited to get started with the DNA extraction and analysis, as well as working alongside the rest of the Lost Frontiers team.

I look forward to meeting you all at future events and thanks for reading!

Rosie Everett

To showcase your own research, or to simply introduce yourself to the AEA members then email

We would love to hear from you! Daisy 🙂

STUDENT MEMBERS: share your research with us!!

To all our student members – remember this is YOUR blog which YOU can use to highlight YOUR research!

Show us exactly what you know by contributing to the blog and highlighting what it is you find interesting or exciting about environmental archaeology. Whether it is a summary of your current research, a poster of research past or simply a comment on where this specialism of ours is headed then we want to hear from you!

Send any contributions to our student rep at and you could find your own work on the blog for all to see!

AEA Conference Poster – Natasha Cross

Check out the great poster presented by Natasha Cross of Bournemouth University at the last AEA conference. Her research focuses on the archaeobotanical analysis of the Early Bronze Age settlement site of Caolas an Eilean in Coll, Inner Hebrides. Click the link to view the full poster and find out more about this fascinating research!

Go on.. AEA poster_Final   <– click me!

If you have any research you would like to share please email