Dr Monica N. Ramsey
As an environmental archaeologist, with an expertise in microbotanical methods, phytolith, starch analysis and microcharcoal, I am interested in how people used plants in the past. More broadly I study how people used, modified and ultimately constructed their environments and how this feedback impacts human experience and plant-use.
During my PhD I conducted phytolith analysis at several key Epipaleolithic (ca. 23-14.7 cal. BP) sites in the Levant (Israel and Jordan) to investigate hunter-gatherer plant-use throughout the climate fluctuations of the late Pleistocene.
This research led me to consider the critical role of reliable resources, particularly wetland resources, to hunter-gatherer life-ways, a topic I contined to investigate during a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) post-doc (University of Toronto), and a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (University of Cambridge).
Building on this, my current project – Anthropogenic Wetlands and the Long Transition to Agriculture in the Levant (funded by the Leverhulme Trust under a Early Career Fellowship) – employs a combination of microbotanical approaches, (phytolith, starch and microcharcoal analyses) and geoarchaeology, in particular micromorphology, to investigate how increasingly anthropogenic wetland landscapes and the reliable resources therein may have influenced the evolution of plant-food production and the origins of agriculture through the Final Pleistocene into the Early Holocene (ca. 23-8 ka cal. BP) in the Levant.
I have also developed a research focus on early plant food processing, in particular the application of starch spherulites to archaeological contexts. This new archaeobotanical proxy has the potential to allow us to identify a range of processing activities, including baking, brewing and boiling of starchy plant foods deep into the archaeological past.