Current Students

Debora Heard, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Anthropology

My research focuses on ancient Nubia which is in current-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt.  Focusing on the Napatan and Meroitic periods of the Kushite polity, my dissertation examines the structures, inscriptions, and iconography of temples dedicated to the gods Amun and Apedemak to analyze Kushite ideologies of power, political subjectivity, and womanhood.

Royal Omar Ghazal, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Anthropology

My research interests are primarily in archaeology of the ancient Near East and South Asia, where I am concerned with systems of trade and exchange and how these factors contribute to changes in political economy and ecology in the Bronze Age. My dissertation seeks to contribute to a growing body of research in archaeology and related fields concerning intercultural interaction and systems of exchange in prehistoric/pre-market societies. This research explores how the introduction of foreign products and the development of local cottage industries – with emphasis on ceramics – contributed to the integration of coastal and interior communities in Early/Middle Bronze Age (3100-2000) Oman. The consolidation of these two communities, i.e. coastal fisherman and oasis interior agro-pastoralists, constituted the first successful cultural integration of these two subsistence regimes under a single “polity,” which ancient Mesopotamian writers referred to as the “Kingdom of Magan” (northern Oman/UAE).

Kelly Wilcox Black, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Anthropology

I am interested in studying long term trajectories of human-animal relationships and how they speak to the social, political, ecological dimensions of South Indian history and prehistory. Using faunal analysis, I study the ways in which human and animal worlds intersect and the types of practices that emerge and evolve from these intersections.  In thinking about human-animal relationships as crucial points for forging and mediating social relationships, I am interested in looking at how animal use influences, and is mutually influenced by, society and politics, and how this has contributed to economic and symbolic conceptualizations of animals and human-animal relationships over time. Currently I am looking at faunal remains excavated from Kadebakele, an Iron Age (1200-300 BC) site in Northern Karnakata, and exploring the various ways animals figured into ritualized activities and megalith construction. In the future, I hope to combine zooarchaeology and stable isotope analysis to address questions on the mobility of human and animal populations, herding strategies, and shifts in animal-based subsistence practices.

Jamie CountrymanJamie Countryman, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Anthropology

 I am an environmental anthropologist and archaeologist. My work centers the study of land history and long-term effects of colonial empires from the perspective of plant-oriented practices: agriculture, forestry, gardening, foraging, seed-keeping, medicine, fuel and energy production. I am especially interested in theorizing ferality in plants, i.e. plants “escaping” cultivation, through case studies of abandoned land, lost foodways, and weeds. My research spans cases in Europe and North America. My dissertation project analyzes the historical ecology of Roman imperialism in southern Croatia using paleoethnobotanical data to trace changes in local plant cultivation during the classical period. I am planning a new project examining the role of climate change and Euro-American settler colonialism in transforming Indigenous grain crops from staple foods to sidewalk weeds in the American Midwest.

Mannat JohalMannat Johal, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Anthropology 

I am an archaeologist studying the temporalities of routine practices of making, using and discarding ceramic vessels at Maski, in South India. Working with ceramic assemblages excavated from medieval settlements that were occupied in the 12th-14th centuries, my dissertation tracks how potters produced time-scales of antiquity or novelty in their practices of production, how users contended with differential rates of breakage and replacement, and how the temporalities of a range of quotidian activities were entangled with these ubiquitous and fragile containers. In my consideration of relations between archaeological materials and time that exceed chronology-building, I am interested in questions of historicity and the periodization of the premodern Indian past.

 Chelsea Cohen, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania Anthropology 

My research interests span historical archaeology, maritime heritage, urban studies, and museum anthropology. My dissertation focuses on relationships between early-contact-period land management and later British-colonial maritime cultural landscapes. Trained in maritime archaeology and paleoethnobotany, I work both terrestrially and underwater to connect land and sea, using survey, excavation, paleoenvironmental analysis, coastal modeling, and computer-based spatial analysis to study the relationship between urban ports and colonial hinterlands. I am currently involved in projects in Virginia and southern India. In addition to my current research, I have worked extensively in object conservation, spatial modeling, and museum collections and curation. My past work includes field and lab roles in Chicago (IL), Alexandria (VA), Lake Champlain (VT), Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), and the Sonoran Desert (AZ) within the US, as well as Athens (Greece),  Muğla (Turkey) and Tamil Nadu (India).

Christopher Lamack, PhD Student, University of Pennsylvania Anthropology 

I’m interested in the historical archaeology of South Asia, looking at the effects of imperial interaction on local communities. I’m also interested in the archaeology of landscapes and identity in South Asia, in the history of archaeology in South Asia, and in how looking at South Asia through the lens of historical archaeology can help us better understand the big themes of historical archaeology itself — themes like colonialism, industrialization, race, and the development of modern societies.

Moriah McKenna PhD Student, University of Pennsylvania Anthropology

My research interrogates how humans perceived, interacted with, and shaped landscapes in the past using geoarchaeological and paleoecological analyses. Previously, I conducted landscape archaeology research on stone piles associated with Colonial and Federal period farmsteads in the American Northeast. My current research in the Paleoecology lab examines land-use regimes and infrastructures associated with agricultural intensification and socio-political transitions during the Neolithic and Iron Age in South India.

Past Students

Madeleine McLeester I study the rapid transformation of the Calumet Region from 1500-1850.  The Calumet Region is the 45 mile stretch of land along the southern rim of Lake Michigan.  It is known for both its unique biodiversity and ecological degradation.  My work aims to understand how semi-sedentary groups in the region helped to shape this ecology.  In particular, I am researching how the processes of agriculture, foraging, and hunting impact the various environments where they were practiced.  My research uses methods such as pollen, macrobotanical, and stable isotope analyses.  I’m also interested in the politics of nature in the past and present — in particular, the dominance of a Europeanized ecology both in nature and in discourse.  Through my research on the impact of semi-sedentary groups, I hope to inform the restoration and management of the Calumet Region’s natural areas on methods to help achieve restoration targets.


Melissa Rosenzweig I study the intersections of agriculture and empire at a Late Assyrian (first millennium BCE) site in southeastern Anatolia called Ziyaret Tepe.  I  use archaeobotanical analysis to put into context the social changes rendered by, and through, agriculture before and during imperial occupation of the site.  Theoretical underpinnings for this study come from political ecology and landscape/environmental archaeology.

Julie Hanlon Textual and archaeological analysis of Early Historic Jain monastic complexes, trade, and landscapes of Early Historic Tamil Nadu.

 Kate Franklin I am an anthropological archaeologist working in the Republic of Armenia, currently investigating the intersections of global trade and social life as constituted on-the-move along the highways between late medieval (AD 12-15th c) towns and cities.  Working with a concept of cosmopolitanism, I explore how medieval subjects (traders, princes, villagers, city dwellers) negotiated between multiple and frequently contradictory models of the universal as they traveled across political realms and within architectural worlds, and as they participated in mobile place-making through material practices like cuisine.  My work uses the ideas of value transformation to explore multiple coeval ways of ‘being medieval’ that stand outside the univocal narratives of rational mercantilism or religious/ethnic essentialism. My doctoral dissertation, “This World is an Inn: Cosmopolitanism and Caravan Trade in late Medieval Armenia,”  encompasses princely performances as well as roadside garbage and examines the practices of value transformation by differently situated subjects in medieval Armenian society.

Mudit Trivedi Political identity, built environments and landscape, Sultanate Mewar, Rajasthan, India. Archaeology and historical anthropology.

 Suchismita Das I am a cultural anthropologist working in India, broadly interested in the anthropology of conservation and development, anthropology of the state and the making of nature through situated practices. My research looks at ecotourism as an emergent tool of conservation and development, as is being promoted along India’s northeastern frontier, in the Himalayan state of Sikkim. I explore how through ecotourism the agenda of biodiversity conservation gets linked to the positive valuation of cultural diversity in the region. To understand the resultant modes of environmental governance, I plan to conduct ethnographic investigation of contemporary conservation projects, supplemented by archival research on regional frontier history.

 Brian Wilson I am an archaeologist and historical anthropologist whose work examines Portuguese colonial expansion in South Asia with a particular focus on the former capital city of the Portuguese colonial empire in Asia, Velha Goa.  At this site, I explores the production of space, human-environment interactions, abandonment, and ruination in an early modern urban landscape.  I am PhD candidate and am currently writing my dissertation.

Home: ANTH 3327W/5327W Inca, Aztec & Maya Civilizations (Spring 2021) Steven Kosiba

Andrew Bauer | Department of Anthropology Andrew Bauer