The transition to food production in human prehistory is widely recognised as one of the fundamental processes that shaped the modern world. In coastal eastern Africa, the timing and nature of this transition is still widely debated, with different models suggesting that plant and animal domesticates began arriving anywhere between 4000 to 1000 years ago through various combinations of intra-African diffusion and migrations. Key amongst these exchanges was the introduction of new domesticates such as cattle (Southwest Asian and Indian species), sheep and goat, which were (and still are) the mainstays of food production for both mobile pastoralists and sedentary agriculturists across sub-Saharan Africa. A major impediment to reconstructing the arrival and dispersal of these species, however, is a lack of accurate methods for identification of highly fragmented faunal material. My project aims to address these issues by employing a method known as Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS), to reconstruct ancient faunal species introductions to eastern Africa, with a focus on differentiating sheep and goat. This method uses collage peptide markers preserved in archaeological faunal remains to identify species origin or to clarify difficult to morphologically differentiate species such as sheep and goat (Prendergast et al. 2018). The focus of this study will be on differentiating sheep and goat at a number of previously excavated archaeological sites along the eastern African coast and offshore islands.

About the presenter

Courtney Culley graduated with Honours in Archaeology from the University of Queensland in 2015. She then spent one and a half years overseas before commencing a Masters of Philosophy at the University of Queensland and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany in 2018. She has field experience in Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Germany, USA, South Africa and Kenya. Her professional interests include proteomics, zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry, domestication, trade and exchange, Pleistocene extinctions and zooarchaeology.


About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.