Photo of Dr Eleni Asouti

Dr Eleni Asouti BA, MSc, PhD

Reader in Environmental Archaeology Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology


Personal Statement

I am a prehistorian and an environmental archaeologist researching the late Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies and landscapes of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (especially the transition from foraging to farming). I also specialise in anthracology (charcoal science: the analysis of charred fuel wood and timber remains retrieved from archaeological sites). My research focuses on human palaeoecology in Southwest Asia during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, investigating the management of terrestrial plant resources (grasses and trees) by prehistoric communities, the nature of regional community interactions, and the impacts of climate and environmental change on landscape ecology and economic decision-making. I have directed as PI the "Unfamiliar Landscapes Project: from foraging to farming in central Anatolia" (2013-2015) funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Since 2013 I have been directing the Eastern Fertile Crescent (EFEC) prehistory project, excavating and surveying late Palaeolithic and early Neolithic sites in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Wainwright Fund and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. The EFEC project is a research collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah. Its key objective is to investigate people-environment interactions and pre-agricultural plant management strategies in the hilly flanks of northwest Zagros between 20,000-8000 cal BC.

Research interests: charcoal science (anthracology); origins of agriculture; anthropogenic landscapes; hunter-gatherer archaeobotany; woodland management; late Palaeolithic-early Neolithic of southwest Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean; human palaeoecology; the evolution of human economic behaviours; semi-arid woodland and grassland palaeoecology; prehistoric nut crop management (Prunus/Amygdalus, Pistacia, Quercus)

PhD students:
Marvin Demicoli (AHRC)
Federico Poggiali (AHRC)
Mattia Cartolano (AHRC)
Jo-Hannah Plug
Ozlem Saritas

Visiting researchers:
Llorenç Picornell
Joeri Kaal

Postdocs hosted in the lab:
Dr Ceren Kabukcu (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow; current - Project title: "Before farming: prehistoric plant use in the Taurus-Zagros arc of Southwest Asia")
Dr Christina Collins (Leverhulme Trust Research Associate; "Unfamiliar Landscapes Project" - completed)
Dr Lee Bradley (Leverhulme Trust Research Associate; "Unfamiliar Landscapes Project" - completed)

The Liverpool Archaeobotany Laboratory comprises a research microscopy suite with stereo zoom microscopes, reflected/transmitted light (bright-/dark-field) microscopes, high-resolution and HD digital image capture equipment, a high-precision digital scale, desktop PCs with high-precision measurement and surface analysis software, and dedicated projection facilities. There is also access to a desktop SEM and an automated sputter coater, a specialist collection of botanical publications and identification manuals, and a reference collection comprising modern charred wood and seed, nut and fruit specimens primarily from the Middle East, and from Italy and Greece. These facilities support undergraduate, Masters, PhD and postdoc projects, alongside archaeobotanical consultancy work. The department also hosts a stable isotope analysis laboratory and a GIS suite. Email us at:

Personal Distinctions

  • 53o Corso di Cultura in Ecologia - "Tecnologia del Legno: verso il Futuro con Radici nel Passato" ("Wood science: looking to the future with the roots in the past") Centro Studi Ambiente Alpino, San Vito di Cadore (5-7 June 2017) - Lecture title: "The study of dendroecological features in archaeological wood charcoals: potential and limits" (course organisers: Prof. Tommaso Anfodillo and Prof. Alan Crivellaro). (Invitation to Speak, University of Padua, Italy 2017)
  • International conference: “The Long Revolution: Becoming Neolithic in Southwest Asia” - Title of presentation: "From harvesting to cultivation – from cultivation to farming" (Invitation to Speak, John Templeton Foundation & Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin 2016)
  • International Conference on “Late Glacial to Early Holocene socio-ecological responses to climatic instability within the Mediterranean Basin” (MEDINES) - Title of invited presentation: "The palaeoecology of low-level food production in early Holocene Southwest Asia" (Keynote Speech, Catalan Institute for Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), University of Rovira I Virgili 2016)
  • International Conference: "Prehistoric Networks in the longue durée: Palaeolithic Innovations enabling the Neolithic Revolution” - Invited paper presentation (Invitation to Speak, Freie Universität Berlin - Excellence Cluster TOPOI - Research Group D-6 2015)
  • Invited Presentation on "Franchthi Cave: integrated analysis of charcoal and archaeobotanical data" (Member of the Scientific Committee) (Invitation to Speak, 6th International Anthracology Meeting, University of Freiburg, Germany 2015)
  • Invited presentation in session on agricultural origins (session organisers: Melinda Zeder and Bruce Smith, Smithsonian, Washington DC) (Invitation to Speak, SAA 2015 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, US 2015)
  • Early Holocene human impacts on vegetation in SW Asia: an archaeobiological view on an old problem (Invitation to Speak, The University of Texas at Austin, US 2014)
  • Subsistence Change and Environmental Patterns at Aceramic Chogha Golan (Ilam Province/Iran) (Invitation to Speak, 9th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Basel, Switzerland 2014)
  • Climate instability and information exchange as agents of socioeconomic change: the view from SW Asia (Invitation to Speak, University of Queensland, School of Social Science, Australia 2014)
  • Hunter-Gatherer Knowledge Transmission and Environmental Change in Epipalaeolithic/Neolithic SW Asia (Invitation to Speak, Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Germany 2013)
  • "Evolution, History and the Transition to Food Production in SW Asia" (Invitation to Speak, SAA 2012 Annual Meeting, Memphis, US 2012)
  • "A contextual approach to the Neolithic (plant) economies of SW Asia" (Invitation to Speak, Baylor University, US 2012)
  • "Evolution, history and the origin of agriculture in Southwest Asia" (Invitation to Speak, University of Tübingen, Germany 2012)
  • The unoriginal origins of agriculture: food production and social life in the PPN of the Middle East (Invitation to Speak, University College Dublin, School of Archaeology 2011)
  • Rethinking human impact on the prehistoric vegetation of SW Asia: the case of Çatalhöyük (Invitation to Speak, 5th International Anthracology Meeting: "Charcoal as Cultural and Biological Heritage", Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Valencia, Spain 2011)
  • The End Of "Centres of Origin": domestication and community interactions in SW Asia (Invitation to Speak, American Schools of Oriental Research 2009 Meeting, New Orleans, US 2009)
  • Early Holocene settlement and environmental change in Central Anatolia (Invitation to Speak, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia 2008)
  • Community identities, interactions and archaeological cultures in the PPN of the Middle East (Invitation to Speak, Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, Egypt 2008)
  • Beyond the "Origins of Agriculture" (Invitation to Speak, 6th ICAANE, Sapienza, Università di Roma, Italy 2008)
  • Farmers, gatherers or horticulturalists? Reconstructing landscapes of practice in the Neolithic (Invitation to Speak, Council for British Research in the Levant, Jordan 2007)

Administrative Roles

  • University of Liverpool NERC Peer Review Team (Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour)
  • School of Histories, Languages and Cultures Peer Review Team
  • NWCDTP AHRC Archaeology pathway lead

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