Fiona Marshall

Professor Emerita of Archaeology
James W. and Jean L. Davis Professor in Arts and Sciences
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
research interests:
  • African Archaeology
  • Human-Animal Relations
  • Domestication and the Spread of Food Production
  • Hunter-Gatherer Socio-Economic Variation
  • Human Mobility
  • Landscape Development and sustainability
  • Conservation and Biodiversity of Wild and Domestic African Ungulates
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    • Tuesday 2:00 - 3:30 pm
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1114
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Fiona Marshall’s research focuses on African archaeology, animal domestication, and pastoralism.

    Her investigation of early food production, climatic shifts, and movement of early herders have positioned her as an international expert on human influences on African savannas and on animal domestication. She is currently conducting research on how animals with less social behavior on the wild--donkeys and cats—became domesticates. Long-term field work in Kenya has revealed that ancient mobile herders had positive influences on African savannas through creation of high nutrient settlement patches that persist to this day. Data on the role of milk and meat in Neolithic pastoral diets provide perspectives on lactase persistence. Dietary variability was a theme of Marshall’s ethnoarchaeological research among former Okiek hunters and honey collectors in Kenya. Long term collaborative research on the domestication of the donkey includes behavioral research on dibokali or E. africanus the wild ancestor of the donkey, ethnoarchaeological research on pastoral women’s donkey management, and morphometric and genetic components. Recent international research examines the role of donkeys in transport and sports in Tang China. Marshall’s projects and those of her graduate students contribute to understanding human-animal relations, interactions among ancient pastoral and hunter-gatherer societies, the history and resilience of livestock and herding ways of life, and the role of people in the long-term creation and maintenance of African landscapes.

    Students have completed PhDs on; long term sustainable hunting and fishing among Holocene Kansyore  communities in Uganda and the African Horn, faunal data (Mica Jones), obsidian quarrying in Kenya, ancient pastoral networks and food security (Steven Goldstein), isotopic and zooarchaeological evidence on urban herding in Iron Age Mali (Abigail Chipps Stone), the ethnoarchaeology and archaeology of the Afar Salt Route, Ethiopia (Helina Woldekiros), the use of ceramics by mobile herders, Samburu ethnoarchaeology (Katherine Grillo), and ancient Wankarani pastoralists of Bolivia (José Capriles).

    Students at Washington University's zooarchaeological laboratory have worked on projects in the Horn of Africa, China, behavioral research at the St Louis Zoo, and experimental studies of factors affecting bone breakage and carnivore damage to bone. The zooarchaeology laboratory has worked closely with the palaeothnobotany laboratory, the Department of Art and Archaeology, the University's Tyson Research Center and the St. Louis Zoo. 

    Selected Publications

    Marshall, F. 2020 Cats as predators and early domesticates in ancient human landscapes. Commentary Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. doi/10.1073/pnas.2011993117.

    Grillo, K.M., J. Dunne, F. Marshall, M.E. Prendergast, E. Casanova, A.O. Gidna, A. Janzen, Karega-Munene, J. Keute, A.Z.P. Mabulla, P. Robertshaw, T. Gillard, C. Walton-Doyle, H.L.Whelton, K. Ryan, R. Evershed. 2020 Molecular and isotopic evidence for milk, meat and plants in prehistoric eastern African herder food systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.  doi/10.1073/pnas.1920309117.

    Hu, S., Hu Y., Yang, J., Yang M., Wei, P., Hou, Y. and F. Marshall. 2020 From pack animals to polo: Donkeys from the ninth century Tang Tomb of an elite lady in Xi’an, China. Antiquity doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2020.6.

    Marshall F., Reid R. E. B., Goldstein S., Storozum M., Wreschnig A., Hu L., Kiura P. Shahack Gross R. and S. H. Ambrose 2018 Ancient herders enriched and restructured African grasslands. Nature 561(7723):387-390. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0456-9

    Weissbrod, L., Marshall F.B, Valla, F.R. Kahalaily, H., Bar-Oz, G., Auggray, J.-C., Vigne, J.-D., Cucchi, T. 2017. Origins of house mice in ecological niches created by settled hunter-gatherers in the Levant 15,000 y ago. PNAS Doi/10.1073/pnas.1619137114

    Chritz, K.L., Marshall F., Esperenza Zagal, M, Kirewa, F. and T. E. Cerling. 2015 Environments and trypanosomiasis risks for early herders in the later Holocene of the Lake Victoria basin, Kenya. PNAS Doi/10.1073/pnas.1423953112

    Marshall F.B., Dobney, K., Denham T and J.M. Capriles. 2014 Evaluating the roles of directed breeding and gene flow in animal domestication. PNAS 111(17) 6153-6158. doi/10.1073/pnas.1312984110

    Hu, Y., S. Hu, W. Wang, X. Wu, F. Marshall, X. Chen, L.Hou and C. Wang. 2013 Earliest evidence for commensal processes of cat domestication. PNAS 111(1)116120. doi:10.1073/pnas.1311439110  

    Marshall, F. and C. Asa.  2013 A Study of African Wild Ass Behavior Provides Insights into Conservation Issues, Domestication processes and Archaeological Interpretation. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20(3):479-494.

    Marshall, F., Grillo, K. and L. Arco. 2011 Prehistoric Pastoralists and Social Responses to Climatic Risk in East Africa. In Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural Persistence in an Ever-changing Environment. Chapter Two. N. Miller, K. Moore and K. Ryan Eds. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Series, Penn Press, Philadelphia.

    Kimura, B., F. Marshall, S. Chen, S. Rosenbom, P.D. Moehlman, N. Tuross, R. Sabin, J. Peters, B. Barich H. Yohannes, F. Kebede, R. Teclai, R., A. Beja-Pereira, and C. Mulligan. 2010 Ancient DNA from Nubian and Somali wild ass provides insights into African wild ass phylogeny and donkey domestication. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0708.

    Rossel, Stine, Fiona Marshall, Joris Peters, Tom Pilgram, Matthew D. Adams and David O’Connor. 2008 Domestication of the Donkey: New Data on Timing, Processes and Indicators. PNAS 105:3715-3720.  

    Dale, D., Marshall F. and T. Pilgram. 2004 Delayed-Return Hunter-Gatherers in Africa ? Historic Perspectives from the Okiek and Archaeological Perspectives from the Kansyore. In Hunters and Gatherers in Theory and Archaeology. G. Crothers Ed. Chapter 15, pp. 340-375. Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper 31, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. [pdf]

    Shahack-Gross, R., Marshall , F. and S. Weiner. 2003 Geo-Ethnoarchaeology of Pastoral Sites: The Identification of Livestock Enclosures in Abandoned Maasai Settlements. The Journal of Archaeological Science 30:439-459.  [pdf]

    Marshall, F. and L. Hildebrand. 2002 Cattle before Crops: the Origins and Spread of Food Production in Africa. Journal of World Prehistory 16: 99-143.  [pdf]