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Fiona Marshall

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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office hours:

  • 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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​As an Old World prehistorian, Fiona Marshall’s research focuses on two issues: early hominid lifeways, and the origins and spread of pastoralism in Africa.

Marshall's research focuses on animal domestication and the beginnings of food production in Africa. She is currently conducting research on two unlikely domesticates, donkeys and cats. The long-term effects of cattle pastoralism on African savannas are the focus of a current field project in southwestern Kenya. She has also undertaken ethnoarchaeological field work designed to investigate factors that affect body part representation in archaeological sites, and alternative pathways to food production among former Okiek hunter-gatherers of the Mau Escarpment, Kenya. She is currently conducting interdisciplinary research on the domestication of the donkey with archaeological, morphometric, genetic, behavioral and ethnoarchaeological components. Human mobility and social strategies for coping with increasing aridity in Africa during the Holocene and on the role of African pastoralists in the long-term creation and maintenance of African savannas are emphases of most of my projects. Her research and that of my graduate students contributes to understanding human-animal relations, complex interactions among ancient agricultural, pastoral and hunter-gatherer societies in Africa, the history and resilience of livestock and herding ways of life, and the sustainability of use of African grasslands.

Students have completed PhDs on; obsidian quarrying and technological and social organization of ancient herders, Kenya (Steven Goldstein), the ethnoarchaeology and archaeology of the Afar Salt Route, Ethiopia (Helina Woldekiros); Samburu ethnoarchaeology and the use of ceramics by mobile herders (Katherine Grillo), ancient Wankarani pastoralists of Bolivia (José Capriles) and research on rodents as indicators of degree of mobility (Lior Weissbrod).

Students at Washington University's zooarchaeological laboratory are currently working 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

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  

Shackleford, L., Marshall, F. and J. Peters. 2013 Identifying Donkey Domestication Through Changes in Cross-Sectional Geometry of Long Bones. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(12):4170-4179.

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. InSustainable 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.  

Marshall, Fiona. 2007 African pastoral perspectives on domestication of the donkey: A first synthesis. In Rethinking Agriculture: Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Perspectives. Chapter 18, pp 537 - 594. T.P. Denham and L. Vrydaghs Eds. London , UCL Press.  [pdf]

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]