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Department of Archaeology



Dr Friesem is Associate Professor, Department of Maritime Civilizations, School of Archaeology and Maritime Cultures, University of Haifa, Israel. He is an environmental archaeologist combining field archaeology, geoarchaeology, ethnography and social and ecological theory in order to study the often missing small-scale perspective of human-environment relations. His research develops new methods to understand how human ecology, technology and social interactions are constructed by - and in turn modify - the physical, the social and the perceptual environment. He is a dynamic researcher, with a strong network of collaborators.


As an ethnoarchaeologist and micro-geoarchaeologist, I examine through ethnography, archaeology and microscopic analysis how human activity forms an archaeological evidence and how the microscopic archaeological record reflects human behaviour. The basis for my work is that archaeological sites result not only from human activity, but that they are also influenced by environmental processes. Thus, in order to provide a reliable interpretation of the archaeological record, it is crucial to understand the complexity of its formation processes including the deposition and post depositional processes and human-environment relations.

I am especially interested in studying prehistoric foragers and Palaeolithic sociality. My ethnoarchaeological research involves ethnographic work among contemporary forest dweller hunter-gatherers in South Asia and archaeological fieldwork and sediment analysis in the laboratory. I use different geoarchaeological laboratory-based techniques to study the microscopic archaeological record including: soil micromorphology, Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, elemental analysis and phytolith analysis.

My project - TropicMicroArch (funded by the European Commission under Marie Curie Fellowship) - aims to study how hunter-gatherers' ways of living are reflected in their use of space and how it affects deposition patterns of microscopic materials in tropical forests. This project involves ethnoarchaeology, social anthropology, geoarchaeology and spatial analysis in order to understand how the unique ways of living of hunter-gatherers - namely immediacy, sharing, mobility and the dynamic formation of social units - can be translated to archaeological deposition patterns. I also investigate the affect of post depositional processes occurring in tropical environments on the formation of an archaeological evidence.

As part of my Palaeolithic and geoarchaeological research I study several key sites in the Near East including: Tabun Cave, a UNESCO world heritage site with an exceptional long sequence of human activity during the last 500,000 years; Nesher Ramla Quarry, a Middle Palaeolithic open-air site with unique preservation of human activity associated with use of fire, butchering and food processing and consumption; Shovakh Cave, a Middle Palaeolithic cave where I explore Neanderthals behaviour and social complexity in comparison to the nearby Amud Cave; Sefunim Cave, where I investigate the transition between Middle to Upper Palaeolithic associated with Modern Human-Neanderthal transition. My other fieldwork in the Near East focuses on the social transitions preceding the emergence of agriculture. Through the microarchaeological record I look at changes in use of space, exploitation of resources, technology and social behaviour at the Terminal Pleistocene and along the emergence of complex socities. My work includes sites such as Neve David (Geometric Kebaran c. 16Kya) and Ein Gev IV (Geometric Kebaran c. 15Kya) and Nahal Ein Gev II (Late Natufian c. 12Kya). 

In my previous research, I studied mud structures and developed methods for the identification of mud walls, thatched roofs, beaten earth floors and activity remains deposited within mud houses. Using microscopic and geoarchaeological methods I studied the archaeological site formation processes related to mud structures in order to investigate domestic use of space and reconstructing activity areas.

Key Publications

Key publications: 
  • Friesem, D.E., Lavi, N., Madella, M., Boaretto, E., Ajithprasad, P., French, C. (2017). The formation of fire residues associated with hunter-gatherers in humid tropical environments: A geo-ethnoarchaeological perspective. Quaternary Science Reviews 171, 85-99.
  • Friesem, D.E., Lavi, N. (2017) Foragers, tropical forests and the formation of archaeological evidences: an ethnoarchaeological view from South India. Quaternary International 448, 117-128.
  • Friesem, D.E., Lavi, N., Madella, M., Ajithprasad, P., French, C. (2016). Site Formation Processes and Hunter-Gatherers Use of Space in a Tropical Environment: A Geo-Ethnoarchaeological Approach from South India. PLoS ONE 11, e0164185.
  • Friesem, D. E. (2016). Geo-Ethnoarchaeology in Action. Journal of Archaeological Science 70, 145-157.
  • Friesem, D. E., Zaidner, Y., Shahack-Gross, R. (2014). Formation Processes and Combustion Features at the Lower Layers of the Middle Palaeolithic Open-air Site of Nesher Ramla, Israel. Quaternary International 331, 128-138.
  • Friesem, D. E., Tsartsidou, G., Karkanas, P., Shahack-Gross, R. (2014). Where are the Roofs? A Geoethnoarchaeological Study of Mud Structures and their Collapse Processes, Focusing on the Identification of Roofs. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 6, 73-92.
  • Friesem, D. E., Karkanas, P., Tsartsidou, G., Shahack-Gross, R. (2014). Micromorphological Processes Involved in Mud Bricks Degradation in Temperate Environment: An Ethnoarchaeological Case Study from Northern Greece. Journal of Archaeological Science 41, 556-567.
  • Friesem, D., Boaretto, E., Eliyahu-Behar, A., Shahack-Gross, R. (2011). Degradation of Mud Brick Houses in an Arid Environment: a Geoarchaeological Model. Journal of Archaeological Science 38, 1135-47.
Other publications: 
  • Shimelmitz, R., Friesem, D.E., Clark, J.L., Groman-Yaroslavski, I., Weissbrod, L., Porat, N., Kandel, A.W. (2017). The Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic of Sefunim Cave, Israel. Quaternary International. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2017.05.039.
  • Haaland, M.M., Friesem, D.E., Miller, C.E., Henshilwood, C.S. (2017). Heat-induced alteration of glauconitic minerals in the Middle Stone Age levels of Blombos Cave, South Africa: Implications for evaluating site structure and burning events. Journal of Archaeological Science. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2017.06.008.
  • Vardi, J., Marder, O., Bookman, R., Friesem, D.E., Groman-Yeroslavski, I., Edeltin, L., Porat, N., Boaretto, E., Roskin, J. (2017). Middle to Late Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherer encampments at the Ashalim site, on a linear dune-like morphology, along dunefield margin water bodies. Quaternary International. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2017.06.011.
  • Roskin, J., Bookman, R., Friesem, D.E., Vardi, J. (2017). A late Pleistocene linear dune dam record of aeolian-fluvial dynamics at the fringes of the northwestern Negev dunefield. Sedimentary Geology 353, 76-95.
  • Zaidner, Y., Frumkin, A., Friesem, D., Tsatskin, A., Shahack-Gross, R. (2016). Landscapes, depositional environments and human occupation at Middle Paleolithic open-air sites in the southern Levant, with new insights from Nesher Ramla, Israel. Quaternary Science Reviews 138, 76-86.
  • Forget, M. C., Regev, L., Friesem, D. E., Shahack-Gross, R. (2015). Physical and Mineralogical Properties of Experimentally Heated Chaff-Tempered Mud Bricks: Implications for Reconstruction of Environmental Factors Influencing the Appearance of Mud Bricks in Archaeological Conflagration Events. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2, 80-93.
  • Friesem, D., Shahack-Gross, R. (2013). Area J. Part V: Analyses of Sediments from the Level J-4 Temple floor. In: Finkelstein, I., Ussishkin, D., Cline, E. (Eds.). Megiddo V: The 2004-2008 Seasons, Volume 1. Tel Aviv University. Tel Aviv. pp 143-52.

Job Titles

Honorary Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

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Not available for consultancy

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