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Department of Archaeology


I am trained in stable isotope and radiocarbon methods, which I apply to Middle and Later Stone Age records in southern Africa. I am currently researching shellfishing behaviours of hunter-gatherers who lived on the west coast of South Africa, using serially sampled oxygen isotope records from archaeological shells. 

I co-developed the Southern African Radiocarbon Database (accessible with an OxCal login here), and I am happy to talk about how this database might be useful in your research - please get in touch. 


My doctoral thesis, completed in November 2016 and supervised by Profs. Julia Lee-Thorp and Judith Sealy, reconstructed Pleistocene and Holocene sea surface temperatures off the south coast of South Africa, from marine shells preserved in archaeological shell middens. I completed my Masters degree (2013) at the University of Oxford, researching environments around the Middle and Later Stone Age site Sehonghong, in the Lesotho highlands. As part of my Honours degree at the University of Cape Town (2010), I researched variability in carbon isotope ratios between different tissues of Later Stone Age hunter-gatherer skeletons from the Western Cape, South Africa.


Archaeology of the Middle and Later Stone Age in southern Africa

Analysis of stable isotopes and radiocarbon dates.

My research focuses on stable isotope records from archaeological shells, in order to better understand coastal adaptations among Middle and Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers in Africa.


Key publications: 
[1] Loftus E, Mitchell P, Bronk Ramsey, C. 2019. An archaeological radiocarbon database for southern Africa. Antiquity. 93: 870-885.
 [2] Loftus E, Lee-Thorp J, Leng M, Marean C, Sealy J. 2019. Seasonal scheduling of shellfish collection in the Middle and Later Stone Ages of southern Africa. Journal of Human Evolution. 128: 1-16.
[3]  Loftus E, Lee-Thorp JA, Sealy J. 2016. New radiocarbon dates and Bayesian models for Nelson Bay Cave and Byneskranskop 1: implications for the South African Later Stone Age sequence. Radiocarbon.58(2):365-381. 
[4]  Loftus E, Sealy JC. 2012. Interpreting stable carbon isotopes in human tooth enamel: an examination of tissue spacings from South Africa. American J. of Physical Anthropology 147 (3): 499–507. 


Other publications: 
  • Loftus E, Pargeter J, Mackay A, Stewart B, Mitchell P. 2019. Late Pleistocene human occupation in the Maloti-Drakensberg region of southern Africa: new radiocarbon dates from Rose Cottage Cave and inter-site comparisons. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 56: 101117.
  • Pargeter J, Loftus E, Mackay A, Mitchell P, Stewart B. 2018. New ages from Boomplaas Cave provide increased resolution on late/terminal Pleistocene human behavioural variability. Azania: African Archaeological Research.  53:2, 156-184.
  • Hare VJ, Loftus E, Jeffrey A, Bronk Ramsey, C. 2018. Atmospheric CO2 control on fossil carbon isotopes. Nature Communications. 9: 252.
  • Loftus E, Rogers K, Lee-Thorp J. 2015. A simple method to establish calcite:aragonite ratios in archaeological mollusc shells. J. of Quaternary Science. 30(8):731-5.
  • Loftus E, Stewart BA, Dewar G, Lee-Thorp J. 2015. Stable isotope evidence of late MIS 3 to middle Holocene palaeoenvironments from Sehonghong Rockshelter, eastern Lesotho. J. of Quaternary Science 30(8): 805-816.

Job Titles

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Research Associate, St Johns College, Cambridge

General Info

Not available for consultancy

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street