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Dr Emma Jessica Loftus

Dr Emma Jessica Loftus

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street



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.

Research Interests

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

Loftus E, Sealy J, Leng M, Lee-Thorp J. 2017. A late Quaternary record of seasonal sea surface temperatures off southern Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews. 171:73-84. DOI:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.07.003

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. DOI:10.1017/RDC.2016.12

Loftus E, Rogers KD, Lee-Thorp, JA. 2015. A simple method to establish calcite:aragonite ratios in archaeological mollusc shells. Journal of Quaternary Science. 30(8): 731-735. DOI:10.1002/jqs.2819

Loftus E, Stewart BA, Dewar G, Lee-Thorp, JA. 2015. Stable isotope evidence of late MIS 3 to middle Holocene palaeoenvironments from Sehonghong Rockshelter, eastern Lesotho.Journal of Quaternary Science 30(8): 805-816. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2817 

Loftus E, Sealy JC. 2012. Interpreting stable carbon isotopes in human tooth enamel: an examination of tissue spacings from South Africa. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147 (3): 499-507.