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Department of Archaeology

  • B.A., Anthropology major, Indigenous Studies minor, June 2007, University of British Columbia Okanagan                            
  • M.A., Archaeology, December 2010, University of Calgary                           
  • Ph.D., Anthropology, August 2015, University of Texas at Austin

Previous Positions:

  • Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto (2015-2017)
  • Marie Curie Fellow (MSCA-EF), University of Cambridge (2017-2020)



    As an environmental archaeologist, with an expertise in microbotanical methods, phytolith, starch grain and starch spherulite analysis, and microcharcoal, I am interested in how people used plants in the past. More broadly I study how people used, modified and ultimately constructed their environments and how this feedback impacts human experience and plant-use.

    During my PhD I conducted phytolith analysis at several key Epipaleolithic (ca. 23-14.7 cal. BP) sites in the Levant (Israel and Jordan) to investigate hunter-gatherer plant-use throughout the climate fluctuations of the late Pleistocene. 

    This research led me to consider the critical role of reliable resources, particularly wetland resources, to hunter-gatherer life-ways, a topic I contined to investigate during a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) post-doc (University of Toronto), and a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (University of Cambridge). 

    Building on this, my current project – Anthropogenic Wetlands and the Long Transition to Agriculture in the Levant (funded by the Leverhulme Trust under a Early Career Fellowship) – employs a combination of microbotanical approaches, (phytolith, starch and microcharcoal analyses) and geoarchaeology, in particular micromorphology, to investigate how increasingly anthropogenic wetland landscapes and the reliable resources therein may have influenced the evolution of plant-food production and the origins of agriculture through the Final Pleistocene into the Early Holocene (ca. 23-8 ka cal. BP) in the Levant.

    I have also developed a research focus on early plant food processing and foodways, in particular the application of starch spherulites to archaeological contexts. This new archaeobotanical proxy has the potential to allow us to identify a range of processing activities, including baking, brewing and boiling of starchy plant foods deep into the archaeological past.


    • Environmental Archaeology
    • Paleoethnobotany
    • Microbotanical Analysis (phytoliths, starch grains and starch spherulites, and microcharcoal)
    • Residue Analysis
    • Plant food processing and foodways
    • Human Niche Construction
    • Human-Environment Interactions
    • Hunter-Gatherers
    • Origins of Agriculture



    Key publications: 

    Ramsey, M.N. and Dani Nadel. 2021, A new archaeobotanical proxy for plant food processing: Archaeological starch spherulites at the submerged 23,000 year-old site of Ohalo II. Journal of Archaeological Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2021.105465

    Arranz-Otaegui, A., L. Gonzalez Carretero, M.N. Ramsey, D.Q. Fuller and T. Richter. 2018, Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan, PNAS. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1801071115

    Ramsey, M.N., A.M. Rosen, L. Maher, D. MacDonald and D. Nadel. 2018, Sheltered by the Reeds: Construction and use of a twenty thousand year old hut according to phytolith analysis from Kharaneh IV, Jordan. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 50:85-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2018.03.003


    Ramsey, M.N., A.M. Rosen and D. Nadel. 2017, Centered on the Wetlands: Integrating new phytolith evidence of plant-use from the 23,000-year-old site of Ohalo II, Israel. American Antiquity, 82(4):702-722. DOI: 10.1017/aaq.2017.37


    Ramsey, M.N., A.M. Rosen, L. Maher and D. MacDonald. 2016, Risk, Reliability and Resilience: Phytolith evidence for alternative ‘Neolithization’ pathways at Kharaneh IV in the Azraq Basin, Jordan. PLOS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164081


    Ramsey, M.N. and A.M. Rosen. 2016, Wedded to Wetlands: Exploring Late Pleistocene Plant-Use in the Eastern Levant. Quaternary International, 396:5-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.10.109


    Ramsey, M.N., M. Jones, T. Richter and A.M. Rosen. 2015, Modifying the Marsh: A Preliminary Evaluation of Early Epipaleolithic Hunter-Gatherer Impacts in the Azraq Wetland. The Holocene, 25:1553-1564. DOI: 10.1177/0959683615594240

    Other publications: 

    Laparidou, S., M.N. Ramsey and A.M. Rosen. 2015, Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Anthropocene in the Longue Durée’. The Holocene, DOI: 10.1177/0959683615594472

    Crumley, C., S. Laparidou, M.N. Ramsey and A.M. Rosen. 2015, A view from the past and the future: concluding remarks on ‘The Anthropocene in the Longue Durée’. The Holocene, DOI: 10.1177/0959683615594473

    Other Professional Activities

    Job Titles

    Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, McDonald Institue for Archaeological Research
    Postdoctoral By-Fellow, Churchill College

    General Info

    Not available for consultancy
    Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
    Human Palaeoecology
    Built Environment
    Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies

    Contact Details

    Downing Street
    mr753 [at]
    CB2 3ER


    Archaeological Science
    Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
    Geographical areas: 
    Mesopotamia and the Near East
    Periods of interest: 
    Other Prehistory