skip to content

Department of Archaeology


This project brings together several research streams to examine the nexus relations between land and water resources, societal development, and landscape stability in sub-Saharan Africa. What processes and practices support long-term settlement and resource use? How did past societies secure water for settlement and urban growth? To address these questions, new landscape historical ecology research is exploring resource nexus at Aksum and Great Zimbabwe. Multi-scalar analysis of environmental, archaeological, and historical records is focusing on the interlinkages between availability and use of land and water resources, exhaustion, and regeneration processes, and how these influence societal development and landscape stability over time. The results are informing global research on past water systems and their legacy [1]. This is a theme of wider interdisciplinary relevance that I promote also as an associated editor of WIREs Water [2].

The interplay between resource landscapes and societal development is being further investigated through other collaborative projects. In Zanzibar, we are examining the relations between local resources and urban transition. In central Zambia, geoarchaeological work is revealing the first landscape sequences and settlement micro-stratigraphies associated with the movement of early Bantu-speaking groups across different ecological niches (1st millennium CE).

These research strands share an analytical framework that combines multi-scalar survey and geoarchaeological excavation, stratigraphic and contextual sampling, and laboratory analyses of environmental proxies and anthropic indicators in soils and sediments (soil macro- and micromorphology; trace elemental chemistry; phytoliths and other biogenic silica).

This three-year project (2020–2023) is kindly supported by an A. G. Leventis Fellowship in African Archaeology.

For general enquires, contact Federica Sulas

[1] Sulas F. & I. Pikirayi (eds.) 2018. Water and ancient societies from the ancient times to the present: resilience, decline and revival. Routledge.

[2] Sulas F., K. French & V. Scarborough 2019. Water and ancient cities: urban supply systems. WIREs Water, doi: 10.1002/wat2.1441

Project Members:


AG Leventis Foundation

Project Tags

Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Periods of interest: 
Iron Age
Other Late Prehistory
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies
Powered by Drupal