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Department of Archaeology



I am an archaeologist with diverse experience in geoarchaeology and landscape historical ecology in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following a BA (Hons) in Oriental Studies and postgraduate studies in geoarchaeology (MPhil & PhD, Cantab), I have held teaching and research posts in the UK, Spain, Italy, South Africa, and Denmark. I have conducted field research in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Sardinia (Italy).

My main research interests are in landscape historical ecology, resource practices, and geoarchaeology of tropical environments. Before returning to Cambridge, I was Assistant Professor in Archaeology at UrbNet, Aarhus University.  

I am currently involved in field projects exploring: i) resource uses and ecosystem services at Great Zimbabwe; ii) resource landscapes of urban transition in Zanzibar; iii) Iron Age landscapes in SW Zambia.

As the A. G. Leventis Fellow in African Archaeology, I am developing new research on water security and urban landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa.


I am currently engaged in the following research and training projects:

  • From 2016: The long-term history of water and land management at Great Zimbabwe, with Innocent Pikirayi (Pretoria).
  • From 2017: Urban ecology and transitions in the Zanzibar archipelago with Stephanie Wynne-Jones (York), and in collaboration with UrbNet (Aarhus) [].
  • From 2015: Geoarchaeological survey and analyses on Iron Age settlement and landscapes in the Kafue River floodplain, SW Zambia, with Jeffrey Fleisher (Rice), Matthew Pawlowicz (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Katherine de Luna (Georgetown).

Key Publications

Other publications: 

Crumley, C. L., Murphy J. T., Hritz C., Isendahl C., Nijhuis S., Lucero L. J., Meunier J., Ostovar P., Reichel C., Scarborough V. L., Sulas F., Thuston T. L. (eds. J. T. Murphy & C. L. Crumley), 2022. If the Past Teaches, What Does the Future Learn? Ancient Urban Regions and the Durable Future. Delft: Delft University of Technology. Open access.

Sulas F., Pikirayi I., eds. 2018. Water and societies from ancient times to the present: Resilience, decline, and revival. Routledge, 402p.

Serreli G., Melis R. T., French C., Sulas F., eds. 2017. Sa massaria: Ecologia storica dei sistemi di lavoro contadino in Sardegna, 2 Vols. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 1040p.

Sulas F., French K., Scarborough V. 2020. Water and ancient cities: urban supply system. Special collection with editorial, WIREs Water 7: e1441.

Sulas F., ed. 2011. Africa’s fragile heritages. Special issue, African Archaeological Review 28/1, 97p.


Journal articles

Sulas F., M. S. Bagge, R. Enevold, L. Harrault, S. M. Kristiansen, T. Ljungberg, K. B. Milek, P. H. Mikkelsen, P. M. Jensen, V. Orfanou, W. A. Out, M. Portillo, S. M. Sindbæk 2022. Revealing the invisible dead: integrated bio-geoarchaeological profiling exposes human and animal remains in a seemingly ‘empty’ Viking-Age burial. Journal of Archaeological Science 141: 105589

Wynne-Jones S., Sulas F., Out W.A., Kristiansen S.M., Fitton T., Ali A.K., Olsen J. 2021. Urban Chronology at a Human Scale on the Coast of East Africa in the 1st Millennium A.D. Journal of Field Archaeology 46(1): 21‒35.

Sulas F., Pikirayi I. 2020. From Centre–Periphery Models to Textured Urban Landscapes: Comparative Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Urban Archaeology 1: 67–83 (Golden OA).

Sulas F., Kristiansen S. M., Wynne-Jones S. 2019. Soil geochemistry, phytoliths and artefacts from an early Swahili daub house, Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar. Journal of Archaeological Science 103: 32–45.

Melis R. T., French C., Marriner N., Montis F., Serreli G., Sulas F., Vacchi M. 2018. 8000 years of coastal changes on a western Mediterranean island. Marine Geology 403: 93-108.

French C., Sulas F., Petrie C. 2017. Expanding the research parameters of geoarchaeology: case studies from Aksum in Ethiopia and Haryana in India. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 9: 1613–1626.

Sulas F., Fleisher J., Wynne-Jones S. 2017. Geoarchaeology of urban space in tropical island environments. Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 52‒63.

Pikirayi I., Sulas F.,Musindo T. T., Chimwanda A., Chikumbirike J., Mtetwa E., Nxumalo B., Sagiya M. E. 2016. Great Zimbabwe's water. WIREs Water 3: 195–210.

Fleisher J., Sulas F. 2015. Deciphering public spaces in urban contexts: Geophysical survey, multi-element soil analysis, and artifact distributions at the 15th-16th-century Swahili settlement of Songo Mnara. Journal of Archaeological Science 55: 55‒70.

Sulas F., Madella M. 2012. Archaeology at the micro-scale: micromorphology and phytoliths at a Swahili stonetown. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 4/2: 145−159.

Sulas F., Madella M., French C. 2009. State formation and water-resource management in the Horn of Africa: the Aksumite Kingdom of the northern Ethiopian Highlands. World Archaeology 41/1: 2−15.

French C., Sulas F., Madella M. 2009. New geoarchaeological investigations of the valley systems in the Aksum area of northern Ethiopia. Catena 78/3: 218−233.

Phillipson L., Sulas F. 2005. Cultural continuity in the Aksumite lithic tool production: the evidence from May Agam. Azania 15: 1−18.


Book chapters

Sulas F., Orfanou V., Ljungberg T., Kristiansen S. M., 2021. Mapping the Invisible Traces. Soil micromorphology at Fregerslev II. In A. Pedersen and M. S. Bagge (eds.), Horse and Rider in the late Viking Age. Equestrian burial in perspective. Aarhus University Press, pp. 100‒112.

Orfanou V., Sulas F., Ljungberg T., Kristiansen S. M. 2021.Mapping the Invisible Traces. Soil geochemistry of the Fregerslev II burial floor. In A. Pedersen and M. S. Bagge (eds.), Horse and Rider in the late Viking Age. Equestrian burial in perspective. Aarhus University Press, pp. 82‒99.

Isendahl C., Smith M. L., Stark M. T., Sulas F., Barthel S. 2020. Urban Ecology in the Ancient Tropics: Foodways and Urban Forms. In I. Douglas et al. (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology. Routledge.

Sulas F. 2020. Aksum: Environmental Archaeology. In C. Smith (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, second edition (with updated entry). Springer.

Sulas F. 2019. Soils, plants and texts: An archaeologist’s toolbox. In C. Isendahl and D. Stump (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Historical Ecology and Applied Archaeology, pp. 246−262. Oxford University Press.

Sulas F., Pikirayi I. 2018. Water and societies: an introduction. In F. Sulas and I. Pikirayi (eds.), Water and societies from ancient times to the present, pp. 1–14. Routledge.

Sulas F. 2018. Traditions of water in the highlands of the northern Horn of Africa. In F. Sulas and I. Pikirayi (eds.), Water and societies from ancient times to the present, pp. 155–175. Routledge.

Sulas F. Landscapes, archaeology and identity in Sardinia. In L. Gallinari (ed.), E pluribus unum: The Sardinian identity-making profile from the Middle Ages to Modernity, pp. 17–29. Peter Lang.

Sulas F., Wynne-Jones S. 2018. Defining space in house contexts. In R. Raja and S. Sindbæk (eds.), UrbNet Network Evolutions, pp. 263–270. Aarhus University Press.

Sulas F. 2017. Verso un’ecologia storica del bacino del Rio Posada. In G. Serreli et al. (eds.), Sa massaria, Vol. 1, pp. 23‒80. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.

French C., Sulas F., Melis R. T., Di Rita F., Montis F., Redhouse D., Taylor S., Serreli G. 2017. Evoluzione del paesaggio e insediamento nel bacino del Rio Posada: indagini geoarcheologiche. In G. Serreli et al. (eds.), Sa massaria, Vol. 1, pp. 81‒114. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.

Melis R. T., French C., Sulas F., Montis F., Serreli G. 2017. Geoarcheologia e storia nel territorio di Las Plassas: risultati preliminari. In G. Serreli et al. (eds.), Sa massaria, Vol. 1, pp. 116‒144. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.

Serreli G., Sulas F. 2017. Il castrum Marmillae: un castello di confine e presidio delle risorse agricole arborensi / The castrum Marmillae: a border castle to defend Arborea’s agricultural resources. In G. Damiani and R. Florino (eds.), Military Landscapes, pp. 398–399. Skira.

Sulas F. 2014. Aksum: Water and urbanization in northern Ethiopia. In T. Tvedt and T. Ostigaard (eds.), A History of Water, Series 3, Vol. 1. From Jericho to Cities in the Seas: A History of Urbanization and Water Systems, pp. 171−195. I. B. Tauris.

Sulas F. 2014. Aksum, Environmental Archaeology (in). In C. Smith (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, pp. 129−134. Springer.

Sulas F. 2014. Developing intra-site geoarchaeology at Songo Mnara, Tanzania. In I. Thiaw and H. Bocoum (eds.), Preserving African Cultural Heritage. University Cheikh Anta Diop Press.

Sernicola L., Sulas F. 2012. Continuità e cambiamento nel paesaggio rurale di Aksum: dati archeologici, etnografici e paleoambientali. In A. Bausi et al. (eds.), Aethiopica et Orientalia. Studi in onore di Yaqob Beyene, pp. 549−573. University of Naples.

Sulas F. 2009. Sviluppo e archeologia in Etiopia: note da Aksum. In M. G. Melis (ed.), Uomo e Territorio, pp. 134−140. University of Sassari.


Book reviews

Sulas, F. 2019. Review of: Reinventing Sustainability: How Archaeology Can Save the Planet by Erika Guttmann-Bond [Oxford & Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2019, 192pp.]. European Journal of Archaeology 22/4: 588–591.

Sulas, F. 2014. Review of: Foundations of an African Civilization by D. W. Phillipson [Woodbridge, 2012, pp. 293]. African Affairs 113/453: 622−623.

Sulas, F. 2011. Review of: Antica Africa by B. E. Barich [Rome, 2010, pp. 432]. Antiquity 85: 680.


Published reports

Sulas F., C. Nicosia, S. Pesci, S. M. Kristiansen 2021. Soil micromorphology in medieval Odense: Analysis of the Guild House and the Old Road area (OBM 9776 II). Centrum. Forskningscenter for centralitet 10. Odense: Odense Bys Museer.

Kristiansen S.M., T. Ljungberg, F. Sulas 2021. Soil geochemistry in medieval Odense. Analysis of samples from the Guild House and the Old Road area (OBM 9776 II). Centrum. Forskningscenter for centralitet 11. Odense: Odense Bys Museer.

Sulas F., S. M. Kristiansen 2020. Soil micromorphology at the Viking-Age ring-fortress of Borgring, Denmark: Analysis of samples from the East, North and South gateways. Report from the Department of Geoscience, AU. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitet.

Wynne-Jones S., Sulas F. 2018. Archaeological Fieldwork at Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar, July 2017: Interim Report. AU Library Scholarly Publishing Services - E-books, doi: 10.7146/aul.276.191.

Melis R., Sulas F., French C. 2015. Shaping the Mediterranean basin. E-book of the Mediterranean Geoarchaeology Workshop, UniCA Open Journals:

Sulas F., Wynne-Jones S., Spence K. 2011. Africa’s Fragile Heritages: Introduction. African Archaeological Review 28/1: 1–3.

Bard K. A., DiBlasi M. C., Fattovich R., Manzo A., Perlingieri C., Phillipson L., Sulas F., Tilia S. 2001. The IUO and BU Archaeological Expedition at Bieta Giyorghis (Aksum): 2002 Field season. Nyame Akuma 57: 2−6.


Unpublished reports

Sulas F., Pikirayi I. 2018. Archaeological investigations and fieldschool at Chenga and surroundings, Great Zimbabwe, July 2018: Interim Report. Aarhus [for: National Monuments and Museums of Zimbabwe], 29p.

Sulas F., French C., Melis R. T. 2015. Ricognizione geoarcheologica nel territorio di Las Plassas, Maggio 2015. Cagliari [for: Las Plassas Town Council, Italy].

Sulas F., Pikirayi I., Sagiya M. E., Nxumalo B. Geoarchaeological survey and soil sampling at Great Zimbabwe, July 2015. Pretoria [for: National Monuments and Museums of Zimbabwe].

Pawlowicz M., de Luna K., Fleisher J., McIntosh S., Sulas F. 2015. Preliminary Report of the 2014 and 2015 Field Seasons of the Bantu Mobility Project in Zambia. Richmond, VA [for: National Heritage Commission and Livingstone Museum, Zambia].

Sulas F., Pikirayi I. 2014. Geoarchaeology and water history at Great Zimbabwe, June 2014. Pretoria [for: National Monuments and Museums of Zimbabwe], 12p.

Sulas F., Pikirayi I., Nxumalo B. 2014. Geoarchaeological survey and soil sampling in the Mapungubwe, South Africa. Pretoria [for: South African Heritage Research Agency and SANParks, South Africa].

Sulas F., Antonite A., Chauke C. 2013. Geoarchaeological reconnaissance of the Mapungubwe landscape, South Africa. Pretoria [for: South African Heritage Research Agency and SANParks, South Africa].

French C., Sulas F. 2013. Further geoarchaeological reconnaissance of Sophiana, Sicily, and its immediate environs, September 2013. Cambridge.

French C., Sulas F. 2012. Geoarchaeological reconnaissance of Sofiana environs, Sicily. Cambridge.

Stump D., Sulas F. 2011. The long-term history of agriculture and conservation practices in Konso, Ethiopia: 2010 field season. York [for: Authority for Heritage Research and Conservation of Ethiopia].

Sulas F. 2010. Geoarchaeology at Songo Mnara, Tanzania: soil and phytolith analyses. Cambridge [for: Universities of Rice and York].

Sulas F. 2010. Archaeological soil micromorphology at Ranaka, Botswana. Cambridge [for: University of Botswana, Botswana].

Other Professional Activities

Associate Editor, WIREs Water (Wiley Interdisciplinary Research Reviews)

Member, Scientific Steering Committee, IHOPE (Integrated History and Future of the People on Earth)

Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London


Job Titles

Senior Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies

Contact Details

The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Downing Street
fs286 [at]


Person keywords: 
Historical ecology
Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Iron Age
Other Historical
Other Late Prehistory