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Department of Archaeology



I earned a liberal arts B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University. This was followed by an M.Sc. in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Cape Town. My Ph.D. studies were in bioarchaeology at the Vrije University Amsterdam.

My liberal arts and chemistry background has allowed me to venture into bioarchaeology, not just as a laboratory scientist, but also as a historian concerned with the lived experience of marginalised peoples.  I use my skills to contextualise and interrogate the historical record. 


I am interested in the bioarchaeology of marginalised communities. My work focuses on migration, diet, and pathology of enslaved persons at the colonial Cape, and 19th century- gold and diamond mine workers. I interrogate human and written archives to elucidate individual and group life histories. My hypothesis is that the similar processes of dispossession and coercive labour practices experienced by southern African polities had a similar effect on the bodies of marginalised people as did enslavement.

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Mbeki, L., Kootker, L. M., Laffoon, J. E., Kars, H., Davies, G. R (2021). “A dietary assessment of colonial Cape Town’s enslaved population”. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, volume 13, 

Mbeki, L., Kootker, L. M., Kars, H., Davies, G. R. (2017). “Sickly slaves, soldiers and sailors. Contextualising the Cape’s 18th-19th century Green Point burials through isotope investigation.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, volume 11, 480-490. 

Kootker, L. M., Mbeki, L., Morris, A. G., Kars, H., Davies, G. R. (2016). “Dynamics of Indian Ocean slavery revealed through isotopic data from the colonial era Cobern Street burial site, Cape Town, South Africa (1750-1827).” Plos ONE, volume 11, e0157750. 

Mbeki, L. and van Rossum, M. (2016). “Private slave trade in the Dutch Indian Ocean world: a study into the networks and backgrounds of the slavers and the enslaved in South Asia and South Africa.” Slavery & Abolition, volume 38, 95-116.

Job Titles

Research Fellow in Black Heritage or Identity, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Available for consultancy

Contact Details

lm2028 [a]
McDonald Institute
Downing Street


Person keywords: 
Historical Archaeology
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Other Historical