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Department of Archaeology



I joined the McDonald Institute as Deputy Director in 2022. Prior to this I was Director of Education and Associate Professor at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) (2021-18) and Lecturer in African Studies at UCL (2018-15). During my first period in Cambridge I held a Leverhulme/Newton Trust Early Career Fellowship at the McDonald Institute (2015-14) and was Fellow in Eastern African Archaeology (2014-2010). Before this I served as Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA, 2010-2008) and was a BIEA Trustee and Council member from 2014 to 2022. I hold a DPhil in Archaeology (2009-2005) and MSt and BA degrees from the University of Oxford (2005-2001). I currently serve on the Managing Committee of the Centre for African Studies in Cambridge and previously held positions on the managing committees of the African Studies Association UK and African Studies Centre, UCL. I have been a Senior Editor for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African History and and External Examiner at the University of Aberdeen. I currently sit on the editorial board of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal and am an Honorary Associate Professor at the IGP, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) and Series Editor for the McDonald Institute Monographs and Conversations.


My primary research focusses on the contemporary and historical management of landscapes, ecological diversity, climate, and questions of sustainability, resilience and regeneration. Most of my work has focused on agricultural systems in Eastern Africa and has examined community practice and knowledge archaeologically, historically and anthropologically, often employing the perspectives of historical ecology, contemporary archaeology and post-development theory. This work has involved analyses of the spatial, material and temporal dynamics of farming systems, including understandings of soils, crops, irrigation, exchange networks and forests/vegetation over the last few hundred years. I have also explored contemporary archaeologies of failed external 'development' and my work is increasingly drawn towards wider analyses of food systems, agro-ecology, food sovereignty, farmer innovation and intersections with nutrition and health. My work often employs practices of physically mapping the landscape with smartphones and working with communities of Citizen Scientists to co-design research questions and tools - including smarphone applications. This work has also involved collaborations with colleagues in South Africa and Nigeria and I am increasingly drawn to contemporary archaeological analyses of UK food systems including in the Fenland region. My broader research has explored aspects of the Later Stone Age through to Late Iron Age of Eastern Africa, including in western Kenya, eastern Uganda and South Sudan and examining themes such as colonization, monumentality, food processing and the organisation of decentralized communities.


Selected Research Projects

2020-22 PI Cultivating through Crises: Empowering African Small-Holders through Histories of Creative Emergency Response (CCEASH). £149,429, AHRC-GCRF.

2020 PI Policy Review on Regenerative Agriculture for Africa. £22,505 Downforce Trust.

2019-22 PI  Prosperity and Innovation in the Past and Future of Agriculture in Eastern Africa (PIPFA). £199,954, AHRC-GCRF.

2019-21 CoI Palm, Sand and Fish: Traditional Technologies of the Daughters of the Azanian Coast of East Africa. £25,013, Rising from the Depths, AHRC (with Dr Freda M'Mbogori PI)

2019-24 PI  The Material Cultures of Refuge in Lebanon. £79,800, Colaborative Doctoral Award with Pitt Rivers Museum (with Prof. Dan Hicks & Dr Hanna Baumann).

2018-19 PI Indigenous African Plant Knowledge and Sustainability: a Citizen Science Project. £99,000, UCL QR Small Grants.

2016-17 CoI Unravelling Complexity: Understanding the Land-Water-Food Nexus in Marakwet, Kenya. £62,528 ESRC Nexus Network (with Prof. Henrietta Moore, PI).

2015-18 CoI Revisiting the Bantu migration Narrative: A contextual archaeological approach. $20,000 Wenner-Gren (with Dr Freda M'Mbogori, PI).

2013-15 PI Applied agro- archaeology of Eastern African farming systems. 3 years salary and research allowance, Leverhulme/Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellowship.

2013-15 CoI African farming systems: an interdisciplinary pan-African perspective. £30,000 British Academy International Partnerships and Mobility Grant (with PIs Prof. Moore and Prof. Folorunso).

2022-23 Consultant Enhancing the Capacity and Capability of Orchid Conservation in Armenia. Darwin Initiative.

<2013 AHRC Masters and Doctoral awards, ORADS Radio Carbon Dating

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Major works

  • Moore, H.L., Davies, M.I., Mintchev, N. and Woodcraft, S. eds. 2023. Prosperity in the Twenty-First Century: Concepts, models and metrics. London, UCL Press. Open Access Version here. 
  • Lunn-Rockliffe, S., Davies, M.I.J., Moore, H.L., Wilman, A., McGlade, J., and Bent, D. 2020. Farmer-Led Regenerative Agriculture for Africa. London: Institute for Global Prosperity. Major policy review for the Downforce Trust. Open Access Version here.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2015. Archaeology in Eastern Africa. In Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies. T. Spear Snr Editor. New York, Oxford University Press. Access here.
  • Davies, M.I.J. and M’Mbogori F.N. (eds). 2013. Humans and the environment: new archaeological perspectives for the 21st century. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Access here.
  • Hildebrand, L. and Davies, M.I.J. (eds). 2013. Monumentality in Africa. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48 special issue.
  • Principal author: The peoples and cultures of Africa, East Africa. Mitchell, P.J. (ed) 2006. New York, Chelsea House.



See also various other blog posts on:; 


Other publications: 


Journal papers and chapters

  • Davies, M.I.J., Haklay, M., Kipkore, W., Kiprutto T.K., Laws, M. , Lewis, J., Lunn-Rockliffe, S., McGlade, J.M., Moreu Badia, M., Yano, A. In press. Supporting the capacities and knowledge of small-holder farmers in Kenya for sustainable agricultural futures: A Citizen Science pilot project. UCL Environment. Open Access Version here.
  • Davies, M.I.J, Lunn-Rockliffe, S., Kipkeu Kiprutto, T. and Kipkore. W. 2023. Emergent Prosperity, Time and Design: Farming in Marakwet Kenya. In Moore, H.L., Davies, M.I., Mintchev, N. and Woodcraft, S. eds. Prosperity in the Twenty-First Century: Concepts, models and metrics. London, UCL Press. Open Access Version here.  
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2023. Water Management and Irrigation in Africa. The Encyclopaedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa. London, Wiley.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2023. Terracing in Africa. The Encyclopaedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa. London, Wiley.
  • Derbyshire, S., Moore, H.L., Cheptoo, H. and Davies, M.I.J. 2020. ‘Sufurias cannot bring blessings’: change, continuity and resilience in the world of Marakwet pottery, a case from western Kenya. Journal of Eastern African Studies 14: 204-226. 
  • Wanjohi, B. K., Njenga, E. W., Sudoi, V., Moore, H.L., Davies, M.I.J. and Kipkore, W. K. 2020. Ecological Knowledge of indigenous plants among the Marakwet Community (Embobut Basin), Elgeyo Marakwet County (Kenya). Ethnobotany Research and Applications: Journal of plants, people & applied research. 20:1.
  • Kay, D., Lunn-Rockliffe, S. and Davies, M.I.J. 2019. The archaeology of South Sudan from c. 3000 BC to AD 1500. Azania: archaeological research in Africa. doi:10.1080/0067270x.2019.1681125
  • Shoemaker, A., Davies, M.I.J. 2019. Grinding-stone implements in the Eastern African Pastoral Neolithic. Azania: archaeological research in Africa. doi:10.1080/0067270x.2019.1619284
  • Davies, M.I.J, Folorunso, C.A., M’Mbogori, F.N., Moore, H.L., Orijemie, E. and Schoeman, A. 2017. The ‘useable’ archaeology of recent African farming systems: comparative and collaborative perspectives from East (Marakwet), West (Tiv) and South (Bokoni) Africa. p.p. 1-32.  In Esterhuysen, A, Sadr, K and Sievers, C. eds. Proceedings of the 14th Pan-African Archaeological Congress, Johannesburg. Johannesburg, Witts University Press.
  • Shoemaker, A., Davies, M.I.J. and Moore, H.L. 2017. Back to the grindstone? The archaeological potential of grinding-stone studies in Africa with reference to ethnographic grinding practices in Marakwet, Kenya. African Archaeological Review. 34:415-435.
  • Davies, M.I.J. and Moore, H.L. 2016. Landscape, time and cultural resilience: a brief history of the agricultural Pokot and Marakwet. Journal of Eastern African Studies. 10: 67-87.
  • Pollard, G., Davies, M.I.J. and Moore, H.L. 2015. Women, marketplaces, and exchange partners amongst the Marakwet of northwest Kenya. Journal of Eastern African Studies. 9: 412-439
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2015b. Economic specialisation, resource variability, and the origins of intensive agriculture in Eastern Africa. Rural Landscapes 2: 1-18.
  • Davies, M.I.J. Kipruto, T.K. and Moore, H.L. 2014. Revisiting the irrigated agricultural landscape of the Marakwet, Kenya: tracing local technology and knowledge over the recent past. Azania: archaeological research in Africa. 49: 486-523. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2014a. The temporality of landesque capital: farming and the routines of Pokot life. pp. 172-196. In Håkansson, T. and Widgren, M. eds. Landesque capital: the historical ecology of enduring landscape modifications. Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press, Historical Ecology series.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2014b. Archaeology in South Sudan past and present: Gordon’s fort at Laboré and other sites of interest. Sudan and Nubia 18: 165-176.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2014c. Don’t water down your theory: why we should all embrace materiality but not material determinism. Response to Strang, V. Fluid Consistencies: material relationality in human engagements with water. Archaeological Dialogues 21: 153-157.
  • Davies, M.I.J., Dupeyron, A. and Moore, H.L. 2014d. Mobile Internet technologies and the possibilities for public archaeology in Africa: Marakwet, Kenya. Antiquity project gallery 88, 340.
  • Davies, M.J.J. 2013a. Environment in European and North American archaeology. pp. 3-26. In Davies, M.I.J. and M’Mbogori F.N. eds. Humans and the environment: new archaeological perspectives for the 21st century. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2013b. Forced moves or just good moves? Environmental decision making among Pokot farmers, northwest Kenya. pp. 57-76. In Davies, M.I.J. and M’Mbogori F.N. eds. Humans and the environment: new archaeological approaches for the 21st century. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2013c. Clan and lineage based societies in African archaeology. pp. 723-736. In Mitchell, P.J. and Lane, P. eds. Oxford handbook of African archaeology. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2013d. Stone cairns in eastern Africa: a critical review. In Hildebrand, L. and Davies, M.I.J. (eds). Monumentality in Africa. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48: 218-240.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2012a. Some thoughts on a ‘useable’ African archaeology: settlement, population and intensive farming among the Pokot of northwest Kenya. African Archaeological Review 29: 319-353. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2012b. BIEA archaeological surveys in the Juba-Nimule Nile region of South Sudan 2009. Nyame Akuma 78:23-40.
  • Davies, M.I.J. and Leonardi, C. 2012. Gordon's fort at Laboré and developing archaeology in the new South Sudan. Antiquity project gallery 86, 334.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2010a. A view from the East: an interdisciplinary ‘historical ecology’ approach to a contemporary agricultural landscape in Northwest Kenya. African studies 69: 279-297.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2010b. From platforms to people: rethinking population estimates for the abandoned agricultural settlement of Engaruka, Northern Tanzania. Azania: archaeological research in Africa 45: 203-213. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2009a. Wittfogel’s dilemma: heterarchy and ethnographic approaches to irrigation management in Eastern Africa and Mesopotamia. World Archaeology 41: 16-35. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2008a. The irrigation system of the Pokot, northwest Kenya. Azania 43: 50-76.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2008b. A childish culture? Shared understandings, agency and intervention: an anthropological study of street children in northwest Kenya. Childhood 15: 309-330.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2006a. The archaeology of the Cherangani Hills, Northwest Kenya. Nyame Akuma 66: 16-24.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2006b. Outline of an applied archaeology of Pokot and Marakwet agriculture. Proceeding of the 18th biannual meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAFA):

Book reviews

  • Davies, M.I.J. 2017b. Review of Beardsley, J (ed) 2016. Cultural Heritage Landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa. Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University Press. African Archaeological Review 34:145-148.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2014d. Review of Phillipson, D.W. 2012. Foundations of an African Civilisation: Aksum and the Northern Horn 1000 BC- AD 1300. Oxford, James Currey. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 24:189-191.

Unpublished research and consultancy reports

  • Davies, M.I.J. 2009c. Archaeological and Historical sites impact assessment: Bahr El-Jebel Hyropower Scheme, South Sudan. Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. and Conway, 2009d. D. British Army Training UK (BATUK). Survey of the expanded training facilities in Laikipia Kenya.
  • Davies, M.I.J. 2010d. Reports on the first and second seasons of archaeological survey and excavation in Karamoja District, Eastern Uganda. Uganda Museum.
  • Moore, H.L.M. and Davies, M.I.J. 2011-13. The Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project: Report on the first to third seasons of fieldwork. McDonald Institute.

Doctoral thesis

  • Davies, M.I.J. 2009b. An applied archaeological and anthropological study of intensive agriculture in the Northern Cherangani Hills, Kenya. Unpublished D.Phil thesis, University of Oxford. 

Books and Papers in preparation

  • Moore, H.L. and Davies, M.I. Under development. Landscape, Time and Resilience in Marakwet, Kenya. Book proposal. 
  • Kay, D., Lunn-Rockliffe, S. and Davies, M.I. In prep. Moving Homes: Understanding space, time and change through a history of settlement in Marakwet, Kenya.
  • Lunn-Rockliffe, S., Davies, M.I., McGlade, J. and Moore, H.L. In prep. Farmer-led Regenerative Agricultural Design in Africa. Sustainability.
  • Walmsey, A., Davies, M.I.J. Kay, D. and Lunn-Rockliffe, S. In prep. One person’s waste is another’s treasure: Comparing the materiality of slag from two iron smelting furnaces at Morpus Rockshelter, Western Kenya. Journal of Material Culture. 
  • M’Mbogori, F.N. and Davies, M.I.J. In prep. Revisiting the Bantu Migration Narrative: A case study from the Mt. Kenya region. 
  • Moore, H.L., Davies, M.I.J. and Smith, C. In prep. Resilient ecosystems in Elgeyo-Marakwet Kenya: A policy brief for the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government
  • MacDonald, K.C. and Davies, M.I.J. In prep. East-West divides and common causes: African archaeology enters the 21st Century. In Davies, M.I.J. and MacDonald, K (eds). Connections, contributions and complexity: Africa’s later Holocene archaeology in global perspective. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. and Derbyshire, S. In prep. Citizen science and community archaeology in Africa: reconciling post-colonial, historical, indigenous and useable pasts. In Davies, M.I.J. and MacDonald, K (eds). Connections, contributions and complexity: Africa’s later Holocene archaeology in global perspective. 
  • Davies, M.I.J. and MacDonald, K (eds). In prep. Connections, complexity and contributions: Africa’s later Holocene archaeology in global perspective. 

Teaching and Supervisions


I contribute to the following modules:

A1 World Archaeology

A10 Archaeological Theory and Practice I

A13 The Past in the Present

A35/G17 The Archaeology of Africa

MPhil World History: Debates in World History

I am also happy to supervise select UG and Masters Dissertations on areas related to my specialism. 


Research supervision: 


Current PhD students

My Benny Qihao Shen: The Contemporary Past of Apiculture in Kenya - and Archaeological Investigation. Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.

Mr Adam Willman: The economics of organic farming and innovation in Ethiopia and Kenya. Department of Economics, SOAS with Pesticide Action UK. ESRC DTP.

Ms Hadiqa Khan: The Materiality of Refuge and Displacment in UK Museums. Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL. AHRC CDP.


Completed PhD Students

Dr Chioma Ngonadi: The Origin and Development of Farming in Lejja, Southeastern Nigeria c.3000 BP. Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. Gates Trust.

Dr David Kay (2021): Domestic Space and Settlement in Marakwet, Northwest Kenya. Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. AHRC.

Dr Samuel Lunn-Rockliffe (2018): Connecting Past and Present: Sengwer Hunter-Gatherers of the Cherangani Hills, Kenya. Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. AHRC.

Advisory team: Sipke Shaughnessy (2019): The Yaaku: Understanding an emergent identity in Mukogodo Forest, Kenya. Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. 

Other Professional Activities

- Series Editor McDonald Monographs and Conversations

- Chair McDonald Institute Grants and Awards Committee

- Managing Committee, Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge

- Honorary Associate Professor, Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL

- Editorial Board, Cambridge Archaeological Journal

- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA)


Previous positions

- 2014-22 Trustee and Governing Council Member, British Institute in Eastern Africa

- 2015-17 Governing Council, African Studies Association of the UK

- 2019-2023 External Examiner, Sustainable International Development, University of Aberdeen

- 2019-22 Chair Built Environment Examination Board, Bartlet Faculty of the Built Environment, Universtiy College London

- 2017-22 Chair Departmental Teaching Committee and Staff-Student Consultative Committee, Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London

- 2015-18 Senior Editor, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History

- 2014-15 Bye-Fellow, Pembroke College Cambridge

- 2013 AHRC SMKE Social Media Scholar


Job Titles

Deputy Director, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Acting Director, McDonald Institute Oct 2022-April 2024

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Socio-Politics of the Past
Human Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Archaeological Theory
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
Field Methods
Heritage Management

Contact Details

McDonald Institute


Person keywords: 
African archaeology
Contemporary archaeology
Historical ecology
Food systems
Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Material Culture
Rethinking Complexity
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Iron Age
Other Historical