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Department of Archaeology



I am an archaeologist, historical ecologist and ethnographer working primarily in East Africa.

I received a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from University of Bristol before continuing with an MSt in Archaeology from the University of Oxford, where I worked as part of the ERC-funded Sealinks project researching Indian Ocean connections and trade on the East African coast and islands. I received my PhD from Uppsala in 2018, where I was part of the Resilience in East African Landscapes (REAL) Innovative Training Network and worked with the Ilchamus community in Baringo, Kenya, researching the region’s historical ecology and landscape. Since 2006 I also worked on a number of commercial projects in Slovenia and UK.

I joined the British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Programme in 2019 where I developed a metadata schema for material-culture-centred ethnographic research and promoted sustainable digital recording practices.

I joined Cambridge in 2021 as an MSCA postdoctoral fellow to critically assess historical archaeology in Africa.


I am an archaeologist, historical ecologist and ethnographer whose research has centred around human-environment interactions and how they influence each other over longer timeframes, how that helps to build distinct ethnic identities, and how that history continues to shape present identities and landscapes. Working with agro-pastoral communities of the East African Rift Valley, I am pioneering new theories of and approaches to historical archaeology of Africa.

As part of this research, I am also interested in how archaeologists engage the public and local communities when discussing climate and environmental change and how archaeological narratives can be made more approachable and useful, in order to address the public’s concerns.

I also work on developing and promoting sustainable and ethical recording methods and data management in ethnography as digital tools and techniques become commonplace. A key part of this was a material-culture-centred metadata schema.


Key publications: 


Petek, N. (2018) Archaeological Perspectives on Risk and Community Resilience in the Baringo Lowlands, Kenya. Studies in Global Archaeology 24 (Uppsala: Uppsala University)



Petek-Sargeant, N. (in prep.) Oral history made tangible and visual: Retelling Ilchamus stories through photographs, objects and archaeology.

Petek-Sargeant, N. and Lane, P. (in prep.) Weather Landscapes and Archaeology: Material Weathering Practices and Climate Change Communication

Petek-Sargeant, N. and Lane, P. (2021) Weathering climate change in archaeology: conceptual challenges and an East African case study. Cambridge Archaeological Journal

van der Plas, G.W., de Cort, G., Petek-Sargeant, N., Wuytack, T., Colombaroli, D., Lane, P. and Verschuren, D. (2019) Distinct phases of natural landscape dynamics and intensifying human activity in the central Kenya Rift Valley during the past 1300 years. Quaternary Science Reviews 218: 91-106

Boles, O., Shoemaker, A., Courtney Mustaphi, C.J., Petek, N., Ekblom, A., Lane, P. (2019) Historical Ecologies of Pastoralist Overgrazing in Kenya: Long-Term Perspectives on Cause and Effect. Human Ecology 47: 419-434


Marchant, R., Richer, S., Boles, O., Capitani, C., Courtney Mustaphi, C.J., Lane, P., Prendergast, M.E., Stump, D., De Cort, G., Kaplan, J.D., Phelps, L., Kay, A., Olago, D., Petek, N., Platts, P.J., Punwong, P., Widgren, M., et al (2018) Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa: Human and environmental interactions from 6000 years ago to present, Earth-Science Reviews 178: 322-378

Armstrong, C.G., Shoemaker, A.C., McKechnie, I., Ekblom, A., Szabó, P., Lane, P.J., McAlvay, A.C., Boles, O.J., Walshaw, S., Petek, N., Gibbons, K.S. et al (2017) Anthropological contributions to historical ecology: 50 questions, infinite prospects, PloS one 12(2), p.e0171883

Petek, N. and Lane, P. (2017) Ethnogenesis and surplus food production: communitas and identity building among nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ilchamus Lake Baringo, Kenya, World Archaeology 49(1): 40-60

Crowther, A., Faulkner, P., Prendergast, M.E., Quintana Morales, E.M., Horton, M., Wilmsen, E., Kotarba-Morley, A.M., Christie, A., Petek, N., Tibesasa, R. and Douka, K. (2016) Coastal subsistence, maritime trade, and the colonization of small offshore islands in eastern African prehistory, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 11(2): 211-237.



Petek-Sargeant, N. (2020) Ilchamus stories told through photographs, objects, and archaeology. Nkatinin o Ilchamus naatolimuaki aimunye nkitodolunot, ntokitin o ntokitin e apa naaturuno. Touring exhibition in the Baringo South constituency, Kenya; from 28th Feb to 9th March 2020

Bedorf, F., Östberg, W., Lane, P., Petek, N., Kioko, E., Shoemaker, A., Pas, A., Githumbi, E., de Bont, C., Gravesen, M., Adongo, C., Chuhila, M. and van der Plas, G.W. (2019) Getting Closer: Ways of Understanding Climate Change in East Africa. A traveling exhibition by the Resilience in East African Landscapes (REAL) project. Touring exhibition across Europe; from 9th Feb to 20th December 2019

Other publications: 


Petek-Sargeant, N., (2020) Material Culture Ethnography Metadata Schema. London: British Museum.


Petek-Sargeant, N. (2021) Remembering Turkana: material histories and contemporary livelihoods in north-western Kenya: by Samuel F. Derbyshire. (Abingdon, Routledge). Azania: 1-3


Petek, N. (2015) An archaeological survey of the Lake Baringo lowlands 2014: Preliminary results. Nyame Akuma 83: 100-111

Petek, N. (2011) The East African diaspora: The problem with slaves, The Post Hole 15: 13-18

Job Titles

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual European Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Museum Studies
Material Culture
Socio-Politics of the Past
Artefact Analysis & Technology
Archaeological Theory
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
Field Methods
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies
Cultural Heritage

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
np569 [at]


Person keywords: 
East Africa
Field Methods
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Other Historical
Other Late Prehistory