Plant foods have been implicated in several vital shifts in human evolution, yet we know surprisingly little about the plants that our ancestors ate, or why they chose the foods they did.
I have been developing the use of plant microremains (starch grains and phytoliths) from archaeological contexts as markers of diet. I have explored differences in the plant food consumption between Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans, and have looked at the kinds of foods our very early australopith ancestors ate.
Additionally, I am interested in what these food choices reveal about the kinds of decisions that our ancestors made. In other words, were they trying to optimize calories, or other limited nutrients? Did they make different dietary decisions based on their access to fire? How strong an influence does gut microbiota have in the digestion of certain foods? To answer these questions, I'm pursuing a variety of projects exploring the influences that environmental variability, access to processing technology, and intrinsic biological variability have on the kinds of choices that modern foragers make, with the hope of extrapolating to our ancestors.