Researcher/Guest Staff Member
I am a post-doctoral researcher within the Human Origins and Material Culture Studies groups at the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden. My research concerns primarily pyrotechnology in the Palaeolithic, with a focus on fire use and fire making by Neandertals. As an archaeologist, I have garnered extensive experience in the field and the laboratory, as well as in the classroom. I have a strong publishing record, and have presented my research at numerous international conferences.
I am a member of the Pyroarchaeology Commission (UISPP), an international group of scientists dedicated to early fire research, and am currently a board member of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). I have collaborated with diverse research groups throughout Europe, both analysing Palaeolithic archaeological assemblages in the Netherlands, Germany, Jersey (UK), France, Belgium and Spain, and excavating in France, the UK and the Netherlands.
The crowning achievement of my PhD project has been my identification of direct evidence for fire-making by Neandertals 50,000 years ago, the oldest ever documented among hominins (2018, Nature Scientific Reports). These results have garnered significant media attention, with news articles appearing in The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Times of London, Der Spiegel, El País, Newsweek, Scientific American, BBC Earth, and New Scientist, among others. My research has been also been featured in an episode of De Kennis van Nu (NPO3) entitled ‘The mysterious disappearance of the Neandertals' in May 2017.
I am currently the research-coordinator for the Auneau Fireplace Project, a fundamental study involving the controlled excavation and multi-method sampling of a ca. 25,000 year old Gravettian hearth feature removed ‘en bloc’ from the French site of Auneau, now housed in the Leiden Faculty of Archaeology.
Upon graduating cum laude from Cornell College (Mount Vernon, Iowa, USA) with BAs in Geology and History, I worked for seven years as an archaeologist and geomorphologist for the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (Iowa City, Iowa, USA). My postgraduate research career began in early 2011, when I arrived at Leiden University to pursue an MA in Palaeolithic Archaeology and Material Culture studies. This study stoked my fascination with fire as a driving force in human evolution.
After graduating in early 2012, I jumped at the chance to begin a one-and-a-half-year position as a Junior Researcher under Prof. Wil Roebroeks. It was during this time that I developed and wrote a proposal for a four year ‘PhDs in the Humanities’ grant that was honored by the NWO in May 2013. My PhD project ‘Beyond Prometheus’ (defended in December 2018) has been successful in enhancing our understanding of Neandertal fire use—not only in how and when they were using it, but also how the evidence of their having used fire is preserved (or not) archaeologically—and has been awarded the 2019 Tübingen Research Prize in Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology.