About Me

Central Falémé Archaeological Project

Migration Project

Field Notes (Blog)

Curriculum Vitae







About Me

I unearthed my first prehistoric artifact on an Ancestral Pueblo site back in the summer of 2000. Holding this bit of broken pottery in my hand, I recognized it for several things—a data point, a piece of ancient rubbish, and an immediate connection to a past world lying just beneath the surface of our own. I’ve been an archaeologist ever since.

In May 2012 I received my PhD in anthropological archaeology from the University of Michigan where I developed an interest in village communities and their landscapes across West Africa. To this end I initiated the Central Falémé Archaeological Project (CFAP) in 2008. Focusing on the archaeology of the Upper Senegal region over the past two millennia, this ongoing project seeks to clarify how local communities participated in a variety of historical processes—including the shift from mobile hunting and herding to sedentary village life, the rise and fall of medieval empires, the violence of the Atlantic slave trade, the spread of Islam, and ultimately, the imposition of colonialism.

The first phase of this project (for my dissertation) has looked specifically at how craft and subsistence economies shaped social relations within, between, and beyond past villages situated along the banks of the Falémé River during the period AD 800-1900. This research underscores my general interest in using material culture and technology to trace social practices and interactions across the local landscape and through increasingly global networks. This perspective has the potential to shed light not only on the deep history of village life in West Africa, but also on the place of small-scale communities in the contemporary political landscape of post-colonial nation states. A second phase of fieldwork planned for 2013 will extend survey and test excavations into the gold-producing realm of Bambuk east of the Falémé River for comparison with an exploratory study of historic landscapes in eastern Guinea.

Just another day at the U-M archaeological fieldschool
in Ngayène, Senegal (2007)

Alongside my fieldwork in West Africa, I enjoy sharing the challenge—and the thrill—of archaeological research with others. As a field school instructor in Senegal, I have enjoyed working side by side with undergraduate students to unearth and think through evidence from megalithic cemetery sites. As an instructor, I try to bring the “field” to students on campus by exploring local museums and working directly with artifacts from past worlds—and from our own.

Most recently, I joined the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP) to co-direct an anthropological field school in southern Arizona and supervise the curation and analysis of ethnographic materials at the UMP laboratory in Ann Arbor.  In addition to helping students on their own research projects, this project is affording me a unique opportunity to apply the study of (recent) historical landscapes and material culture to an issue of contemporary social significance—namely, the physical and psychological suffering endured by the hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants who cross the US/Mexico border each year. 


Urban archaeology on historic Wall Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Professor Henry Wright (2011)

Practicing field methods and site mapping with students at "Kamp Kobra"
during the UMP field school in Arivaca, Arizona (2012)