Dr. David Beresford-Jones


Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Niebuhrstr. 5
D-53113 Bonn
Personal website

© D. Beresford Jones

Academic Profile

David's archaeological research interests have in common two main themes:

The fundamental transformation in the human trajectory from human cultures dependent upon the environment (hunting and gathering) to environments dependent upon human culture (agriculture) and the consequent impacts on ecosystems and landscapes,
the synthesis between different disciplines, particularly archaeology, linguistics and genetics.
These embrace David's diverse interests in marine hunter-gatherers, the domestication of plants, dryland geoarchaeology, South American archaeology, the European Upper Palaeolithic and ancient fabric and textile technologies. Most of his extensive fieldwork experience has been in the Andean Region, where David has used various archives to track changes in human ecology over some seven millennia in the lower Ica Valley, south coast Peru. All his research is collaborative with colleagues from, inter alia, the Max Planck Institute, the Museo Regional de Ica, RBG Kew, and various UK, Peruvian and German universities.

2 books, 3 edited volumes, 27 articles in peer-review journals, 18 book chapters and 10 review articles

For this fellowship I propose a fresh perspective on a significant evolutionary change by focus on the Andean Region — highly significant as one the handful of places where a transformation began independent of outside influences (a so-called "hearth of agriculture"); and wherein originated no fewer than six of the 15 food staple crops that today stand "in effect between the world's population and starvation". Yet the region's wider comparative significance continues to be overlooked. My new perspective is based upon the following premises:

  1. The key to understanding this defining transformation in ecological dependency lies not in the Neolithic itself but far earlier, because, from a biological perspective, agriculture is only the archaeologically visible end-point of a protracted co-evolutionary process between humans and parts of their environment that began during the Mesolithic, and even earlier.
  2. Old World concepts such as the "Mesolithic" and "Neolithic" are increasingly critiqued for failing to capture the full diversity of human ecology through time and across the globe.
    Recent studies of the origins of agriculture in different parts of the world are striking for the contrasts between their environmental contexts. Nonetheless, these cases have in common that their settings were "ecotonally diverse": places where different ecosystems conjoin. These seem to have been critical to the widening use of resources by huntergatherers that defined the long prelude to agriculture worldwide. With this Broad Spectrum Revolution ("BSR") in human ecology came increasing sedentism, population density and social complexity, along with technological innovation, ritual, and the division of labor.
  3. Coasts and estuaries are the quintessential "ecotonally diverse" environments: the intersection of very different, typically highly productive, habitats – offering rich, sustainable, easily seen and harvested resources. Evidence suggests that, worldwide, marine and estuarine resources were the foundation of the earliest settled Broad Spectrum economies. In due course, many of the so-called "cradles of civilisation" arose on adjacent deltaic and lower river floodplains where natural biota was abundant and flooding cycles brought rich alluvium and freshwater on which farming flourished.
  4. The archaeological imprint of the prelude to agriculture is not just indistinct, then, but also greatly distorted by more than 120 m of post ice age sea-level rise, which inundated landscapes to different extents in different parts of the world. In Europe, for instance, almost 40% of the Mesolithic landmass is now submerged. Depending on where one is in the world, therefore, today's visible archaeological record is only an artefact of a point in time.

PhD Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, UK

MPhil Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, UK

BSc (Hons) Chemical Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UKAufklapp-Text

Fellow, McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research, Cambridge University, UK

Sometime lecturer and course co-ordinator of South American Archaeology; Archaeological Science;  and Palaeolithic Archaeology; all at University of Cambridge, UK2013–2018                Leverhulme Research Fellow, One River Project, University of Cambridge, UK

Research Associate, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

Named researcher on the Moravian Gate Project: Upper Palaeolithic Cold-Climate Human Ecology

Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, UK

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK

Project Leadership

One River Project: Changes in Ancient Land and Water-use along the Río Ica, South-central Andes (with CAI French)

Lower Ica Valley Project, Peru (with S Arce, Museo Regional de Ica, Peru)

A Cross-Disciplinary Prehistory: Converging Perspectives from Language, Archaeology and Genes
(with Paul Heggarty, Max Planck Institute Leipzig, Germany)

Archaeology and Linguistics in the Andes (with P Heggarty, P Kaulicke and R Cerrón-Palomino, PUCP Lima)

PhD Supervision
Currently the supervisor of two PhD's and advisor to another. Previously supervised one PhD's to completion

MPhil Supervision
Supervised five MPhils since 2007, two of whom continued on to do PhD research and three of which are currently employed in the

  • Rethinking the Andes-Amazonia Divide: A Cross-Disciplinary Exploration. A.J. Pearce, D.G. Beresford-Jones, P. Heggarty (eds.). UCL Press 2020. https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/152550
  • D.G. Beresford-Jones: Los Bosques Desaparecidos de la Antigua Nasca. Antares Cultura y Desarrollo, Lima, Perú 2014.
  • Archaeology and Language in the Andes. P. Heggarty, D.G. Beresford-Jones (eds.). Oxford University Press 2012.
  • D.G. Beresford-Jones: The Lost Woodlands of Ancient Nasca: A Case-study in Ecological and Cultural Collapse. Oxford University Press 2011.
  • Lenguas y Sociedades en el Antiguo Perú: Hacia un Enfoque Interdisciplinario. P. Kaulicke, R. Cerrón-Palomino, P. Heggarty, D. G. Beresford-Jones (eds.). Boletín de Arqueología de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú 14, Lima, Peru 2001.
Wird geladen