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Department of Anthropology & Archaeology


Dr Federica Sulas

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Archaeology)

Laurea cum laude (B.A. Hons, Naples), M.Phil. (Cantab), Ph.D. (Cantab)

Telephone: +27 (0)12 420 2792




My undergraduate degree in Oriental Studies at the University of Naples introduced me to African and Near Eastern studies via courses on medieval and modern history, archaeology, and Semitic languages (Geʿez and Classical Arabic). This historical background complements the expertise in georchaeology and palaeobotany that I have acquired through postgraduate studies at the University of Cambridge, UK. My Ph.D. thesis (2010) examines the landscape history of the Aksum region in northern Ethiopia over the last four thousand years by integrating geoarchaeolgical (soil macro- and micromorphology) and palaeobotanical (phytoliths and charred wood) analyses with study of documentary sources and ethnographic observations. Between 2010 and 2011, I was postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, IMF-CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), Barcelona, where I worked on the application of geoarchaological and bioarchaeological techniques to the study of domestic space. Before taking up a research fellowship in Archaeology at UP, I was Honorary Research Associate at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford (2011–2012), and I am Affiliated Researcher at the Charles McBurney Laboratory for Geoarchaeology, University of Cambridge since 2010. For further details, please visit my personal webpage (link:



Sulas, F., Madella, M. 2012. Archaeology at the micro-scale: micromorphology and phytoliths at a Swahili stonetown. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, online first DOI: 10.1007/s12520-012-0090.

Sulas, F. (guest ed.) 2011. Africa’s Fragile Heritages, special issue of African Archaeological Review 28/1 with editor’s introduction.

Sulas, F. 2011. Book review: B. E. Barich Antica Africa. Alle origini delle società [Rome, 2010, pp. 432]. Antiquity 85: 680.

Sulas, F. 2009.Sviluppo e archeologia in Etiopia: note da Aksum. In M. G. Melis (ed.), Atti del Convegno Giovani Archeologi, Uomo e Territorio, 27–30 Settembre 2006, pp. 134–140. Sassari: University of Sassari.

Sulas, F., Madella, M., French, C. 2009. State formation and water-resource management in the Horn of Africa: the Aksumite Kingdom of the northern Ethiopian Highlands. World Archaeology 41/1: 2–15.

French, C., Sulas, F., Madella, M. 2009. New geoarchaeological investigations of the valley systems in the Aksum area of northern Ethiopia. Catena 78/3: 218–233.

Phillipson, L., Sulas, F. 2006. Cultural continuity in the Aksumite lithic tool production: the evidence from May Agam. Azania 15: 1–18.



Sulas, F. (in press) Developing intra-site geoarchaeology at Song Mnara. In I. Thiaw et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 13th PAA Congress of the Pan African Association and 20th Conference of Society of Africanist Archaeologists, November 1-6, 2010, Dakar, Senegal.

Sulas, F. forthcoming Soils, plants and texts: an archaeologist’s toolbox. In D. Stump and C. Isendahl (eds.), Handbook of Historical Ecology and Applied Archaeology. Oxford University Press.

Sulas, F. forthcoming Aksum: water and civilisation in northern Ethiopia. In T. Tvedt and T. Oestigaard (eds.), A History of Water, Series 3, Vol. 1.London, New York: I.B. Tauris.

Sulas, F. forthcoming Environmental archaeology at Aksum, Ethiopia. In M. Arroyo-Khalin, D. Fuller and D. Orton (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. Springer. 


Current projects

Landscape History, State Society and Collapse: the archaeology of Aksum, Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe (2012–14): this project is examining the role that water played in the rise and demise of early state societies in Africa based on three case-studies: Aksum in the Ethiopian highlands, Mapungubwe in the Limpopo floodplain, and Great Zimbabwe on the Zimbabwe Plateau.


The long-term history of agriculture and conservation practices of Konso, south-west Ethiopia (2010–13): this project (co-directed by Dr Daryl Stump, University of York, UK) is examining the historical development of indigenous farming practices of the Konso people in SW Ethiopia. The project is funded from the British Academy, UK, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, US.


Geoarchaeology and the use of space in Swahili urban contexts (2009–16): this study is part of a large-scale interdisciplinary research on urban space at Songo Mnara, Tanzania, led by Dr S. Wynne-Jones (University of York) and Dr Jeffrey Fleisher (Rice University) with funding from the British Academy and the National Science Foundation ( As the project geoarchaeologist, I am investigating the use of domestic space via customised soil analyses and the study of phytoliths.