Elisabeth Hildebrand
Elisabeth Hildebrand Associate Professor
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 2003


Courses taught at Stony Brook include Introduction to Ethnobotany, African Peoples and Cultures, Ethnoarchaeology, and Ancient African Civilizations. Elisabeth Hildebrand has contributed to the curriculum development for the Turkana Basin field school/study abroad program in NW Kenya.

Research Interests

Elisabeth Hildebrand′s research examines how prehistoric hunter-gatherers adopted farming and herding, and the ways in which this economic reorientation fostered changes in social organization. She gives special emphasis to the causes and processes of plant domestication, and the spread of pastoral livelihoods. Africa is an intriguing place to situate such studies for two reasons. First, the presence of herding before farming in many parts of Africa contrasts with other regions of the globe. Second, because African crops and environments differ from those in other, well-studied regions (e.g., Southwest Asia and Mexico), African motives and means for plant domestication may have been unusual in a global context.

To pursue these issues, Hildebrand has conducted several different projects using diverse data sources. Her PhD fieldwork used ethnobotanical and ethnoarchaeological methods to develop models of domestication for southwest Ethiopian crops. Her postdoctoral fieldwork tested these models via survey and excavation of rockshelters in Kafa, southwest Ethiopia, and excavations at Moche Borago rockshelter in south Ethiopia.

In addition to these Ethiopian projects, Hildebrand has studied early plant food production at two sites on Sai Island in northern Sudan: habitation site 8B10A, and a large subterranean granary complex at 8B52A. Since 2007, she has conducted fieldwork on the Holocene archaeology of West Turkana, Kenya. There, recent excavations have shown that local megalithic pillar sites were constructed as herding spread into the area.

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