Lisa Maher

Lisa Maher's picture
Assistant Professor
Special Interests: 
Prehistoric Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, Micromorphology, Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic periods, hunter-gatherers, archaeological method and theory, lithic analysis, emergence of social complexity, origins of agriculture, Pleistocene/Holocene, mortuary archaeology, Near Eastern, North African and Arabian Prehistory, Public Archaeology.

My research focuses on hunter-gatherer societies in the Near East, North Africa and Arabia with the aim of reconstructing human-environment interactions during the Late Pleistocene. The transition between hunting and gathering and farming in this region is well-studied, but tends to focus on the later Neolithic as heralding the beginnings of a series of significant changes in human social organization, economy, technological innovation, and ideology. However, I am interested in the periods leading up to farming – the 10,000 years or so prior – when these changes first manifest in the archaeological record in the form of intensified plant use, increased sedentism and population aggregations, architecture, complex site organization, far-reaching social interaction networks, and elaborate mortuary practices. Notably, it is during these periods, the Epipalaeolithic and the early Neolithic, when we see significant changes in human behavior with the intersection ofregional-scale climate change and humans asagents of landscape change.

To investigate the social and environmental precursors to later sedentism and farming, I work at several Epipalaeolithic sites in Jordan that provide a record of the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic people living in the region during the Late Pleistocene. Here, the evidence for protracted cultural and biological continuity highlights that culture changes associated with the ‘origins of agriculture’ are not dramatic in nature and appear earlier than previously thought. This evidence supports a paradigm shift in our understanding of the origins of the agriculture, which we now interpret as a long-term culturally-dynamic process. I conduct this work with a regional landscape theme that integrates geoarchaeological, cultural, and biological datasets. In particular, I combine the geoarchaeological study of site-formation processes and landscape change (through geomorphology and soil micromorphology) and the material culture and social aspects of Epipalaeolithic sites at a variety of scales. I am interested in how landscapes are integrated into social spheres and how they participate in the creation, maintenance and transformation of prehistoric communities.

My work also has a prominent public archaeology component, working closely with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, local communities, and non-governmental agencies to promote archaeological resource sustainability and to integrate our findings with local initiatives for heritage and habitat conservation. We host community open days and invite school groups to participate in our research. One of my field sites is near Jordan’s last remaining large wetlands, which is now rapidly shrinking. Our research on changing environments and aridity in prehistory has thus become increasingly relevant to the concerns of local communities in Jordan today.


I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Following this I joined the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies and Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge as Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow from 2005-2007. I was a Research Associate in Cambridge for a further four years, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Britain, to launch a collaborative research project in the eastern desert of Jordan called the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project (EFAP).

I maintain ties to both Toronto and Cambridge through several research projects. I continue to Co-Direct the Wadi Ziqlab Project with Dr. Ted Banning and to conduct fieldwork at a Middle Epipalaeolithic occupation and cemetery site in northern Jordan. EFAP is now conducting regular field and study seasons at the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic aggregation site of Kharaneh IV ( The project now has a joint home here at Berkeley, as well as the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen ( and Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Cambridge (

Beyond my own excavations in Jordan, I conduct micromorphological work for several other archaeological projects in the region, such as at the Natufian site of Wadi Mataha in Jordan, and Neolithic sites of Seker al-Aheimar in Syria and Goytepe in Azerbaijan.

2251 College Room 204; Lab in 1 Kroeber
Representative Publications: 

L. Maher, T. Richter, and J. Stock(In press) The Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic of the Southern Levant: Developments and Transitions to Social Complexity. Evolutionary Anthropology.

L. Maher, T. Richter, J.T. Stock and M. Jones (In press) Preliminary Results from Recent Excavations at the Epipalaeolithic Site of Kharaneh IV, In Jordan’s Prehistory: Past and Future Research (F. Khraysheh and G. Rollefson, eds.). Department of Antiquities of Jordan: Amman.

T. Richter, and L. Maher (In press) The Natufian of the Azraq Basin: An Appraisal. In The Natufian Culture in the Levant II (O. Bar-Yosef and F. Valla, eds.). International Monographs in Prehistory: Ann Arbor.

Maher, L., T. Richter, D. Macdonald, M. Jones, L. Martin and J. T. Stock (2012) Twenty Thousand-Year-Old Huts at a Hunter-Gatherer Settlement in Eastern Jordan. PLoS-ONE 7(2): e31447.

L. Maher, T. Richter, M. Jones and J.T. Stock (2011) The Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project: Prehistoric Landscape Change in the Azraq Basin, Eastern Jordan. CBRL Bulletin 6: 21-27.

L. Maher (2011) Reconstructing Palaeolandscapes and Prehistoric Occupation in Wadi Ziqlab, Northern Jordan. Geoarchaeology 26(5): 649-692.

L. Maher and T. Richter (2011) PPN Predecessors: Current Issues in Late Pleistocene Chipped Stone Analyses in the Southern Levant. In The State of Stone: Terminologies, Continuities and Contexts in Near Eastern Lithics. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 13 (eds E. Healey, S. Campbell and O. Maeda,). Ex oriente: Berlin, p. 25-31.

L. Maher, J. Stock, S. Finney, J. Haywood, P. Miracle and E.B. Banning (2011) Human-Fox Burials at a 16,000-Year-Old Cemetery in the Southern Levant (Jordan) Reveal Continuity in Burial Practices Prior to the Neolithic. Public Library of Science (PLoS-One). Jan 26, 2011:

L. Maher, E.B. Banning and M. Chazan (2011) Oasis or Mirage? Assessing the Role of Abrupt Climate Change in the Prehistory of the Southern Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(1):1-29.

T. Richter, A. Garrard, S. Allcock, and L. Maher (2011) Interaction Before Agriculture: Exchanging Material and Shared Knowledge in the Final Pleistocene Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(1):95-114.

L. Maher (2010) People and their places at the end of the Pleistocene: evaluating perspectives on physical and cultural landscape change. In Landscapes in Transition: understanding hunter-gatherer and farmer landscapes in the early Holocene of Europe and the Levant (W. Finlayson and G. Warren, eds.). Oxbow Books: London, p. 34-45.

T. Richter, J.T. Stock, L. Maher, and C. Hebron (2010) An Early Epipalaeolithic Sitting Burial from the Azraq Oasis, Eastern Jordan. Antiquity 84:1-14.

L. Maher (2009) The Late Pleistocene of Arabia in Relation to the Levant. In The Evolution and History of Human Populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics, Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleontology 187(M. Petraglia and J. Rose, eds.), pp. 187-202. Springer: New York.                 

L. Maher (2007) Microliths and Mortuary Practices: New Perspectives on the Epipalaeolithic in Northern and Eastern Jordan. Book chapter in Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan (T.E. Levy, M. Daviau, R.W. Younker, M. Shaer, eds.), p. 195-202, Equinox: London.