Sarah Elliott

Dr Sarah Elliott

  • Deputy Head of Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
  • Christchurch House C107, Talbot Campus
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I am a palaeoecologist, environmental archaeologist and a geoarchaeologist with a focus on Middle Eastern Neolithic Archaeology and Ethnoarchaeology. My research focuses on applying scientific methodologies to investigate human and animal occupation/activity signatures. I recently held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in partnership with the Council for British Research in the Levant ( I completed my degrees at the University of Reading. My PhD focused on Neolithic sites in the Zagros Mountains ( I previously worked at Bournemouth University on the INEA project ( I also held two Postdoctoral Fellowships at the British Institute in Amman (CBRL), and a Teaching Fellowship at the University of Aberdeen. I was also a Posdoctoral fellow on the PAST project at the University of Exeter which examined pre-Columbian societies and crop domestications in Amazonia (


My research applies scientific methodologies to modern reference material, ethnoarchaeological and archaeological samples. I utilise a combined scientific approach to investigate human and animal signatures and activities in Neolithic villages in the Middle East. The Neolithic period represents the transition from mobile hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers. My specialisms are encompassed within palaeoecology and soil science and include phytolith analysis (plant silica remains), thin section soil micromorphology, geochemistry and dung studies (faecal spherulites). In my research modern samples are collected from known contexts in order to apply the scientific methodology to samples where I can also collect the intangible heritage. These samples include plant material, animal dungs and modern sediments from traditionally built abandoned villages. The modern and ethnoarchaeological results are then used to inform on the scientific results from the archaeological samples. The archaeological samples originate from a range of Neolithic villages in the Middle East from the early Neolithic up until the late Neolithic.

Journal Articles

  • Elliott, S. and Matthews, W., 2024. Dung detective! A multi-scalar, multi-method approach to identification and analysis of ancient faecal material. Quaternary International, 683-684, 162-181.
  • Elliott, S., Maezumi, S.Y., Robinson, M., Burn, M., Gosling, W.D., Mickleburgh, H.L., Walters, S. and Beier, Z.J.M., 2024. The legacy of 1300 years of land use in Jamaica. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 19 (2), 312-343.
  • Newton, A.C., Coward, F., Elliott, S., Jenkins, E., Linden, M.V., Riris, P. and Silva, F., 2024. Understanding long-term human ecodynamics through the lens of ecosystem collapse. Holocene.
  • Allcock, S.L., Elliott, S., Jenkins, E.L., Palmer, C., Rollefson, G., Grattan, J. and Finlayson, B., 2023. Using Phytolith, Geochemical and Ethnographic Analysis to Inform on Site Construction and Activities in the Neolithic of Southwest Asia: Case Studies from Wadi Faynan 16 and ‘Ain Ghazal, Jordan. Environmental Archaeology.
  • FSAScot, D.M., FSAScot, S.M., Berg-Hansen, I.M., Elliott, S., Fry, R., Pelling, R. and FSAScot, A.S., 2023. Excavation and survey at the Giant’s Grave, Slochd Measach, Nereabolls, a Neolithic chambered cairn on the Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute: chronology, architecture, reuse and demise. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 152, 9-52.
  • Silva, F. et al., 2022. Developing Transdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainability Challenges: The Need to Model Socio-Environmental Systems in the Longue Durée. Sustainability (Switzerland), 14 (16).
  • Maezumi, S.Y. et al., 2022. Legacies of Indigenous land use and cultural burning in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest ecotone. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377 (1849).
  • Robinson, M., Jaimes-Betancourt, C., Elliott, S., Maezumi, S.Y., Hilbert, L., Alves, D., de Souza, J.G. and Iriarte, J., 2021. Anthropogenic soil and settlement organisation in the Bolivian Amazon. Geoarchaeology, 36 (3), 388-403.
  • Iriarte, J., Elliott, S., Maezumi, S.Y., Alves, D., Gonda, R., Robinson, M., Gregorio de Souza, J., Watling, J. and Handley, J., 2021. Corrigendum to “The origins of Amazonian landscapes: Plant cultivation, domestication and the spread of food production in tropical South America” [Quat. Sci. Rev. 248 (2020) 106582] (Quaternary Science Reviews (2020) 248, (S0277379120305448), (10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106582)). Quaternary Science Reviews, 252.
  • Iriarte, J., Elliott, S., Maezumi, S.Y., Alves, D., Gonda, R., Robinson, M., Gregorio de Souza, J., Watling, J. and Handley, J., 2020. The origins of Amazonian landscapes: Plant cultivation, domestication and the spread of food production in tropical South America. Quaternary Science Reviews, 248.
  • Matthews, R., Elliott, S. et al., 2020. The early Neolithic of Iraqi Kurdistan: current research at Bestansur, Shahrizor Plain. Paleorient, 45 (2).
  • Elliott, S., 2019. A New and Extensive Ethnoarchaeological Dung Reference Collection for Investigating Animal Occupation, Seasonality and Diet in the Past. Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant : CBRL.
  • Elliott, S., Palmer, C., Samantha Lee, A. and Jenkins, E., 2019. Examining Neolithic Building and Activity Areas through Historic Cultural Heritage in Jordan: A Combined Ethnographic, Phytolith and Geochemical Investigation. Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant : CBRL.
  • Baird, D., Jenkins, E., Elliott, S. et al., 2018. Agricultural origins on the Anatolian plateau. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115 (14), E3077-E3086.
  • Jenkins, E.L., Allcock, S.L., Elliott, S., Palmer, C. and Grattan, J., 2017. Ethno-geochemical and Phytolith Studies of Activity Related Patterns: A Case Study from Al Ma’tan, Jordan. Environmental Archaeology, 22 (4), 412-433.
  • Elliott, S., Bendrey, R., Whitlam, J., Aziz, K. and Evans, J., 2015. Preliminary ethnoarchaeological research on modern animal husbandry in Bestansur, Iraqi Kurdistan: Integrating animal, plant and environmental data. Environmental Archaeology: the journal of human palaeoecology.
  • Elliott, S., 2014. The Origins and Spread of Domestic Animals in Southwest Asia and Europe. Reviewed by Sarah Elliott. Archaeological Review From Cambridge, 29, 185-235.
  • Mithen, S., Wicks, K. and Elliott, S., 2012. Croig Cave: a Late Bronze Age ornament deposit and three millennia of fishing and foraging on the north-west coast of Mull, Scotland. The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 142.


  • Matthews, R. et al., 2020. Long-Term Human-Environment Interactions in the Neolithic of the Central Zagros of Iran and Iraq, 10,000-6000 BC. In: Eidem, J., ed. Zagros Studies. Proceedings of the NINO Jubilee Conference and Other Research on the Zagros Region. Peeters Publishers.
  • Elliott, S., Matthews, W. and Bull, I., 2020. Early Neolithic animal management and ecology: integrated analysis of faecal material. In: Matthews, R., Raheem, R. and Richardson, A., eds. The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent Excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, Iraqi Kurdistan. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 353.
  • Elliott, S., Bendrey, R., Whitlam, J. and Aziz, K., 2020. Ethnoarchaeological research in Bestansur: insights into vegetation, land-use, animals and animal dung. In: Matthews, R., Matthews, W., Rasheem, K. and Richardson, A., eds. The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent Excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, Iraqi Kurdistan. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 91.
  • Elliott, S., 2018. The Phytoliths. In: Fulford, M., Clarke, A., Durham, E. and Pankhurst, N., eds. Late Iron Age Calleva. The pre-conquest occupation at Silchester insula IX. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.
  • Allcock, S. and Elliott, S., 2018. Sedimentary Analysis of Construction Materials. In: Mithen, S., Finlayson, B., Maričević, D., Smith, S., Jenkins, E. and Najjar, M., eds. WF16, The Excavation of an Early Neolithic Settlement in Wadi Faynan, Southern Jordan. Stratigraphy, Chronology, Architecture, and Burials. Oxford: Council for British Research in the Levant.
  • Bendrey, R., Whitlam, J., Elliott, S. and Aziz, K., 2016. ‘Seasonal rhythms’ of a rural Kurdish village: Ethnozooarchaeological research in Bestansur, Iraq. People with Animals Perspectives and Studies in Ethnozooarchaeology. Oxbow Books.
  • Shillito, L.-M. and Elliott, S., 2014. Phytolith indicators of plant resource use at Sheikh-e Abad and Jani. In: Matthews, R., Matthews, W and Mohammadifar, Y., eds. The Earliest Neolithic of Iran: 2008 Excavations at Sheikh-E Abad and Jani. Oxbow books.
  • Jenkins, E., Baker, A. and Elliott, S., 2014. Past plant use in Jordan as revealed by archaeological and ethnoarchaeological phytolith signatures. In: Mithen, S. and Black, E., eds. Water, Life and Civilisation. Climate, Environment and Society in the Jordan Valley. Cambrideg University Press.



  • Facilitating research collaborations for development of Born Digital Workflow for UK phytolith reference collection (Alan Turing Institute, 11 Jul 2022). Awarded
  • Identifying the potential for establishing long-term environmental models in western Thessaly, Greece, across a period of up to 10,000 years (BU SIA ECR Networking Fund, 21 Jun 2022). In Progress
  • Filling the Gap: Investigating past and present socio-ecological resilience to aid future sustainability in the Poole Harbour Catchment (Bournemouth University-ACORN, 01 Jun 2021). In Progress
  • Jamaica A Last Island Frontier: The Legacy of Natural and Anthropogenic Disturbance in the Caribbean (National Geographic Society, 24 Apr 2019). Completed
  • Investigating Neolithic villages and farming communities in Jordan: developing and validating new scientific multi-methodologies. (British Academy, 14 Jan 2019). Awarded


  • PhD in Archaeology (2016)
  • MSc in Geoarchaeology (2008)
  • BA (Hons) in Ancient History and Archaeology (2007)