Marco Madella

Universitat Pompeu Fabra & Institució Milà i Fontanals


After graduating at the University of Milan (Italy) in Natural Sciences (Botany), I worked as a contract scientist at the Archaeological Museum of Como and left the team in 1993 to start a PhD at the University of Cambridge. After finishing my PhD I took up a position as research fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, also teaching archaeology and human evolution at the Institute for Continuing Education (Madingly Hall) of the University of Cambridge. In 2004 I became affiliated lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and in 2005 director of studies in archaeology and anthropology at St. Edmund's College in the University of Cambridge. Since July 2005 I am ICREA research professor first at the IMF-CSIC and from 2014 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. I currently coordinate the Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs) research group and I teach in the UPF Master in Global History.

Research interests

My background is in archaeobotany and environmental archaeology, and I investigate the socio-ecological dynamics of past human populations from Mediterranean to tropical environments. My interests span from past vegetation histories, the modelling and simulation of processes in human behavioural change, people-plants co-evolutionary dynamics, long term trajectories of biodiversity and sustainability in prehistoric societies, and the origin and resilience of agriculture. Agriculture had an immense impact on humans and non-humans, and the future of our world is linked to making agriculture sustainable by maintaining biodiversity, revaluating traditional knowledge and mitigating environmental impact. Key areas for my work are South and West Asia, and South America.

Selected publications

Reyes-Garcia V, Zurro D, Caro J & Madella M 2017, ‘Small-scale societies and environmental transformations: coevolutionary dynamics’, Ecology And Society, 22, 1, 15.

– Biagetti S, Merlo S, Adam E, Lobo A, Conesa FC, Knight J, Bekrani H, Crema ER, Alcaina-Mateos J & Madella M 2017, ‘High and Medium Resolution Satellite Imagery to Evaluate Late Holocene Human-Environment Interactions in Arid Lands: A Case Study from the Central Sahara’, Remote Sensing, 9, 4, 351.

– Friesem DE, Lavi N, Madella M, Boaretto E, Ajithparsad P & French C 2017, ‘The formation of fire residues associated with hunter-gatherers in humid tropical environments: A geo-ethnoarchaeological perspective’, Quaternary Science Reviews, 171, 85 – 99.

– Salpeteur M, Madella M, Patel HR & Reyes-Garcia V 2017, ‘Adaptation, Access to Resources and Mobility: from Contemporary Pastoral Systems to Ancient Societies’, Nomadic Peoples, 21, 2, 191 – 213.

– Out WA & Madella M 2017, ‘Towards improved detection and identification of crop by-products: Morphometric analysis of bilobate leaf phytoliths of Pennisetum glaucum and Sorghum bicolor‘, Quaternary International, 434, B, 1 – 14.

– Calegari MR, Madella M, Tagliari Brustolin L, Ruiz Pessenda L, Buso Jr AA, Francisquini MI, Bendassolli JA & Vidal-Torrado P 2017, ‘Potential of soil phytoliths, organic matter and carbon isotopes for small-scale differentiation of tropical rainforest vegetation: A pilot study from the campos nativos of the Atlantic Forest in Espírito Santo State (Brazil)’, Quaternary International, 437, B, 156 – 164.

Selected research activities

I am global co-coordinator of the LandCover6k workgroup of PAGES (Past Global Changes), a member of the Future Earth Cluster Modeling Sustainable Futures ( and I serve as an advisory member in the Human and the Biosphere Commission of the INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Science). I have been visiting researcher at the Department of Soil Science, ESALQ-Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil).