Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


I joined ICREA in 2008. Following a PhD in the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, I worked on projects based in Hungary, Scotland and Papua New Guinea. From 1997-2005 I co-directed the Scotland's First Settlers project which explored the early post glacial environment and human population of North West Scotland. In 2005 I was awarded a Marie Curie OIF to visit the University of Sydney where I set up an international project to recover information and evidence for the role of plants in human evolutionary and pre-agrarian diets. My return phase took place at the University of York, UK. I am an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests

My interest lies in early prehistoric periods before the adoption of farming. Specifically, I study pioneer populations, human adaptations, use of land and seascapes (including intertidal and submerged landscapes) and the paleoenvironment of the north-west European Atlantic coastline  during the time when sea levels were lower than today up until around 8000 years ago. At this time, north west Scotland represented  the extreme westerly point of the European continental landmass. I also recover evidence to reconstruct use of wild plants in pre-agrarian populations as food, medicine and raw materials from Palaeolithic and Mesolithic populations, the periods before farming developed. Dental calculus accumulation ceases at death, therefore it is a secure way to obtain information on ingestion of plants or use of plants during life; this is particularly useful for earlier Palaeolithic periods where the evidence for plants is very limited.  

Selected publications

- Hardy K, Bocherens H, Brand Miller J & Copeland L 2022. 'Reconstructing Neanderthal diet, the case for carbohydrates'. Journal of Human Evolution, 162, 103105.

- Hardy K 2022, 'The use of plants by Neanderthals as food, medicine, and raw materials'. In, Rivals, F., Romagnoli, F., Benazzi, S. Updating the Neanderthals: Understanding Behavioral Complexity in the Late Middle Paleolithic. Chapter  9: 145-162. Elsevier.