Marco Madella

Marco Madella

Universitat Pompeu Fabra


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 Culture and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs) research group and I teach in the UPF Master in World History.

Research interests

My background is in archaeobotany and environmental archaeology, and I am interested in understanding the socio-ecological dynamics of past human populations in arid and semi-arid environments, from the Mediterranean to the tropics. 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, re-evaluating traditional knowledge and mitigating environmental impact. Archaeology can play a key role in all these lines of investigation. Key areas for my work are South and West Asia, and South America.

Selected publications

– Lancelotti C, Biagetti S, Zerboni A, Usai D & Madella M 2019, ‘The archaeology and ethnoarchaeology of rain-fed cultivation in arid and hyper-arid North Africa’, Antiquity, 93, 370, 1026 – 1039.

– Ahedo V, Caro J, Bortolini E, Zurro D, Madella M & Galan JM 2019, ‘Quantifying the relationship between food sharing practices and socio-ecological variables in small-scale societies: A cross-cultural multi-methodological approach’, Plos One, 14, 5, e0216302.

– Kay AU, Fuller DQ, Neumann K, Eichhorn B, Hoehn A, Morin-Rivat J, Champion L, Linseele V, Huysecom E, Ozainne S, Lespez L, Biagetti S, Madella M, Salzmann U & Kaplan JO 2019, ‘Diversification, Intensification and Specialization: Changing Land Use in Western Africa from 1800 BC to AD 1500’, Journal Of World Prehistory, 32, 2, 179 – 228.

– Bortolini E, Biagetti S, Frinchillucci G, Abukhar H, Warsame AA & Madella M 2019, ‘Newly found stone cairns in Mudug region, Puntland: a preliminary report‘, Azania – Archaeological Research in Africa, 54, 1, 94 – 106.

– Lombardo U, Ruiz-Perez J, Rodrigues L, Mestrot A, Mayle F, Madella M, Szidat S & Veit H 2019, ‘Holocene land cover change in south-western Amazonia inferred from paleoflood archives’, Global And Planetary Change, 174, 105 – 114.

– Gur-Arieh S, Madella M, Lavi N & Friesem D 2019, ‘Potentials and limitations for the identification of outdoor dung plasters in humid tropical environment: a geo-ethnoarchaeological case study from South India‘, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11, 6, 2683 – 2698.

Selected research activities

– Honorary Professor at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

– Co-Global Coordinator of LandUse6k – PAGES

– Advisory Board, INQUA Commission for Humans and the Biosphere