Who we are


Dr Jessica Thompson (Department of Anthropology, Emory University)


Dr Thompson is an archaeologist with a career focus on investigations of the Middle to Late Pleistocene evolution of modern hunter-gatherer behaviour in Africa, both through zooarchaeological analysis and the recovery of new field data. More recently, she has extended her research into experimental taphonomy and related questions of Plio-Pleistocene hominin subsistence. She worked on problems of human origins in South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, and Ethiopia. As director of MEMSAP she is responsible for directing all primary fieldwork, including both excavation and survey. She has built and directs the research team, coordinating their efforts in specialist areas such as lithic analysis, sediment dating, and geoarchaeological interpretation. She also undertakes zooarchaeological analysis of any fossil animal bones recovered by the project.

Mr Menno Welling (African Heritage – Research & Consultancy, Zomba, Malawi)


Menno Welling studied cultural anthropology and archaeology of Africa at Leiden University, The Netherlands and Syracuse University, New York.  His PhD research concerns the Lundu kingdom and the Mbona rain cult in southern Malawi. Having noted the decline of Malawi’s historical awareness and neglect of monuments and archaeological sites, he established Mlambe Foundation for the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage through education. One of its achievements is the construction of Tisunge! Lower Shire Heritage Centre. He subsequently joined the newly established Catholic University of Malawi to set up Malawi’s first Anthropology-Archaeology program and became the founding Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He recently introduced contract archaeology in Malawi by setting up African Heritage – Research & Consultancy. Welling is an expert member of the International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). In 2009, he received an award from President Bingu wa Mutharika for his efforts to preserve Malawi’s rich cultural heritage.

Dr Alex Mackay (Centre for Archaeological Science, University of Wollongong)


Dr. Mackay specializes in late Pleistocene stone artefact technologies. He has worked on archaeological sites in Australia, Peru, India, Malawi and South Africa, and is currently focused on answering questions relating to the technological organization of early modern humans in southern and central Africa. Alex usually resides in Cape Town. In addition to doing primary data collection on selected stone artefact assemblages from Malawi, Alex undertakes management of the analysis of stone artefacts by other project personnel.

Prof David Wright (College of Humanities, Seoul National University)


David K. Wright is a geoarchaeologist specializing in surficial deposits, archaeometric dating techniques, and Quaternary paleoecology. He is particularly interested in how people adapt to climate change. He has conducted research in eastern Africa and the American Midwest, Plains, and Southwest. He has recently begun to collaborate with the Malawi Early and Middle Stone Age Project (MEMSAP) studying the behavioral transitions in hominids and early modern humans in northern Malawi. Wright continues to conduct research in the Lake Turkana region on human adaptations to Holocene environmental change and is the lead PI on a project in the middle Gila River Valley, Arizona called “The Archaeology of Dust.”

Prof Ramon Arrowsmith (School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University)


Prof Arrowsmith conducts research in active tectonics, quantitative structural geology and geomorphology. These include paleoseismology, earthquake geology, theoretical studies of faulting and hillslope development, and Quaternary Geology and desert surface processes. Active areas of geographic concentration include the San Andreas Fault system, Arizona, central Asia, Xinjiang China, Baja California, the Afar region of Ethiopia (for the geologic context of paleoanthropologic studies), and the Lake Malawi basin. He also develops geoinformatics tools for cyberinfrastructure in the geosciences emphasising high resolution topography derived from LiDAR technology. His role in MEMSAP is to provide geomorphological context for the archaeological deposits, so that we can understand how the artefacts became buried and if they have been subsequently disturbed. His work also allows for broader interpretations of processes (surficial and tectonic) that have transformed the landscape since the time the artefacts were deposited. This is essential for identifying sources from which Middle Stone Age people obtained stone to make artefacts and how the artefacts may have been transported across the landscape.

Prof Andrew Cohen (Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona)


Prof Cohen’s research area is paleolimnology, the interpretation of lake history from sedimentary and paleontological records. Most of his work to date has involved studies of depositional environments, paleoecology, and climate history of the African Rift Lakes and the arid climate lakes of the western US. He uses ostracode paleoecology and sedimentology as primary tools in the interpretation of lake deposits, from both outcrops and sediment core records. His recent work has focused on understanding the implications of African palaeoclimates on human prehistory and evolution. He was a Principle Investigator on the Lake Malawi Drilling Project, and one of the researchers to identify periods of megadrought in the Pleistocene record of the Lake Malawi sediments. His role in MEMSAP is to integrate our archaeological and sedimentary terrestrial records with existing palaeoclimate data from the lake cores. This will provide us with the environmental context for changes in human behaviour as recorded in the stone artefacts.

Prof Steven Forman (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago)


Dr Jeong-Heon Choi (Division of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Korea Basic Science Institute)

Prof Jian-xin Zhao (Centre of Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland)


Dr Gilbert Price (School of Earth Science, University of Queensland)

http://www.earth.uq.edu.au/research-profile/dr-gilbert-price; www.diprotodon.com

Gilbert Price is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Queensland in Australia. He obtained his Ph.D. in Palaeoecology from Queensland University of Technology in 2006. His Ph.D. and subsequent post-doctoral projects have spanned a wide breadth of distinctive research fields that include palaeoecology, geochronology, zoology and modern conservation. He is especially focused on developing key datasets with which to test hypotheses concerning the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna.

Dr Patrick Moss (School of Geography, Planning and the Environment, University of Queensland)

Patrick Moss is a Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Queensland. His research interests are in the areas of Quaternary environmental change (i.e. last 2 million years) in eastern Australia and the Eocene greenhouse environments (i.e. 50 million years ago) of British Columbia, Canada. He gained his PhD from MonashUniversity and has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa. He teaches in the areas of physical geography and biogeography. Dr Moss is a member of the Australasian Quaternary Association Executive Committee and the Science and Technology Australia Board.

The most significant impacts of his research are related to an improved understanding of how landscapes have responded to climatic alterations and/or human impacts. In particular, I have investigated the long term (i.e. 1000s of years) impacts of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon has had on eastern Australian environments and Aboriginal societies, the impacts that people have had on eastern Australian landscapes over the last 40,000 years and how greenhouse climates have impacted North American plant communities.

He is currently involved in a number of projects examining how past environmental change (i.e. climate alterations and/or human impacts) have influenced the eastern Australian landscape over the last +50,000 years. This research has focused on a number of key management and/or conservation issues, including water security, fire ecology and ecological/anthropogenic response to climate change.

Prof Dr Christopher Miller (Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, University of Tübingen, Germany)


Dr Susan Mentzer (Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, University of Tübingen, Germany)


Dr Gail Robertson (School of Social Science, University of Queensland)

Gail Robertson obtained a PhD in Archaeology from the University of Queensland where she is currently an Honorary Research Advisor in the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences.  Her research specialties include microscopic analysis of archaeological residues and use-wear and subsequent interpretation of stone tool use. As a Research Associate in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Faculty of Arts, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, she has recently collaborated in an Australian Research Council funded research project “Evolution of Technology and Tool Use in 10,000 years of Aboriginal history” for which the principal investigators are Dr Peter Hiscock (ANU) and Dr Val Attenbrow (Australian Museum).  As well as her particular interest in Australian Aboriginal artefacts, other research projects have involved microscopic analysis of stone artefacts found in association with Homo floresiensis on the island of Flores in Indonesia and, more recently, the examination of residues on artefacts from East Timor and from San Clemente Island, California.

Dr Elizabeth Gomani-Chindebvu (Director of Culture, Malawi Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Culture

Mr Harrison H Simfukwe (Malawi Malawi Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Culture/Department of Antiquities/Karonga Museum)

Mr. Simfukwe holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences with focus in palaeontology. Before pursuing his BSc, he worked with the Department of Antiquities, conducting many archaeological surveys and excavations of both Stone and Iron Age Sites in Malawi. He was involved in all the analysis of archaeological findings for the Department of Antiquities in Malawi. Since his professional training in palaeontology, he has been involved in the paleontological site surveys and excavations of the Permian, Dinosaur and the Plio-Pleistocene lithofacies of Malawi. He has also done a lot of conservation and preservation of fossil material, identification and comparative analysis of fossil faunal assemblages and developed education programs for Karonga Museum. From 2009 to date he has been involved in the Malawi Earlier-Middle Stone Age Project (MEMSAP). His work in the project includes excavations, sediment sample collection and preparation for dating and analysis of the lithic assemblages recovered from excavations and surveys. Mr. Simfukwe has also supervised the MEMSAP off-season archaeological excavations in Karonga, and is developing a strong revenue generation base for the institution’s sustainability through the development and promotion of tourism in the region.

Mr Oris Malijani (Malawi Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Culture/Department of Antiquities)

Mr. Oris Malijani is a Senior Professional Officer working with the Malawi Department of Antiquities. He has been heading the Geoarchaeology Unit of the Department for over six years now. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and Earth Sciences from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. He has experience in historic and prehistoric research of Malawi and general conservation and management of archaeological heritage resources. His research interests range from reconstruction of palaeoenvironments and GIS modeling, origins of modern human behaviour and technology, geoarchaeology, and Pleistocene Prehistory. He started working with MEMSAP in 2009. He has been actively involved in planning and conducting archaeological field work like site surveys, excavations, preparation of artefacts for analysis, and taking specialist samples like 14C, TL, OSL, Palaeomagnetics and micromorphology. He has managed field and spatial data collected from the project area and is continuously updating the project database. He has skills in ‘high-tech’ technology applied at excavation sites, collection of high resolution data using Total Stations with ‘Survey Pro’ software, data transfer, and visualisation in GIS. His MSc and PhD research focus is to analyse and assess the impact of agriculture and modern erosion on the Chitimwe Beds archaeological sediments of Karonga District using GIS models.

Mr Malani Chinula (Malawi Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Culture/Department of Antiquities)


Mr Andrew M Zipkin (Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology, The George Washington University)


Andrew Zipkin is a 5th year graduate student in the Hominid Paleobiology Doctoral Program at GWU, currently completing his PhD with his adviser Prof. Alison Brooks.  In 2009 he earned a B.S. with Distinction in Research (Major: Biology and Society) from Cornell University.  His research interests include Central and East African Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeology, provenance geochemistry, remote sensing and GIS, experimental archaeology, fracture mechanics, the origins of behavioral modernity, and the history of anthropology.  His dissertation research focuses on the archaeological signatures of early material symbolism.  Andrew studies the procurement strategies followed by early  humans during ochre (ferruginous earth pigment) collection at MSA sites in Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia.  He has worked  with MEMSAP since 2011 and is currently studying the geochemistry of ochre mineral deposits in northern Malawi and developing new techniques to match ochre artefacts from Karonga-area MSA sites to their sources on the landscape.  In the lab, Andrew collaborates with the University of Missouri Research Reactor and Memorial University of Newfoundland.  In addition to his work with MEMSAP, Andrew conducts field work with the Olorgesailie Project – Middle Stone Age Group in southern Kenya.

Ms Marina Bravo Foster (School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University)

A geological sciences PhD student at Arizona State University, Marina is fascinated by the dynamics of changing landscapes, particularly the roles of climate and rock strength in modulating fluvial bedrock erosion in actively uplifting mountain ranges. Her dissertation work is located in the Snake River Plain-Yellowstone region of the Western U.S., where she is working to understand the response of surface processes to the dynamic surface uplift above the Yellowstone hotspot–a unique study coupling the Earth’s mantle behavior with processes that take place on the surface.  She completed her BS in geological sciences with an emphasis in geohydrology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, later becoming interested in tectonic geomorphology and landscape change.Through her collaboration with MEMSAP in executing a source-to-sink examination of sedimentation patterns of the Malawi rift basin, she hopes to accomplish what is a long-term motivation: to unite the goals of geological work (which tend to be on longer timescales) with issues that are applicable and relevant to human timescales and interests.

Mr Scott Robinson (School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University)

Ms Amanda Greaves (School of Social Science, University of Queensland)

Amanda Greaves is a PhD student in Archaeology at the University of Queensland.  Her research interests include geoarchaeology, remote sensing, and geophysics as they apply to understanding human behaviour and social structures.  Her Honours thesis focused on the geoarchaeology of artefact-bearing strata in Middle Stone Age Malawi.  Current research is focused on the social structure of Early Bronze Age Assyrian trading colonies in Turkey via geoarchaeological analysis of buildings.  Additional interests include the shift from the communal-based ideologies of the Neolithic to the possession driven societies of the Bronze Age.  Amanda’s past work has included the Silchester Insula IX project (UK), Early Redcliffe Project (Australia), and volunteer lab work for the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project (Italy).

Ms Sheila Nightingale (Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York)

Sheila Nightingale is an archaeologist and PhD candidate whose research interests focus on the stone tool technologies of the African Middle Stone Age and the development of technological systems.  She has previously conducted archaeological and paleoanthropological fieldwork in England, the Republic of Georgia, Turkey, and Kenya.  Sheila will be undertaking the analysis of lithic artifacts from the MEMSAP excavations.

Ms Alison M Moroney (School of Social Science, University of Queensland)

Alison Moroney is an honours archaeology student at the University of Queensland, and a final year student in an information technology degree at Queensland University of Technology. Her honours research topic is a GIS investigation of northern Malawi. The dual objectives of her research are the development of a model identifying potential archaeological site locations of the Middle Stone Age, and dealing with criticisms of GIS inductive methods using a philosophically-based argument. This research covers the North Rukuru, Lufira, and Songwe river catchments. Her interests are archaeoastronomy, environmental archaeology, geoarchaeology, geochronology and archaeobotany.

Ms Flora Schilt (Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, University of Tübingen, Germany)

Flora Schilt (MSc) is a PhD candidate at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where she studies geoarchaeology with Prof. Christopher E. Miller. In 2011 she obtained her master’s degree with a thesis about the micromorphology of a cave site in Iran (Ghār-e Boof), containing geogenic and anthropogenic sediments from the Upper Palaeolithic and Islamic Period. At present Flora examines thin sections from micromorphological samples taken at the MEMSAP excavations in northern Malawi. This micro-scale investigation will provide valuable information about the formation of the different sites and contribute to the understanding of the sedimentary and environmental context of the archaeological remains.

Mr Victor de Moor (African Heritage: Research and Consultancy)

Victor de Moor is an archaeologist who obtained his MA in Palaeolithic Archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. His Masters thesis focused on the lithic analysis of Neanderthal flint tools from Neumark, Germany. He has been involved in MEMSAP since 2011 via African Heritage – Research & Consultancy. His main task in the project is archaeologically surveying the Karonga District.

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