Skip to main content
Skip to main content
MenuSearch & Directory

Mary Prendergast, Ph.D.

Division of Humanities


Ph.D. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 2008
M.A. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 2005
B.A. in Old World Archaeology and Art, Brown University, 1999

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of food and eating
  • Hunter-gatherers and pastoralists in East Africa
  • Human origins
  • Archaeological fieldwork and zooarchaeological analysis

Publications and Media Placements

2019. Roberts, P., M.E. Prendergast, A. Janzen, C. Shipton, J. Blinkhorn, J. Zech, A. Crowther, E.A. Sawchuk, E. Ndiema, M. Petraglia, N. Boivin. Late Pleistocene to Holocene human palaeoecology in the tropical environments of coastal eastern Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. *Co-corresponding authors

2019. Prendergast, M.E., M. Lipson, E.A. Sawchuk, I. Olalde, C. Ogola, N. Rohland, K.A. Sirak, N. Adamski, R. Betnardos, N. Broomandkhoshbacht, K. Callan, B.J. Culleton, L. Eccles, T.K. Harper, A.M. Lawson, M. Mah, J. Oppenheimer, K. Stewardson, F. Zalzala, S.H. Ambrose, G. Ayodo, H.L. Gates Jr., A.O. Gidna, M. Katongo, A. Kwekason, A.Z.P. Mabulla, G.S. Mudenda, E.K. Ndiema, C. Nelson, P. Robertshaw, D.J. Kennett, F.K. Manthi, D. Reich. Ancient DNA Reveals a Multi-Step Spread of the First Herders into Sub-Saharan Africa. Science365(6448):eaaw6275.

2019. Prendergast, M.E., A. Janzen, M. Buckley, K.M. Grillo. Sorting the sheep from the goats in the Pastoral Neolithic: morphological and biomolecular approaches at Luxmanda, Tanzania. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11(6):3047-3062.

2019. Chritz, K., T. Cerling, K. Freeman, E. Hildebrand, A. Janzen, M.E. Prendergast. Climate, ecology, and the spread of herding in eastern Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 204:119-132.

2018. Prendergast, M.E., A. Janzen, M. Buckley, K. Grillo Sorting the sheep from the goats in the Pastoral Neolithic: morphological and biomolecular approaches at Luxmanda, Tanzania. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. DOI: 10.1007/s12520-018-0737-0

2018. Prendergast, M.E. and E. Sawchuk (joint first authors). Boots on the ground in Africa’s ancient DNA “revolution”: archaeological perspectives on ethics and best practices. Antiquity 92(363):803-815. DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2018.70

2018. Prendergast, M.E. and A. Beyin. Fishing in a fluctuating landscape: terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene subsistence strategies in the Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya. Quaternary International 471:203-218. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2017.04.022

2018. Crowther, A., M.E. Prendergast, D. Fuller, N. Boivin. Subsistence mosaics, forager-farmer interactions, and the transition to food production in eastern Africa. Quaternary International 489:101-120. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2017.01.014

2018. Shipton, C., P. Roberts, W. Archer, S.J. Armitage, C. Bita, J. Blinkhorn, C. Courtney-Mustaphi, A. Crowther, R. Curtis, F. d’Errico, K. Douka, P. Faulkner, H.S. Groucutt, R. Helm, A.I.R. Herries, S. Jembe, N. Kourampas, J. Lee-Thorp, R. Marchant, A.P. Marti, J. Mercader, M.E. Prendergast, B. Rowson, A. Tengeza, R. Tibesasa, T.S. White, M.D. Petraglia, N. Boivin. A 78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later Stone Age innovation in an East African tropical forest. Nature Communications 9:1832

2018. Grillo, K.M. and M.E. Prendergast (joint first author), with D. Contreras, T. Fitton, A. Gidna, S. Goldstein, M. Knisley, M. Langley, A.Z.P. Mabulla. Pastoral Neolithic Settlement at Luxmanda, Tanzania. Journal of Field Archaeology. DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2018.1431476

2018. R. Marchant, S. Richer, C. Capitani, C. Courtney-Mustaphi, M.E. Prendergast, D. Stump, O. Boles, P. Lane, S. Wynne-Jones, C. Ferro Vázquez, D. Wright, N. Boivin, C. Lang, A. Kay, L. Phelps, D. Fuller, M. Widgren, P. Punwong, J. Lejju, M.-J. Gaillard-Lemdahl, K.D. Morrison, J. Kaplan, J. Benard, A. Crowther, A. Cuní-Sanchez, G. de Cort, N. Deere, A. Ekblom, J. Farmer, J. Finch, L. Gillson, E. Githumbi, T. Kabora, R. Kariuki, R. Kinyanjui, E. Kyazike, V. Muiruri, C. Mumbi, R. Muthoni, A. Muzuka, E. Ndiema, C. Nzaba, D. Olago, I. Onjala, A.P. Schrijver, N. Petek, P.J. Platts, S. Rucina, A. Shoemaker, S. Thornton-Barnett, G. van der Plas, L. Watson, D. Williamson. Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa: human and environmental interactions from 6000 years ago to present. Earth Science Reviews. DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2017.12.010

2017. Prendergast, M.E., M. Buckley, A. Crowther, L. Frantz, H. Eager, O. Lebrasseur, R. Hutterer, A. Hulme-Beaman, W. Van Neer, K. Douka, M.-A. Veall, E.M. Quintana Morales, V.J. Schuenemann, E. Reiter, R. Allen, R.M. Helm, C. Shipton, O. Mwebi, C. Denys, M. Horton, S. Wynne-Jones, J. Fleisher, C. Radimilahy, H. Wright, J.B. Searle, J. Krause, G. Larson, and N.L. Boivin. Reconstructing Asian faunal introductions to eastern Africa from multi-proxy biomolecular and archaeological datasets. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0182565. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182565

2017. Prendergast, M.E., E. Quintana Morales, A. Crowther, M.C. Horton, N. Boivin. Dietary diversity on the Swahili coast: the fauna from two Zanzibar trading locales. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. doi: 10.1002/oa.2585

2017. Quintana Morales, E. & M.E. Prendergast. "Animals in the Swahili World," In The Swahili World (A. LaViolette & S. Wynne-Jones, eds.), pp. 335-350. London: Routledge.

2017. Beyin, A., M.E. Prendergast, K. Grillo, H. Wang. New radiocarbon dates for terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene settlements in West Turkana, northern Kenya. Quaternary Science Reviews 168:208-215. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.04.012

2017. Langley, M.C., M.E. Prendergast, K.M. Grillo. Organic Technology in the Pastoral Neolithic: Osseous and Eggshell Artefacts from Luxmanda, Tanzania. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. DOI: 10.1007/s12520-017-0528-z

2017. Skoglund, P., J.C. Thompson, M.E. Prendergast, A. Mittnik, K. Sirak, M. Hajdinjak, T. Salie, N. Rohland, S. Mallick, A. Peltzer, A. Heinze, I. Olalde, M. Ferry, E. Harney, M. Michel, K. Stewardson, J. Cerezo-Roman, C. Chiumia, A. Crowther, E. Gomani-Chindebvu, A.O. Gidna, K.M. Grillo, I.T. Helenius, G. Hellenthal, R. Helm, M. Horton, S. López, A.Z.P. Mabulla, J. Parkington, C. Shipton, M.G. Thomas, R. Tibesasa, M. Welling, V.M. Hayes, D.J. Kennett, R. Ramesar, M. Meyer, S. Pääbo, N. Patterson, A.G. Morris, N. Boivin, R. Pinhasi, J. Krause, and D. Reich. Reconstructing Prehistoric African Population Structure. Cell 171(1):59-71.e21. DOI:

2017. Ottoni, C., W. Van Neer, B. De Cupere, J. Daligault, S. Guimaraes, J. Peters, N. Spassov, M.E. Prendergast, N. Boivin, A. Morales-Muñiz, A. Bălăşescu, C. Becker, N. Benecke, A. Boronean, H. Buitenhuis, J. Chahoud, A. Crowther, L. Llorente, N. Manaseryan, H. Monchot, V. Onar, M. Osypińska, O. Putelat, J. Studer, U. Wierer, R. Decorte, T. Grange, E.-M. Geigl. Of cats and men: the paleogenetic history of the dispersal of cats in the ancient world. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1(0139). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0139

2016. Prendergast M.E., Rouby H, Punnwong P, Marchant R, Crowther A, Kourampas N, et al. Continental Island Formation and the Archaeology of Defaunation on Zanzibar, Eastern Africa. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149565. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149565

2016. Langley, M., M.E. Prendergast, C. Shipton, E. Quintana Morales, A. Crowther, N. Boivin. Poison Arrows and Bone Utensils in Late Pleistocene eastern Africa: Evidence from Kuumbi Cave, Zanzibar. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 51(2):155-177.

2016. Crowther, A., P. Faulkner, M.E. Prendergast, E. Quintana Morales, M. Horton, E. Wilmsen, A. Kotarba-Morley, A. Christie, N. Petek, R. Tibesasa, K. Douka, L. Picornell-Gelabert, X. Carah, N. Boivin. Coastal subsistence, maritime trade, and colonization of small offshore islands in eastern African prehistory. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 11(2):211-237.

2016. Shipton, C., A. Crowther, N. Kourampas, M.E. Prendergast, M. Horton, K. Douka, J.-L. Schwenninger, P. Faulkner, E. Quintana Morales, M. Langley, R. Tibesasa, L. Picornell-Gelabert, E. Wilmsen, C. Doherty, M.-A. Veall, M. Petraglia, N. Boivin. Reinvestigation of Kuumbi Cave, Zanzibar, reveals Late Stone Age coastal adaptation, early Holocene abandonment, and Iron Age reoccupation. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 51(2):197-233.

2015. Kourampas, N., C. Shipton, W. Mills, R. Tibesasa, H. Horton, M. Horton, M.E. Prendergast, A. Crowther, K. Douka, P. Faulkner, L. Picornell-Gelabert, N. Boivin. Late Quaternary speleogenesis and landscape evolution in a tropical carbonate island: Pango la Kuumbi (Kuumbi Cave), Zanzibar. International Journal of Speleology 44(3): 293-314.

2014. Boivin, N., A. Crowther, M.E. Prendergast & D. Fuller. Indian Ocean food globalisation and Africa. African Archaeological Review 31:547-581. DOI: 10.1007/s10437-014-9173-4.

2014. Prendergast, M.E., K. Grillo, A. Mabulla, H. Wang. New dates for Kansyore and Pastoral Neolithic ceramics in the Eyasi Basin, Tanzania. Journal of African Archaeology 12(1): 89-98. DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10245.

2014. Eren, M., A. Durant, M.E. Prendergast, A. Mabulla. Middle Stone Age Archaeology at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Quaternary International 322-323:292-313.

2014. Crowther, A., M. Horton, A. Kotarba-Morley, M.E. Prendergast, E. Quintana Morales, M. Wood, C. Shipton, D. Fuller, R. Tibesasa, W. Mills, N. Boivin. Iron Age agriculture, fishing and trade in the Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania: new evidence from Ukunju Cave. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 49(1):21-44.

2013. Prendergast, M.E., A. Mabulla, K. Grillo, L. Broderick, O. Seitsonen, A. Gidna, D. Gifford-Gonzalez. Pastoral Neolithic sites on the southern Mbulu plateau, Tanzania. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa. DOI: 10.1080/0067270X.2013.841927

2011. Prendergast, M.E. “Hunters and herders at the periphery: the spread of herding in eastern Africa,” in H. Jousse and J. Lesur, eds., People and Animals in Holocene Africa: Recent Advances in Archaeozoology, pp. 43-58. Frankfurt, Africa Magna Verlag.

2011. Díez-Martín, F., P. Sánchez, M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, and M.E. Prendergast. An experimental study of bipolar and freehand knapping of Naibor Soit quartz from Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). American Antiquity 76(4):690-708.

2010. Prendergast, M.E., Editor. Diversity in East African Foraging and Food Producing Communities. Special volume of Azania 45(1).

2010. Prendergast, M.E. Kansyore fisher-foragers and transitions to food production in East Africa: the view from Wadh Lang’o, Nyanza Province, Kenya. Azania 45(1): 83-111.

2010. Prendergast, M.E. and P.J. Lane. Middle Holocene Fishing Strategies in East Africa: zooarchaeological analysis of Pundo, a Kansyore shell midden in northern Nyanza (Kenya). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 20:88-112.

2010. Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., H.T. Bunn, A.Z.P. Mabulla, G.M. Ashley, F. Diez-Martín, D. Barboni, M.E. Prendergast, J. Yravedra, R. Barba, A. Sánchez, E. Baquedano and T. Pickering. New excavations at the FLK Zinjanthropus site and its surrounding landscape and their behavioral implications. Quaternary Research, 74:315-332.

2009. Prendergast, M.E. and K. Mutundu. Late Holocene Archaeological Faunas in East Africa: Ethnographic Analogues and Interpretive Challenges. Documenta Archaeobiologiae 7:203-232

2009. Prendergast, M.E., J. Yuan and O. Bar-Yosef. Resource Intensification in the Late Upper Paleolithic: a view from Southern China. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1027-1037. 

2009. Díez-Martín, F., M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, P. Sánchez, A. Mabulla, A. Tarriño, R. Barba, M.E. Prendergast and L. Luque. The Middle to Later Stone Age Technological Transition in East Africa. New Data from Mumba Rockshelter Bed V (Tanzania) and their implications for the origin of modern human behavior. Journal of African Archaeology 7(2): 147-173. DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10136

2008. Prendergast, M.E. and M. Domínguez-Rodrigo. Taphonomic Analyses of a Hyena Den and a Natural-Death Assemblage near Lake Eyasi (Tanzania). Journal of Taphonomy 6(3-4):301-335.

2007. Prendergast, M.E., L. Luque, M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, F. Díez Martín, A. Mabulla and R. Barba. New Excavations at Mumba Rockshelter (Tanzania). J. African Archaeology 5(2): 163-189.

2008. Eren, M. and M.E. Prendergast. “Comparing and Synthesizing Lithic Reduction Indices,” in Lithic Technology: Measures of Production, Use and Curation, edited by W. Andrefsky, pp. 49-85.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Honors and Awards


  • Student Paper Award, Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting, 2006
  • Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard/Derek Bok Center for Teaching, 2005
  • Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard/Derek Bok Center for Teaching, 2004
Research Grants
  • National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration Grant, 2018-2019
  • Saint Louis University - Madrid Faculty Research Fellowships, 2018
  • Radcliffe Fellowship, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, 2016-2017
  • Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Foundation, 2016-2017
  • Saint Louis University - Madrid Faculty Research Fellowships, 2013-2014
  • Saint Louis University Summer Research Award in Humanities, 2013
  • Wenner-Gren International Collaborative Research Grant (co-PI with A. Mabulla), 2012-2013
  • National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration Grant, 2012-2013
  • Harvard Graduate Society Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2007-2008
  • Wenner-Gren Doctoral Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, 2006-2007
  • NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (co-PI with R. Meadow), 2006-2007
  • Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, Harvard University, 2006-2007
  • American School of Prehistoric Research Fieldwork Grant, 2006
  • Harvard Graduate Society Summer Fieldwork Award, 2005