Lisa A. Maher

Lisa A. Maher

Assistant Professor |Archaeology
Room 204, ARF
Office Hours
By appointment

Current/Future Courses


Spring 2016 |Undergraduate

Additional Links

Special Interests

Prehistoric Archaeology; geoarchaeology; micromorphology; Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic periods; hunter-gatherers; anthropological approaches to technology; lithic technology, analysis, and production; emergence of complexity; origins of agriculture; Pleistocene/Holocene transition; mortuary archaeology; Near East, North Africa and Arabia; public archaeology


At Berkeley, I run the Geoarchaeology and Southwest Asia Prehistory Laboratory (Room 1, Kroeber Hall), which houses archaeological material from Southwest Asia, contemporary experimental lithic collections, and archives of micromorphological slides from a variety of sites worldwide. Lab facilities include petrographic and stereoscopic microscopes for micromorphological analysis, imaging and computing facilities, as well as equipment for the study of lithic technology and experimental lithic production.

My research focuses on hunter-gatherer societies in the Near East, North Africa and Arabia with the aim of reconstructing human-environment interactions during the Late Pleistocene. The transition between hunting and gathering and farming in this region is well-studied, but tends to focus on the later Neolithic as heralding the beginnings of a series of significant changes in human social organization, economy, technological innovation, and ideology. However, I am interested in the periods leading up to farming – the 10,000 years or so prior – when these changes first manifest in the archaeological record in the form of intensified plant use, increased sedentism and population aggregations, architecture, complex site organization, far-reaching social interaction networks, and elaborate mortuary practices. Notably, it is during these periods, the Epipalaeolithic and the early Neolithic, when we see significant changes in human behavior with the intersection ofregional-scale climate change and humans asagents of landscape change.

To investigate the social and environmental precursors to later sedentism and farming, I work at several Epipalaeolithic sites in Jordan that provide a record of the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic people living in the region during the Late Pleistocene. Here, the evidence for protracted cultural and biological continuity highlights that culture changes associated with the ‘origins of agriculture’ are not dramatic in nature and appear earlier than previously thought. This evidence supports a paradigm shift in our understanding of the origins of the agriculture, which we now interpret as a long-term culturally-dynamic process. I conduct this work with a regional landscape theme that integrates geoarchaeological, cultural, and biological datasets. In particular, I combine the geoarchaeological study of site-formation processes and landscape change (through geomorphology and soil micromorphology) and the material culture and social aspects of Epipalaeolithic sites at a variety of scales. I am interested in how landscapes are integrated into social spheres and how they participate in the creation, maintenance and transformation of prehistoric communities.

My work also has a prominent public archaeology component, working closely with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, local communities, and non-governmental agencies to promote archaeological resource sustainability and to integrate our findings with local initiatives for heritage and habitat conservation. We host community open days and invite school groups to participate in our research. One of my field sites is near Jordan’s last remaining large wetlands, which is now rapidly shrinking. Our research on changing environments and aridity in prehistory has thus become increasingly relevant to the concerns of local communities in Jordan today.


I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Following this I joined the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies and Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge as Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow from 2005-2007. I was a Research Associate in Cambridge for a further four years, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Britain, to launch a collaborative research project in the eastern desert of Jordan called the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project (EFAP).

I maintain ties to both Toronto and Cambridge through several research projects. I continue to direct fieldwork at a Middle Epipalaeolithic occupation and cemetery site in northern Jordan as part of the Wadi Ziqlab Project. EFAP ( is now conducting regular field and study seasons at the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic aggregation site of Kharaneh IV and includes collaborators Tobias Richter (University of Copenhagen,, Jay Stock (University of Cambridge,, Danielle Macdonald (University of Tulsa,, and Louise Martin (UCL,

Beyond my own excavations in Jordan, I conduct micromorphological work for several other archaeological projects in the region and elsewhere, such as at the Natufian site of Wadi Mataha in Jordan, Neolithic sites of Seker al-Aheimar in Syria and Goytepe in Azerbaijan, and the Jomon sites of Goshizawa Matsumori and Sannai Maruyama in Japan.

Representative Publications

Maher, L., T. Richter, D. Macdonald, M. Jones, J. Stock, L. Martin and A. Allentuck (In press) Occupying Wide Open Spaces? Late Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherer Activities in the Eastern Levant Special Issue. Quaternary International.

Jones, M., L. Maher, D. Macdonald, C. Ryan, C. Rambeau and T. Richter  (In press) The Environmental Setting of Epipalaeolithic Kharaneh IV. Late Quaternary Landscape Change in the Levant: Social, Technological and Economic Investigations in Open Spaces Special Issue. Quaternary International.

Maher, L. (In press) Late Quaternary Refugia, Aggregations and Palaeoenvironments in the Azraq Basin. In Quaternary Environments, Climate Change and Humans in the Levant, O. Bar-Yosef and Y. Enzel (eds.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Maher, L. (In press) A Road Well-Travelled? Exploring Terminal Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherer Activities, Networks and Mobility in Eastern Jordan. In Archaeology of the Palaeolithic-Neolithic of Eurasia: Papers in Honor of Andrew M.T. Moore, M. Chazan and K. Lillios (eds.). Sidestone Press: Leiden.

Jones, M., L. Maher, T. Richter, D. Macdonald and L. Martin (In review) Human-Environment Interactions through the Epipalaeolithic of Eastern Jordan. In Correlation is not Enough: Building Better Arguments in the Archaeology of Human-Environment Interactions, D. Contreras (ed.). Routledge: New York.

Maher, L. (In press) Geoarchaeology. In The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology (eds. D. Richardson, N. Castree, M.F. Goodchild, A.L. Kobayashi, W. Liu and R. Marton). Wiley-Blackwell: New Jersey.

Maher, L., T. Richter, J.T. Stock and M. Jones (2014) Preliminary Results from Recent Excavations at the Epipalaeolithic Site of Kharaneh IV, In Jordan’s Prehistory: Past and Future Research (ed. M. Jamhawi). Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Amman, pp. 81-92.

Richter, T., M. Jones, L. Maher, and J.T. Stock (2014) The Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic in the Azraq Oasis: Excavations at Ain Qasiyya and AWS-48, In Jordan’s Prehistory: Past and Future Research (ed. M. Jamhawi). Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Amman, pp. 93-108.

Maher, L. (2014) Comment on ‘The sounds of pounding: Boulder mortars and their significance to Natufian burial customs’ by D. Rosenberg and D. Nadel. Current Anthropology 55(6): 803-804.

Maher, L., D. Macdonald, A. Alaica and E.B. Banning (2014) Two Early Epipalaeolithic Sites in Wadi Taiyiba, Northern Jordan. Paléorient 40(1): 73-97.

Kadowaki, S., L. Maher, M. Portillo, R.M. Albert, C. Akashi, F. Guliyev, Y. Nishiaki(2014) Geoarchaeological and palaeobotanical evidence for prehistoric cereal storage at the Neolithic settlement of Göytepe (mid 8th millennium BP) in the southern Caucasus. Journal of Archaeological Science 53: 408-425.

Richter, T. and L. Maher (2013) Terminology, Process and Change: Reflections on the Epipalaeolithic of Southwest Asia. Levant 45(2): 121-132.

Maher, L. and D. Macdonald (2013) Assessing typo-technological variability in Epipalaeolithic assemblages: Preliminary results from two case studies from the Southern Levant. In: The State of Stone: Terminologies, Continuities and Contexts in Near Eastern Lithics. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 14 (eds. F. Borrell, M. Molist and J.J. Ibanez). Ex oriente: Berlin, pp. 29-44.

Richter, T. and L. Maher (2013) The Natufian of the Azraq Basin: An Appraisal. In Natufian Foragers in the Levant: Terminal Pleistocene Social Changes in Western Asia (eds. O. Bar-Yosef and F. Valla). International Monographs in Prehistory: Ann Arbor, pp. 429-448.

Richter, T., L. Maher, K. Edinborough, A. Garrard, M. Jones, and J.T. Stock (2013) Epipalaeolithic settlement dynamics in southwest Asia: new radiocarbon evidence from the Azraq Basin. Journal of Quaternary Science 28(5): 467-479, doi: 10.1002/jqs2629.

Maher, L., T. Richter, D. Macdonald, M. Jones, L. Martin and J. T. Stock  (2012) Twenty Thousand-Year-Old Huts at a Hunter-Gatherer Settlement in Eastern Jordan. PLoS-ONE 7(2):e31447. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031447.

Maher, L., T. Richter, and J. Stock (2012) The Pre-Natufian Epipalaeolithic: Long-Term Behavioral Trends in the Levant. Evolutionary Anthropology 21:69-81.

Diaz, A., L. Maher, T. O’Connell, and J. Stock (2012) Subsistence and Mobility Strategies in the Epipalaeolithic of Jordan: A Stable Isotope Study at Uyun al-Hammam. Journal of Archaeological Science 39:1984-1992.

Maher, L. and D. Macdonald (2012) Exploring Typo-technological Diversity in Chipped Stone from Epipalaeolithic Kharaneh IV, Eastern Jordan. CBRL Bulletin 7(1): 42-59. doi: 10.1179/1752726012Z.0000000006.

Maher, L., T. Richter, M. Jones and J.T. Stock (2011) The Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project: Prehistoric Landscape Change in the Azraq Basin, Eastern Jordan. CBRL Bulletin 6:21-27.

Maher, L. (2011) Reconstructing Palaeolandscapes and Prehistoric Occupation in Wadi Ziqlab, Northern Jordan. Geoarchaeology 26(5):649-692.

Maher, L. and T. Richter (2011) PPN Predecessors: Current Issues in Late Pleistocene Chipped Stone Analyses in the Southern Levant. In The State of Stone: Terminologies, Continuities and Contexts in Near Eastern Lithics. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 13 (eds. E. Healey, S. Campbell and O. Maeda). Ex oriente: Berlin, p. 25-31.

Maher, L., J. Stock, S. Finney, J. Haywood, P. Miracle and E.B. Banning (2011) A Unique Human-Fox Burial from a Pre-Natufian Cemetery in the Levant (Jordan). PLoS-ONE 6(1):e15815. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015815.

Maher, L., E.B. Banning and M. Chazan (2011) Oasis or Mirage? Assessing the Role of Abrupt Climate Change in the Prehistory of the Southern Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(1):1-29.

Richter, T., A. Garrard, S. Allcock, and L. Maher (2011) Interaction Before Agriculture: Exchanging Material and Shared Knowledge in the Final Pleistocene Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(1):95-114.

Maher, L. (2010) People and their places at the end of the Pleistocene: evaluating perspectives on physical and cultural landscape change. In Landscapes in Transition: understanding hunter-gatherer and farmer landscapes in the early Holocene of Europe and the Levant (eds. W. Finlayson and G. Warren). Oxbow Books: London, p. 34-45.

Richter, T., J.T. Stock, L. Maher, and C. Hebron (2010) An Early Epipalaeolithic Sitting Burial from the Azraq Oasis, Eastern Jordan. Antiquity 84:1-14.

Richter, T., S. Allcock, M. Jones, L. Maher, L. Martin, J. Stock and B. Thorne (2010) New light on Final Pleistocene settlement diversity in the Azraq Basin: some preliminary results from Ayn Qasiyah. Paléorient 35(2):49-68.

Maher, L. (2009) The Late Pleistocene of Arabia in Relation to the Levant. In The Evolution and History of Human Populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics, Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleontology 187(M. Petraglia and J. Rose, eds.), Springer: New York, p. 187-202. 

Lahr, M.M., R. Foley, F. Crivellaro, M. Okumura, L. Maher, T. Davies, D. Veldhuuis, A. Wilshaw, and D. Mattingly (2009) DMP IV: Preliminary results from 2009 fieldwork on the human prehistory of the Libyan Sahara. Libyan Studies 40:133-153.

Lahr, M.M., R. Foley, S. Armitage, H. Barton, F. Crivellaro, N. Drake, M. Hounslow, L. Maher, D. Mattingly, M. Salem, J. Stock, and K. White (2008) DMPIII: Pleistocene and Holocene palaeoenvironments and prehistoric occupation of Fazzan, Libyan Sahara. Libyan Studies 39:263-294.

Maher, L. (2007) Microliths and Mortuary Practices: New Perspectives on the Epipalaeolithic in Northern and Eastern Jordan. Book chapter in Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan (eds. T.E. Levy, M. Daviau, R.W. Younker, and M. Shaer), Equinox: London, p. 195-202.