Dr Michael WallaceMichael Wallace

Research Fellow in Early Crop Agriculture

B.Sc. (Hons.) Archaeological Science (First Class), M.Sc. Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy (Distinction), Ph.D.

E-mail: m.p.wallace@sheffield.ac.uk

Telephone: 0114 22 22921

Department Address:

Department of Archaeology
University of Sheffield
Minalloy House
10 – 16 Regent Street
S1 3NJ
United Kingdom



Research interests

I am a prehistorian and archaeobotanists with research interests centred around the domestication of crops, the Neolithic spread of agriculture through Europe and the subsequent evolution of agricultural economies in European prehistory. As an archaeobotanist my approach to research is focused on plant remains recovered from archaeological sites, and my research has encompassed a variety of methodological approaches including statistical analysis of archaeobotanical data, morphometrics, stable isotope analysis and genetic studies. In addition, I have conducted a wide-range of experimental studies for the development of novel and innovative research techniques.

Current Research

Connections: Crop Exchange Networks in European Prehistory

I am currently undertaking a three-year research fellowship sponsored by an alumni donation. The principal aim of the project is to investigate prehistoric networks of crop movement through geometric morphometric (GMM) analysis of ancient plant remains. Until now such networks have been largely invisible in the archaeological record. GMM has shown promise in differentiating individual varieties of crop species. The project involves two main phases: first, rigorous ground-truthing using present-day crops, including disentanglement of the role of growing conditions on morphology, and second application of the refined technique to material dated to the prehistory of Europe. The identification of crop species varieties would allow the interconnectedness of early farming communities to be explored at an unprecedented degree of accuracy.

Previous Postdoctoral Projects

ADAPT - Life in a Cold Climate

PI: Prof. Terry Brown (University of Manchester). Funding: European Research Council.

The ADAPT project explores the concept of agricultural spread as analogous to enforced climate change and asks how cereals adapted to the new environments to which they were exposed when agriculture was introduced into Europe during the period 7000–4000 BC. My role included the creation of a compiled database of cereal taxa from Neolithic and Bronze Age sites across Europe, with the view of synthesising environmental and archaeological data with genetic information to understand the influence that the adaptations identified in barley and wheat had on the spread and development of prehistoric European agriculture.
NB: the description above includes modified elements of the ADAPT research proposal submitted to the ERC.

Origins of Agriculture

PI: Dr Colin Osborne (University of Sheffield). Funding: Natural Environment Research Council.

The aim of my work on the OA project was to assemble an archaeobotanical database, which systematically documented the species identity, abundance and size, of seeds recovered from pre-agricultural sites in the Fertile Crescent. I then conducted analyses of this new archaeobotanical database, quantifying temporal and geographical patterns in seed size and abundance for crop progenitors and other wild species. The resultant database is the largest repository of sample-level archaeobotanical data for the early Neolithic of the Fertile Crescent.
NB; the description above includes modified elements of the Origins of Agriculture research proposal submitted to the NERC.

Evolutionary Origins of Agriculture

PI: Prof. Glynis Jones (University of Sheffield). Funding: European Research Council.

The EOA project investigated selective pressures driving the domestication of crops by brining together experimental ecology, molecular biology, and archaeobotany. My involvement in this project included short periods of employment as a postdoctoral research associate and an ongoing informal role

Out of Asia

PI: Prof. Glynis Jones (University of Sheffield). Funding: Natural Environment Research Council.

This project aimed to directly date the spread of agriculture by amassing, and expanding upon, European and southwest Asia radiocarbon determinations of crop remains. My brief on this project was to update the database of radiocarbon dates.


Selected Publications

Wallace, M., Jones, G., Charles, M., Fraser, R., Heaton, T. and Bogaard, A. (Accepted). Crop water availability in Neolithic and Bronze Age Western Asia and Aegean inferred directly by stable carbon isotope analysis. PLOS ONE 10(6): e0127085
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127085

Wallace, M., Jones, G., Charles, M., Fraser, R., Halstead, P. Heaton, T. and Bogaard, A. (2013). Stable carbon isotope analysis as a direct means of inferring crop water status. World Archaeology 45(3): 388-409.
DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2013.821671

Wallace, M. & Charles, M. (2013). What goes in doesn’t always come out: the impact of ruminant digestion on plant material and its importance for the interpretation of dung-derived archaeobotanical assemblages. Environmental Archaeology 18(1): 18-30.
DOI: 10.1179/1461410313Z.00000000022

Full publications list

Journal articles
  • Broderick L & Wallace M (2016) Manure: valued by farmers, undervalued by zooarchaeologists In Broderick L (Ed.), People with Animals: Perspectives & Studies in Ethnozooarchaeology (pp. 34-41). Oxford: Oxbow Books.