Institute of Archaeology

Prof Dorian Fuller

Prof Dorian Fuller

Professor of Archaeobotany

Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square

Institute of Archaeology

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2000

Research summary

My predominant research focus has been the origins of agriculture and its social and ecological, but I have interests in how we understand later agricultural systems in early states and empires, as well as the plant use systems in hunter-gatherers systems that precede any agriculture. I have a wider interest in human-environment interactions both in terms of climatic constraints but also human modification of environments. I have been actively engaged in fieldwork projects in India, starting from South India. I have subsequently carried out fieldwork in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarnchal, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, as well as Sri Lanka and have studied materials from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Nepal and NWFP, Pakistan. My fieldwork has focused on systematic archaeobotanical sampling of archaeological sites aimed to fill in some of the many regional and temporal gaps in direct evidence for past agriculture. While filling gaps in the archaeobotanical record of South Asia has been a particular focus (since my Master’s dissertation in 1996), I take as my mission the larger task of helping to fill the major gaps in
knowledge of early agriculture in the Old World throughout Asia and Africa. In this regard, I have always been ready to take on archaeobotanical projects in Africa, either directly or through supervision of students. In this capacity I have worked/ am working on archaeobotanical from Libya, Mali, Mauretania, Morocco, Senegal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Sudan. I began research in China in 2004, and have had a particular focus on understanding rice domestication and the evolution of rice cultivation systems in the Lower Yangtze region—especially as part of a NERC-funded Early Rice Project (2009-2012), but also in studies of agriculture in Later Neolithic to Bronze Age China more widely. In recent years I have also become involved is the study of archaeobotany in Thailand. 

As the integration of archaeology and historical linguistics has become increasingly discussed, I became interested in how the details of archaeology and archaeobotany of South India could be confronted with the details of linguistics in the region, especially of the Dravidian language family. I have contributed a number of paper on this topic, and have recently given some thought to how historical linguistic hypotheses in East and Southeast Asia more broadly might match up with our revised evidence for the origins and spread of rice agriculture.

The long-term culture history of the Middle Nile (Nubia) has been an interest since my undergraduate student days. In the capacity I have worked on archives and museum collections of artefacts from the 1960s Lower Nubian excavations (held at Yale) and field projects in, including an expedition I directed in Fourth Cataract region in winter 2003-04. I maintain interests in this region through regular teaching on courses on Nubia.

Teaching summary

Archaeobotanical, Early Agriculture, Domestication, geographical patterns in human food traditions and culinary culture over the long term, human modification of environments over the long term, links between archaeology and historical linguistics, the culture history of Nubia/Sudan.


University of Cambridge
PhD, Archaeology | 1999
University of Cambridge
M.Phil, Archaeology | 1997
Yale University
BA, Anthropology | 1991


Grew up in San Francisco, California. Educated at Yale University (BA) and Cambridge (MPhil, PhD). PhD completed in 2000. I began full time teaching at UCL in January 2000. Promoted from Lecturer to Reader in 2009.