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Archaeology and History

Photo of  Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson

Associate Professor in Archaeology


My research applys interdisciplinary techniques to explore coupled human-environment relationships. I use archaeobotanical techniques, combined with geochemistry and remote sensing to understand resource exploitation, cultural practices, and anthropogenic impacts on the forest. I've worked extensively thoughout the New World, with ongoing projects in Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, and Colombia, with contexts ranging from the peopling of the Americas during the Late Pleistocene, to the collapse of the Maya civilisation. 

Currently I direct the ERC/UKRI Biodiversity and the Legacy of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Ecosystems in the Neotropics (BLADEN) project, exploring the long-term human impact on tropical forests in the Bladen Nature Reserve of Belize. 

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I focus on environmental archaeology, applying interdisciplinary techniques to explore human-plant relationships. My research has particularly focused on human-environment interactions, including wood and charcoal identification to understand resource exploitation and anthropogenic impacts on the forest. I've worked extensively thoughout the New World, with ongoing projects in Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, and Colombia, with contexts ranging from the peopling of the Americas during the Late Pleistocene, to the collapse of the Maya civilisation. 

Previously, on the AHRC funded project, Je Landscapes of Southern Brazil, I used anthracology, ethnography and spatial analysis to reveal social organisation and resource access for the Southern Proto Je, and applied a novel methodology using GIS modelling, vegetation prediction, and isotope geochemistry to isolate humans from climate as the principal driver of vegetation change during the Late Holocene. 

Continuing research in the remote Bladen Nature Reserve in Belize has uncovered some of the oldest tropical skeletons in well-defined stratigraphic sequences. 

Select publications:

2022   Prümers, H., Betancourt, C.J., Iriarte, J., Robinson, M., & Schaich, M. LIDAR reveals low-density urbanism in the Bolivian Amazon. Nature  606, 325–328.

2022   Kennett, D., Lipson, M., Mora-Marin, D., George, R., Rohland, N., Robinson, M., Trask, W., Edgar, H., Hill, E., Ray, E., Lynch, P., Moes, E., O’Donnell, L., Harper, T., Kate, E., Ramos, J., Morris, J., Gutierrez, S., Ryan, T., Culleton, B., Awe, J & D., Reich. South-to-North migration preceded the advent of intensive farming in the Maya region. Nature Communications, 13(1), pp.1-10.            

2022   Maezumi, S.Y., Elliott, S., Robinson, M., Betancourt, C.J., Gregorio de Souza, J., Alves, D., Grosvenor, M., Hilbert, L., Urrego, D.H., Gosling, W.D. & Iriarte, J. Legacies of Indigenous land use and cultural burning in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest ecotone. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 377(1849), p.20200499.

2022   Iriarte, J., Ziegler, M.J., Outram, A.K., Robinson, M., Roberts, P., Aceituno, F.J., Morcote-Ríos, G. and Keesey, T.M. Ice Age megafauna rock art in the Colombian Amazon? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 377(1849), p.20200496.

2021    Prufer, K.M., Robinson, M. and Kennett, D.J. Terminal Pleistocene through Middle Holocene Occupations in Southeastern Mesoamerica: Linking Ecology and Culture in the Context of Neotropical Foragers and Early Farmers. Ancient Mesoamerica, 32(3), pp.439-460.

2021    Robinson, M., Morcote-Rios, G., Aceituno, F. J., Roberts, P., Berrío, J. C., & Iriarte, J. ‘Moving South’: Late Pleistocene plant exploitation and the importance of palm in the Colombian Amazon. Quaternary4(3), 26.

2021     Morcote-Ríos, G., Aceituno, F. J., Iriarte, J., Robinson, M., & Chaparro-Cárdenas, J. L. Colonisation and early peopling of the Colombian Amazon during the late pleistocene and the early holocene: New evidence from La Serranía La Lindosa. Quaternary International, 578, 5-19.

2020   Robinson, M., J. De Souza, C. Jaimes Betancourt, S.Y. Maezumi, S. Elliott, L. Hilbert, D. Alves, J. Iriarte. Archaeological investigations around Laguna Versalles in the Bolivian Amazon. Geoarchaeology.

2020   Iriarte, J., J.G. de Souza, M. Robinson, A. Damasceno, and F. da Silva. Refining the Chronology and Occupation Dynamics of the Mound Villages of South-Eastern Acre, Brazil. Revista Amazônica.

2020   Iriarte, J., S. Elliott, S.Y. Maezumi, D. Alves, R. Gonda, M. Robinson, J.G. de Souza, J. Watling, and J. Handley. The origins of Amazonian landscapes: Plant cultivation, domestication and the spread of food production in tropical South America. Quaternary Science Reviews 248:106582.

2020   Iriarte, J., M. Robinson, J.G. de Souza, A. Damasceno, F. da Silva, F. Nakahara, A. Ranzi, and L. Aragao. Geometry by Design: Contribution of Lidar to the Understanding of Settlement Patterns of the Mound Villages in SW Amazonia. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 3(1).

2020   Kennett, D.J., K.M. Prufer, B.J. Culleton, R.J. George, M. Robinson, W.R. Trask, G.M. Buckley, E. Moes, E.J. Kate, T.K. Harper, L. O’Donnell, E.E. Ray, E.C. Hill, A. Alsgaard, C. Merriman, C. Meredith, H.J.H. Edgar, J.A. Awe, and S.M. Gutierrez. Early Isotopic Evidence for Maize as a Staple Grain in the Americas. Science Advances 6(23).

2019    Prufer, K., A. Alsgaard, M. Robinson, C. Meredith, B. Culleton, T. Dennehy, S. Magee, B. Huckell, J. Stemp, J. Awe, and D. Kennett. Linking Late Paleoindian stone tool technologies and populations in North, Central and South America. PLOS One 14(7).

2019     De Souza, J., M. Robinson, S.Y. Maezumi, J. Capriles, J. Hoggarth, U. Lombardo, V. Novello, J. Apaestegui, B. Whitney, D. Urrego, D. Alves, S. Rostain, M. Power, F. Mayle, F. Cruz Jr. H. Hooghiemstra, and J. Iriarte. Climate change and cultural resilience in late pre-Columbian Amazonia. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3:1007-1017.

2018    Posth, C., … M. Robinson,…et al. Reconstructing the deep population history of Central and South America. Cell 175: 1185-1197.

2018    Robinson, M, J.G. De Souza, S.Y. Maezumi, M. Cárdenas, L. Pessenda, K. Prufer, R. Corteletti, D. Scunderlick, F. Mayle, P. DeBlasis, and J. Iriarte. Uncoupling human and climate drivers of late Holocene vegetation change in southern Brazil. Scientific Reports 8(1).

2018    Maezumi, S.Y., D. Alves, M. Robinson, J.G. DeSouza, R. Barnet, D. Urrego, D. Schaan, and J. Iriarte. Evidence of 4,500 years of Pre-Columbian land-management in the eastern Amazon: insights for sustainable anthropogenic landscapes on Amazonian Dark Earths. Nature Plants 4:540-547.

2018    Maezumi, S.Y., M. Robinson, J.G. DeSouza, D. Urrego, D. Schaan, D. Alves, and J. Iriarte. New insights from pre-Columbian fire management and land use in Amazonian Dark Earth forests. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6:111.

2018    DeSouza, J.G., D. Schaan, M. Robinson, A. Barbosa, L. Aragão, B.H. Marimon Jr, B.S. Marimon, I  Silva, S. Khan, F. Nakahara, and J. Iriarte. Pre-Columbian earth-builders settled along the entire southern rim of the Amazon. Nature Communications 9(1).

2018    Blatrix, R., … M.Robinson. The unique functioning of a pre-Columbian Amazonian floodplain fishery. Scientific Reports 8:5998.

2017    Robinson, M., J. Iriarte, J.G. DeSouza, R. Corteletti, P. Ulguim, M. Fradley, M. Cárdenas, P. DeBlasis, F. Mayle, and D. Scunderlick. Moieties and mortuary mounds: dualism at a mound and enclosure complex in the southern Brazilian highlands. Latin American Antiquity.

2017    Robinson, M., J. Iriarte, J.G. DeSouza, O. Marozzi, and R. Scheel-Ybert. Moiety specific wood selection in funerary ritual for the southern proto-Jê. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

2016    Moyes, H., M. Robinson, and K. Prufer. The Kayuko Mound Group: A festival site in southern Belize. Antiquity 90: 143-156.

2016    DeSouza, J.G., M. Robinson, R. Corteletti, M. Cárdenas, S. Wolf, J. Iriarte, F. Mayle, and P. DeBlasis. Understanding the chronology and occupation dynamics of oversized pit houses in the southern Brazilian highlands. PloS One 11.

2016    DeSouza, J.G., R. Cortelletti, M. Robinson, and J. Iriarte. The genesis of monuments: resisting outsiders in the contested landscapes of southern Brazil. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 41: 196-212.

2014    Robinson, M., and H. McKillop. Fuelling ancient Maya salt works at Paynes Creek, Belize. Economic Botany 68, 96-108.

2013    Robinson, M., and H. McKillop. Ancient Maya wood selection and forest exploitation: a view from the Paynes Creek salt works, Belize. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 3584-3595.

2013    Kennett, D., I. Hajdas, B. Culleton, S. Belmecheri, S. Martin, H. Neff, J. Awe, H. Graham, K. Freeman, L. Newsom, D. Lentz, F. Anselmetti, M. Robinson, N. Marwan, J. Southon, D. Hodell, G. Haug. Correlating the ancient Maya and modern European calendars with high-precision AMS 14C dating. Scientific Reports 3:

Research collaborations

Je Landscapes of Southern Brazil, with Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)

Pre-Columbian Amazon Scale Transformations, With Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)

The Origins of Plant Domestication in the Upper Madeira River Basin in Lowland South America, With Jose Iriarte & Charles Clement

Climate and Culture, India, with Gillian Juleff (University of Exeter), Dhananjay Sant & K. Krishnan (MSU-Baroda)

Las Cuevas Archaeological Research Project, Belize, with Holley Moyes (University of California-Merced)

Belize Cave Research Project, Belize, with Holley Moyes (University of California-Merced) & Jaime Awe (Northern Arizona University)

Bladen Paleoindian and Archaic Project, Belize, with Keith Prufer (University of New Mexico)


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