Dr Julie Dunne

Image of Julie Dunne

Senior Research Associate and Commercial Manager


MSci (Hons) in Archaeological Science, University of Bristol 2010

Winner of the Earth Sciences Hancock Special Prize for outstanding achievement 2010

PhD Organic Geochemistry Unit, University of Bristol 2014

My doctoral research focused on investigating diet and subsistence practices of prehistoric groups in the 'Green' Sahara of Holocene north Africa, using a combined archaeological, molecular and isotopic approach.

The research focussed firstly on the subsistence practices of Early Holocene semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and then on the temporal and spatial extent of the exploitation of domesticates by mobile pastoralists in the Middle Holocene. The d13C and D13C values of preserved fatty acids extracted from archaeological ceramics, using a new reference database for modern animal fats, confirmed the exploitation of domesticates for their carcass and dairy products, beginning in the fifth millennium BC. The results also revealed that the animals giving rise to these fats subsisted on a wide range of different forages composed of C3 plants, varying combinations of C3 and C4, to diets comprising primarily C4 plants, suggesting that the ecosystems existing across the span of the early to middle Holocene in north Africa were extremely varied.

Furthermore, the remarkable preservation of diagnostic plant lipid biomarkers in organic residues from sites in the Libyan Sahara and at Kadero, Sudan, has enabled identification of the earliest processing of several different plant types in ceramic vessels. 

(Back to top)


I am currently working on a three year Leverhulme funded project called ‘Peopling the Green Sahara – a multi-proxy approach to reconstructing the ecological and demographic history of the Saharan Holocene’. This project will explore the economic, ecological and demographic history of the enigmatic “Green Sahara” to address how Holocene climate change affected broad-scale population dynamics and the role of climate as a driver in subsistence change and cultural innovation. In conjunction with researchers from Kings College, London, the project employs a radical new approach that will bring together, for the first time, novel methods in biomolecular and stable isotopic analysis of organic residues in prehistoric pottery to provide both dietary and ecological signatures, alongside high-resolution palaeohydrological mapping and spatio-temporal modelling of radiocarbon and archaeological data.

For more details on the project please see our website www.greensahara-leverhulme.com

I am also a project partner on the Horizon 2020 ERC-funded project ‘FoodCult, Food, culture and identity in Ireland circa 1550-1650’. Susan Flavin from Trinity College, Dublin, is the Principal Investigator on the project. This is a multidisciplinary project including food microhistories, mapping diet: comparative foodways, stable isotope analysis, zooarchaeology and experimental archaeology: brewing. I’ll be using organic residue analysis to investigate

  1. the relative role of meat v dairy
  2. the nature of trade networks (e.g. possible identification of resins)
  3. changes in the material culture of food (e.g. evidence of commodification and vessel specialisation)

The link to the project can be found here https://foodcult.eu/

(Back to top)


Further details of publications can be found in the University of Bristol publications system

(Back to top)


Edit this page