Series on Environmental Archaeology Talks

The last of five lectures will take place on Tuesday, March 6, at 4:30 p.m., in Haldeman 041, sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems and Society (EEES):

"Microbial Archaeology, from the Microbiome to Milk"

Prof. Christina Warinner ( Max Planck Institute/Univ. of Oklahoma)

Light reception following in the Russo Gallery in Haldeman


Anthropology is the study of humans, but until recently anthropologists rarely considered the native microbes and viruses that inhabit our bodies – our microbiome – or the many microbes we have tamed and cultured within our foods and cuisines. This is surprising because from a genetic perspective we are more than 99% microbial: our bacterial cells outnumber our human cells by at least 2:1, our bacterial genes outnumber our human genes by at least 150:1, and at least 8% of the human genome is actually viral. In addition, fermented foods such as bread, beer, wine, yoghurt, and cheese form the dietary basis of many past and contemporary societies, and persuasive arguments have been made that grain and ruminant domestication may have been spurred in part by a desire to create fermented foods. Microbes interface with our biology and culture to influence our health, behavior, and quality of life, and yet we know very little about the origin, evolution, or ecology of the trillions of microorganisms that call us home. Advances in genomic and proteomic technologies are opening up dramatic new opportunities in the field of microbial archaeology, allowing us to investigate the complex and diverse microbial communities that have long inhabited our human bodies and our food systems - both in sickness and in health. This talk discusses how emerging research on microbes is impacting how we investigate the human past and changing how we understand human and microbial cultures today.


Dr. Christina Warinner is Group Leader of Microbiome Sciences in the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and a Presidential Research Professor and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, where she co-founded the Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research. Dr. Warinner earned her PhD at Harvard University in 2010 and completed her postdoctoral training at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. She has conducted ancient DNA research for more than a decade, and has published pioneering studies in human migration, ancient diet, and the reconstruction of the ancestral human microbiome. Her ancient microbiome findings were named among the top 100 scientific discoveries of 2014 by Discover Magazine, and her research has been featured in more than 75 news articles, including stories in Science, Scientific American, the LA Times, the Guardian, and CNN, among others. She has been featured in multiple documentaries, and her recent work on the peopling of the Himalayas appears in the PBS NOVA special Secrets of the Sky Tombs and the award-winning children’s book Secrets of the Sky Caves. She is a 2014 US National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and a 2012 TED Fellow, and her TED Talks on ancient dental calculus and the evolution of the human diet have been viewed more than 2 million times.