Accessibility statement

Ashley Coutu
Marie Curie Research Fellow



I received a bachelor’s degree in communications and environmental studies from Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 2005, before working as a laboratory assistant for Archaeoscape, an environmental archaeology unit run out of the geography department at Royal Holloway.  In 2007, I received an MPhil  in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge, where my research focused on  charred plant remains from medieval deposits at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, England. I was specifically interested in the nexus of archaeological, environmental, and historical evidence and how these can be used conjunctively to create a fuller understanding of archaeological sites. From 2007-2011 I worked as part of the HEEAL project to utilise this same methodology through applying bioarchaeological techniques to historic elephant populations in order to understand the human and environmental consequences of the 19th century ivory trade in Kenya and Tanzania. I am currently a Marie Curie Research Fellow, currently based in Cape Town.


Selected publications




  • Tracing the links between elephants, humans, and land use in East Africa during the 19th century caravan trade: a bioarchaeological study

This project will trace links between elephants, humans and land-use before, during and after the 19th-century caravan trade using a variety of sources including stable isotope analysis of ivory sourced from East African archaeological deposits, museum collections and from archaeological investigations of ivory processing sites in the UK and USA. Stable isotope analysis will enable examinations of elephant diet and migration patterns, and the sourcing of ivory to specific locations. When combined with historical records of ivory exports and ethnohistorical data relating to East African elephant hunters and ivory traders it is envisioned that this research will permit assessments of the numbers of elephants removed from the ecosystem and an appraisal of the ecological and economic consequences of this removal.

Research group(s)


Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute Internship Programme (July-September 2008)

Collected elephant bone, tusk, and molar from Teddy Roosevelt's collection of East African elephants held at the Smithsonian and ran samples for stable light isotope analysis

World University Network Scheme (April-June 2009)

Worked with Professor Stan Ambrose at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana running elephant samples for stable light isotope analysis and collaborated with the Earth Science laboratory for Sr isotope analysis



Palaeodiet 3rd Year Special Topic:

Lecture 1: Food remains I: plants and animals

Seminar 1: Butchering, Cultivating, and Socialising: Diet across Africa since the Pleistocene

External activities


Memberships, etc.

Ashley Coutu

Contact details

Ashley Coutu
University of York
BioArCh, Environment Building
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD

Tel: (44) 1904 328559