My research interests lie mainly in the archaeology and historical ecology of savannah landscapes in eastern Africa, and specifically in how pastoralists have interacted with these environments. My PhD thesis, ‘Pastoralist Settlement and the Anthropogenic Savannah: the archaeo-ecology of Maili Sita, Kenya’ (2017) explored the enduring impacts of human occupation at a specific site in Laikipia, central Kenya, and the implications for how we understand savannah ecosystems and the emergence of specialist herding communities during the last millennium. I am particularly interested in the intersection between archaeological and ecological data: how understandings of ecology and landscape formation can help fill gaps in the archaeological record, and how archaeology can contribute to debates around contemporary issues of conservation and sustainability.
My work applies techniques and approaches from the spheres of geoarchaeology, zooarchaeology, isotope analysis and remote sensing. Though principally focussed on eastern Africa, I am or have been involved with projects in the Middle East, Latin America and the UK. I am a member of the multidisciplinary research network, New International Community of Historical Ecologists (NICHE), which brings together researchers interested in the historical interactions of humans and their environments.
Henton, E., Martin, L., Garrard, A., Jourdan, A-L., Thirlwall, M. & Boles, O., 2017. Gazelle seasonal mobility in the Jordanian steppe: the use of dental isotopes and microwear as environmental markers, applied to Epipaleolithic Kharaneh IV, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 11:147-158. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.11.031
Armstrong, C.G., Shoemaker, A.C., McKechnie, I., Ekblom, A., Szabo, P., Lane, P.J., Boles, O. et al. 2017 Anthropological contributions to historical ecology: 50 questions, infinite prospects. PLoSONE 12(2) http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171883
Boles, O. 2017. Pastoralist Landscapes: Archaeology and Ecology in the Lolldaiga Hills, report for the Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme, http://www.lolldaiga.com/pastoralist-landscapes-archaeology-ecology-lolldaiga-hills/
Boles, O. & Lane, P.J., 2016. The Green, Green Grass of Home: the archaeo-ecology of ephemeral pastoralist settlement in central Kenya, Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 51(4): 507-530. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0067270X.2016.1249587
Boles, O. & Ongwen, D., 2014, Remote Heritage Revisited: Archaeology and site management on Lolui Island, Uganda, Antiquity Project Gallery, http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/boles339
Boles, O., in press. Understanding ephemeral herder settlements in eastern Africa: the potential of isotope analyses of cattle tooth enamel, In: Ventresca-Miller, A. & Makarewicz, C. (eds.) Isotopic Investigations of Pastoral Production: Innovative Approaches to Patterns of Mobility, Economy, and Exploitation, London: Maney.