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Department of Anthropology

Program in
Human Ecology and Archaeobiology


Dr. Dolores Piperno, Curator of Archaeobotany and South American Archaeology, is an archaeologist and archaeobotanist. Her research focuses on the antiquity and character of prehistoric human adaptations in the lowland tropical regions of the world, including agricultural orgins, together with the biogeographical and climatological history of the tropical biome.


Piperno's research interests have mainly involved the archaeology and human ecology of the lowland American tropics together with the biogeographical and climatological history of the tropical biome. She has recently become engaged in archaeological research in southwest Asia. Piperno primarily uses plant microfossils (phytoliths, starch grains, and pollen) to investigate research problems, which prominently include the origins and dispersals of agriculture. Her theoretical perspective is based in the intersection of evolution and ecology, especially the emerging field of Human Behavioral Ecology in archaeology and its role in formulating explanations of human behavior and adaptive change. …Piperno Research Page

Links—Recent Publications in PDF

  • Piperno CV.

  • Piperno, Dolores R., Irene Holst, Klaus Winter, and Owen McMillan
    2014 Teosinte Before Domestication: Experimental Study of Growth and Phenotypic Variability in Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Environments. Quarternary International, in press.

  • Gremillion, Kristen J., Loukas Barton, and Dolores R. Piperno
    2014 Particularism and the Retreat from Theory in the Archaeology of Agricultural Origins. PNAS 111(17):6171-6177.
  • Larson, Greger, Dolores R. Piperno, et al.
    2014 Current Perspectives and the Future of Domestication Studies. PNAS 111(17):6139-6146.
  • C.H. McMichael, D.R. Piperno, M.B. Bush, M.R. Silman, A.R. Zimmerman, M.F. Raczka, and L.C. Lobato
    2012 Sparse Pre-Columbian Human Habitation in Western Amazonia. Science 336:1429-1431.
  • Grobman, A., D. Bonivia, T.D. Dillehay, D.R. Piperno, J. Iriarte, and I. Holst
    2012 Preceramic maize from Paredones and Huaca Prieta, Peru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:1755-1759.

  • Piperno, Dolores R.
  • 2011. The Origins of Plant Cultivation and Domestication in the New World Tropics. In The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas, edited by T.D. Price and Ofter Bar-Yosef, Wenner-Gren Symposium Series. Current Anthropology Vol. 52, Supp. S4:453-470.
  • Henry, Amanda G., Alison S. Brooks, and Dolores R. Piperno
    2010 Microfossils in Calculus Demonstrate Consumption of Plants and Cooked Foods in Neanderthal Diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium). PNAS 108(2):1-6.
  • Gremillion, Kristen J., and Dolores R. Piperno
    2009 Human Behavioral Ecology, Phenotypic (Developmental) Plasticity, and Agricultural Origins. Insights from the Emerging Evolutionary Synthesis. Current Anthropology 50(5):615-619.
  • Ranere, Anthony J., Dolores R. Piperno, Irene Holst, Ruth Dickau, and José Iriarte
    2009. The Cultural and Chronological Context of Early Holocene Maize and Squash Domestication in the Central Balsas River Valley, Mexico. PNAS 106(13):5014-5018. pdf icon
  • Piperno, Dolores R., Anthony J. Ranere, Irene Holst, José Iriarte, and Ruth Dickau
    2009. Starch Grain and Phytolith Evidence for Early Ninth Millennium B.P. Maize from the Central Balsas River Valley, Mexico. PNAS 106(13):5019–5024.
  • Piperno, Dolores R.
    2006 Quaternary Environmental History and Agricultural Impact on Vegetation in Central America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 93:274–296.
  • Piperno, Dolores R., Irene Holst, Linda Wessel-Beaver, and Thomas C. Andres
    2002 Evidence for the Control of Phytolith Formation in Cucurbita Fruits by the Hard Rind (Hr) Genetic Locus: Archaeological and Ecological Implications. PNAS 99 (16):10923–10928.
  • Piperno, Dolores R., and K.V. Flannery
    2001 The Earliest Archaeological Maize (Zea mays L.) from Highland Mexico: New Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Dates and Their Implications. PNAS 98(4):2101–2103.
  • Piperno, Dolores R., Anthony J. Ranere, Irene Holst, and Patricia Hansell
    2000 Starch Grains Reveal Early Root Crop Horticulture in the Panamanian Tropical Forest. Nature 407(19):894-897.
Dolores Piperno photo

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Program in Human Ecology and Archaeology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
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