Barbara Huber

Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Archaeology

Main Focus

Dr. des. Barbara Huber is an archaeo-chemist specializing in the study of human-plant relationships throughout history, with a keen interest of how past societies made use of natural plant resources, especially aromatic, medicinal, and bioactive plants. Her research delves into the use, consumption and trade of these plants and their therapeutic, preservative and olfactory benefits.

Employing a combination of biomolecular and phytochemical techniques, she examines organic residues extracted from archaeological artifacts, deposits, and sediments. Her PhD research focused on uncovering scents and perfumes in the past, employing innovative methods to decode ancient aromas, including the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lipids and metabolites. Through her interdisciplinary approach, she sheds light on the intricate interactions between past societies and the botanical world, enriching our understanding of ancient utilization of plant resources.

Curriculum Vitae

Barbara has a Doctorate in Archaeological Science and Human Evolution from the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology. For her PhD research, she was awarded an Add-on Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Life Science from the Joachim Herz Foundation. She also won a 2022 AEA Small Research Grant awarded by the Association for Environmental Archaeology to fund her project titled “Reconstructing olfactory landscapes of ancient Arabia using biomolecular approaches”.

Barbara currently holds a SALTO post-doctoral fellowship from the CNRS and the MPG and is based at the Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géoscience de l’Environnement (CEREGE) in Aix-en-Provence, France.


Huber, B., Hammann, S., Loeben, C.E., Jha, D.K., Giddings Vassão, D., Larsen, T., Spengler, R.N., Fuller D.Q., Roberts, P., Devièse, T., Boivin, N. (2023). Biomolecular characterization of 3500-year-old ancient Egyptian mummification balms from the Valley of the Kings. Scientific Reports, 13, 12477.

Dal Martello, R.; von Baeyer, M.; Hudson, M.; Bjorn, R.; Leipe, C.; Zach, B.; Mir Makhamad, B.; Billings, T.; Muñoz Fernández, I. M.; Huber, B. et al. (2023). The domestication and dispersal of large-fruiting Prunus spp.: a metadata analysis of archaeobotanical material. Agronomy 13 (4), 1027

Huber, B., Vassão, D.G., Roberts, P., Wang, Y.V., Larsen, T. (2022). Chemical Modification of Biomarkers through Accelerated Degradation: Implications for Ancient Plant Identification in Archaeo-Organic Residues. Molecules, 27, 3331.

Huber, B., Larsen, T., Spengler, R. N., Boivin, N. (2022). How to use modern science to reconstruct ancient scent. Nature Human Behaviour 6, 611–614.

Abar, A., D’Anna, M.B., Cyrus, G., Egbers, V., Huber, B., Kainert, C., Köhler, J., Ögüt, B., Rol, N., Russo, G., Schönicke, J., Tourtet, F. (Eds.) (2021). Pearls, Politics and Pistachios. Essays in Anthropology and Memories on the Occasion of Susan Pollock’s 65th Birthday. Heidelberg: Propylaeum.

Huber, B., Bernbeck, R., Fazeli-Nashli, H. (2020). Radical Restructuring in an Early Village: Rahmatabad (Fars Province, Iran) in the Fifth Millennium BCE. In Otto, A., Herles, M., and Kaniuth, K. (eds.). Proceedings of the 11th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East Vol. 1: Mobility in the Ancient Near East. Images in Context. Archaeology as Cultural Heritage. Engendering Near Eastern Archaeology. Societal Contexts of Religion. Shaping the Living Space, p. 425-436. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Huber, B., Hausleiter, A., Dinies, M., Christopher, J., Säumel, I., Pham Th. L. H. (2018). Interdisziplinäre Untersuchungen von Räuchergefäßen zur Rekonstruktion antiker Gerüche. Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2016-2018. e-Forschungsberichte des DAI, Faszikel 2, 120-125.

Research Projects

Current Projects

Research video: Investigating ancient plants by using biochemical and biomolecular approaches

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