Dr. Monica Tromp

Department of Archaeology

Main Focus

Monica is an archaeological scientist with bioarchaeological training and experience in a variety of microscope and chemical analyses. She is especially interested in how people have interacted with plants in the past. Plants provide breathable air, nutrition, textiles and medicine—without them we would not be able to exist. Understanding our shared history with plants is extremely important as our environment continues to change at an accelerated pace today.

The majority of Monica’s research career has consisted of examining microscopic plant and animal skeletons to figure out what people put in their mouths in the past. She uses this information to understand how people were interacting with their environments by comparing what she finds in their mouths to what was found in their environments. So far her research has helped to refine when the sweet potato was introduced into Polynesia, when bananas first entered Remote Oceania (specifically Vanuatu), and examined how drinking water was collected in Rapa Nui, an area with almost no accessible freshwater sources. Another highlight of her career was being involved in the discovery of lapis lazuli within the dental calculus of a medieval woman, which was listed as one of the top ten archaeological discoveries of 2019.

Curriculum Vitae

Monica received her B.A. (2010) and M.S. (2012) in Anthropology from Idaho State University and her PhD in Anatomy from the University of Otago (2017). She completed her doctoral thesis, “Lapita plants, people and pigs” in 2016, which was placed on the list of exceptional PhD theses in the Division of Health Sciences. Monica took a position as a postdoctoral researcher at MPI-SHH between 2016 – 2018. Monica is currently the Senior Laboratory Analyst with Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (SPAR), a research unit based in the Archaeology Programme at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Monica oversees several laboratory services for post-excavation analysis including zooarchaeological, microparticle, geochemical, lithic, aDNA and textile analyses. The majority of SPAR’s projects are in the wider Pacific region.


Snoddy, A.M.E., Miszkiewicz, J.J., Loch, C., Tromp, M., Buckley, H.R. 2021. An image analysis protocol for objective quantification of interglobular dentine in anthropological tooth sections. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 174(1):144-148.

Gaffney, D., Greig, K., Stoddart, D., Tromp, M., Field, J.H., Luu, S., Coster, A., Russell, T., Mandui, H., Summerhayes, G. 2020. Tropical foodways and exchange along the coastal margin of Northeastern New Guinea. Journal of Field Archaeology 45(7):498-511. 

Tromp, M., Matisoo-Smith, E., Kinaston, R., Bedford, S., Spriggs, M., Buckley, H. 2020. Exploitation and utilization of tropical rainforests indicated in dental calculus of ancient Oceanic Lapita culture colonists. Nature Human Behaviour 4: 489-495. 

Geber, J.†, Tromp, M.†, Scott. A.†, Bouwmann, A., Nanni, P., Grossmann, J., Hendy, J., Warinner, C. 2019. Relief food subsistence revealed by microparticle and proteomics analyses of dental calculus from victims of the Great Irish Famine. PNAS 116(39): 201908839. († co-first authors) 

Commendador, A.S., Finney, B.P. , Fuller, B.T., Tromp, M., Dudgeon, J.V. 2019. Multiproxy isotopic analyses of human skeletal material from Rapa Nui: evaluating the evidence from carbonates, bulk collagen and amino acids. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 169(4): 714-729.

Radini, A.†, Tromp, M.†, Beach, A., Tong, E., Speller, C., McCormick, M., Dudgeon, J.V., Collins, M.J.,  Rühli, F., Kröger, R., Warinner, C. 2019. Medieval women's early involvement in manuscript production suggested by lapis lazuli identification in dental calculus. Scientific Advances 5(1): eaau7126. († co-first authors)

Kinaston, R., Willis, A., Miszkiewicz, J., Tromp, M., Oxenham, M.F. 2019. The dentition: development, disturbances, disease, diet and chemistry. In Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains, 3rd edition. (J.E. Buikstra, ed.). London: Academic Press, Elsevier, pp. 749-797.

Oxenham, M.F., Trinh, H.H., Willis, A., Jones, R.K., Buckley, H., Domett, K., Castillo, C., Wood, R., Bellwood, P., Tromp, M., Kells, A., Pham, S.T., Matsumura, H.. Farming or Foraging: Strategic Responses to the Holocene Thermal Maximum in Southeast Asia. Antiquity 92: 940-957.

Taylor, W.T.T., Bayarsaikhan, J., Staszewski, D., Bender, S., Whitworth, J., Tuvshinjargal, T., Tromp, M., Lowry, K.B., Houle, J.-L., Clark, J., Boivin, N. 2018. Origins of Equine Dentistry. PNAS 115(29): E6707-15.

Tromp, M., Buckley, H., Geber, J., Matisoo-Smith, E.. 2017. ETDA decalcification of dental calculus as an alternate means of microparticle extraction from archaeological samples. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 14: 461-466.

Maxwell, J.J., McCoy, M.D., Tromp, M., Hoffmann. A., Barber. I. 2017. The Difficult Place of Deserted Coasts in Archaeology: New Archaeological Research on Cooks Beach (Pukaki) Coromandel Peninsula New Zealand. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 13: 1-20. 

Maxwell, J.J., Tromp, M. 2016. Corynocarpus laevigatus: Where art thou? Finding evidence of this elusive tree crop. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 234: 198-210.

Dudgeon, J.V., Tromp, M., Hanks, B.K., Epimakhov, A. 2016. Investigating Biogenic versus Diagenetic Trace Element Incorporation in Archaeological Mineralized Tissues with LA-ICP-MS. In Recent Advances in Laser Ablation ICP-MS for Archaeology (L. Dussubieux, B. Gratuze and M. Golitko, eds). Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 323-341.

Peterson, D.L., Dudgeon, J.V., Tromp, M., Gevorkyan, A., Meliksetian, K., Bobokhyan, A. 2016. LA-ICP-MS Analysis of Prehistoric Copper and Bronze Metalwork from Armenia. In Recent Advances in Laser Ablation ICP-MS for Archaeology (L. Dussubieux, B. Gratuze and M. Golitko, eds). Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 115-133.

Dudgeon, J.V., Commendador, A., Tromp, M. 2016. Archaeogenetics and paleodemographic estimation of founding populations: Features of residential geography on Rapa Nui. In Skeletal Biology of the Ancient Rapa Nui (V.H. Stefan and G.G. Gill, eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 202-221.

Tromp, M., Dudgeon, J.V., Buckley, H.R., Matisoo-Smith, E. 2015. Dental calculus and plant diet in Oceania. In The Routledge Handbook of Bioarchaeology in Southeast Asia and the Pacific (M. Oxenham and H.R. Buckley, eds.). London: Routledge, pp. 599-622.

Ball, T., Davis, A., Evett, R.R., Ladwig, J.L., Tromp, M., Out, W., Portillo, M. 2015. Morphometric Analysis of Phytoliths: Recommendations towards Standardization from the International Committee for Phytolith Morphometrics. Journal of Archaeological Science 68: 106-111.

Tromp, M., Dudgeon, J.V.. 2015. Differentiating dietary and non-dietary microfossils extracted from human dental calculus: The importance of sweet potato to ancient Rapa Nui diet. Journal of Archaeological Science 54: 54-63.

Dudgeon, J.V., Tromp, M. 2014. Diet, Geography and Drinking Water in Polynesia: Microfossil Research from Archaeological Human Dental Calculus, Rapa Nui (Easter Island). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 24(5):634-648.


Research Projects

Rainforest Reliance in the Archaeological Record

Vietnam to Vanuatu: Dental Calculus and the Austronesian Expansion

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