Dr. Julio Mercader

Research Associate
Department of Archaeology

Main Focus

Dr. Julio Mercader specialises in evolutionary ecology, human origins, and palaeoarchaeology in East Africa. Julio’s research involvement in the Department of Archaeology includes collaborating on the “Global Markers of the Anthropocene” project, which focuses on microbotanical evidence of anthropogenic landscape modification from various countries, including Comoros, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Julio is also the Principal Investigator of the Stone Tools, Diet, & Sociality at the Dawn of Humanity project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This project investigates how changing paleoenvironmental conditions influenced hominid dietary behavior and the development and use of stone tool technology, and how these factors acted as key drivers in human evolution. 

Curriculum Vitae

Julio Mercader received a BA in Geography and History, a MA in Prehistory, and a PhD in Archaeology and Ethnography from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). In 1997 and 2000 he was awarded postdoctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Institute, followed by a position at George Washington University (USA). Currently, Julio is a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (2019 -) and an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary in Canada (2003 -).

Julio’s research interests concentrate on assessing the ancient environments, diet, subsistence, and technological developments that contributed to early human evolution through the integration of biological sciences, geological research, and physiochemical characterisation of archaeological materials. This approach led Julio to specialise in the use of proxies, such as ancient biomolecules (carbohydrates) and microbotanical remains (phytoliths), in order to understand early human ecology and landscape management. Recently he has incorporated the taxonomic identification of taphonomically degraded biomolecules into his line of work. Additional research avenues include tropical forest archaeology, where he investigates similarities and differences between hominin and non-human primate food consumption, and the impact that human colonisation had on tropical forest structures and the creation of anthropogenic landscapes. His interest in human evolution and tropical ecosystems has led him to conduct work in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. 

Julio has authored over 50 journal articles, book chapters, and reviews, and is the editor of Under the Canopy: the archaeology of tropical rainforests. He has been awarded research funding from the Canada Innovation Foundation, the Max Planck Institute, the Smithsonian Institute, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and the Wenner Gren Foundation, among others. Julio is a member of the editorial board for two international journals and has served on numerous national and international research committees, including the Leakey Foundation and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.


Selected Publications

Soto, M., Favreau, J., Campeau, K., Carter, T., Durkin, P., Hubbard, S.M., Nair, R., Bushozi, P.M., Mercader, J. 2020. Systematic sampling of quartzites in sourcing analysis: intra-outcrop variability at Naibor Soit, Tanzania (part I). Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 12: 100. 

Soto, M., Inwood, J., Clarke, S., Crowther, A., Covelli, D., Favreau, J., Itambu, M., Larter, S., Lee, P., Lozano, M., Maley, J., Mwambwiga, A., Patalano, P., Sammynaiken, R., Verges, J., Zhu, J., Mercader, J. 2019. Structural characterization and decontamination of dental calculus for ancient starch research. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11: 1-26. 

Mercader, J., Clarke, S., Bundala, M., Favreau, J., Inwood, J., Itambu, M., Larter, F., Lee, P., Lewiski-McQuaid, G., Mollel, N., Mwambwiga, A., Patalano, R., Soto, M., Tucker, L., Walde, D. 2019. Soil and plant phytoliths from the Acacia-Commiphora mosaics at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). PeerJ 7: e8211.

Proffitt, T., Haslam, M., Mercader, J., Boesch, C., Luncz, L. 2018. Revisiting Panda 100, the first archaeological chimpanzee nut-cracking site. Journal of Human Evolution 124: 117-139.

Mercader, J., Abtosway, M., Bird, R., Bundala, M., Clarke, S., Inwood, J. Itambu, M., Larter, F., Patalano, R., Soto, M., Tucker, L., Walde, D. 2018. Morphometrics of starch granules from Sub-Saharan plants and the taxonomic identification of ancient starch. Frontiers in Earth Science 6: 146.

Mercader, J., Akeju, T., Brown, M., Bundala, M., Collins, M.J., Copeland, L., Crowther, A., Dunfield, P., Henry, A., Inwood, J., Itambu, M., Kim, J., Larter, S., Longo, L., Oldenburg, T., Patalano, R., Sammynaiken, R., Soto, M., Tyler, R., Xhauflair, H. 2018. Exaggerated expectations in ancient starch research and the need for new taphonomic and authenticity criteria. Facets 3: 777-798.

Shipton, C., Roberts, P., Arche, W., Armitage, S., Bita, C., Blinkhorn, J., Courtney-Mustaphi, C., Crowther, A., Curtis, R., ‘Errico, F., Douka, K., Faulkner, P., Groucutt, H., Helm, R., Herries, A., Jembe, S., Kourampas, N., Lee-Thorp, J., Marchant, R., Mercader, J., Pitarch Marti, A., Prendergast, M., Rowson, B., Tengeza, A., Tibesasa, R., White, T., Petraglia, M., Boivin, N. 2018. 78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later Stone Age innovation in an East African tropical forest. Nature Communications 9: 1832.

Mercader, J., Abtosway, M., Baquedano, R., Bird, R., Díez-Martín, F., Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Favreau, J., Itambu, M., Lee, P., Mabulla, A., Patalano, R., Pérez-González, A., Santonja, M., Tucker, L., Walde, D. 2017. Starch contamination landscapes in field archaeology: Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. BOREAS 46: 918-934.

Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Baquedano, E., Mabulla, A., Mercader, J., Egeland, C.P. 2017. Paleoeocological reconstructions of the Bed I and Bed II lacustrine basins of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) and their impact on early human behavior. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 488: 1-8.

Mercader, J., Favreau, J., Itambu, M., Patalano, R. 2016. Acheulean Prepared Core Technologies from the Eastern Zimbabwe Escarpment, Maunganidze (Manicaland). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 8: 47–62.

Wright, D., Thompson, J., Scilt, F., Cohen, A., Choi, J., Mercader, J., Nightingale, S., Miller, C., Mentzer, S., Walde, D., Welling, M., Comani-Chindebyu, E. 2016. Approaches to Middle Stone Age landscape archaeology in tropical Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 1-14.

Mercader, J., Patalano, R., Favreau, J., Itambu, M., Kumbani J., Marufu, H. 2016. Acheulean prepared core technologies from the eastern Zimbabwe Escarpment, Maunganidze (Manicaland). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 8: 47-62.

Crowther, A., Haslam, M., Oakden, N., Walde, D., Mercader, J. 2014. Documenting contamination in ancient starch laboratories. Journal of Archaeological Science 49: 90-104.

Mercader, J., Bennett, T., Esselmont, C., Simpson, S., Walde, D. 2013. Phytoliths from Middle Stone Age Habitats in the Mozambican Rift (105-29ka). Journal of Human Evolution 64: 328-336. 

Mercader, J., Bennett, T., Esselmont, C., Simpson, S., Walde, D. 2011. Soil phytolith from Miombo woodlands in Mozambique. Quaternary Research 75: 138-150. 

Mercader, J., Astudillo, F. Barkworth, M., Bennett, T., Esselmont, C., Kinyanjui, R., Laskin Grossman, D., Simpson, S., Walde, D. 2010. Poaceae phytoliths from the Niassa Rift, Mozambique, Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1953-1967. 

Mercader, J., Bennett, T., Esselmont, C., Simpson, S., Walde, D. 2009. Phytoliths in woody plants from the Miombo Woodlands of Mozambique. Annals of Botany, 104: 91-113.

Haslam, M., Hernandez-Aguilar, A., Ling, V., Carvalho, S., de la Torre, I., DeStefano, A., Du, A., Hardy, B., Harris, J., Marchant, L., Matsuzawa, T., McGrew, W., Mercader, J., Mora, R., Petraglia, M., Roche, H., Visalberghi, E., Warren, R. 2009. Primate archaeology. Nature 460: 339-344.

Mercader, J., Bennett, T., Raja, M. 2008. Middle Stone Age starch acquisition in the Niassa Rift, Mozambique. Quaternary Research 70: 283-300.

Mercader J., Barton, H., Gillespie, J., Harris, J., Kuhn, S., Tyler, R., Boesch, C. 2007. 4300-year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 3043-3048.

de la Torre, I., deBeaune, S., Davidson, I., Gowlett, J., Hovers, E., Kimura, Y., Mercader, J. 2004. Omo revisited: evaluating the technological skills of Pliocene hominids. Current Anthropology 45: 439-465.

Mercader, J., Martí, R., González, I., Sánchez, A., García, P. 2003. Archaeological site formation in tropical forests: insights from the Ituri rock shelters, Congo.  Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 45-65.

Mercader, J., Marti, R., González, I.J., Sanchez, A., García, A. 2003. Archaeological site formation in rain forests: insights from the Ituri rock shelters, Congo. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 45-65.

Mercader, J. 2002. Forest people: the role of African rainforests in human evolution and dispersal.  Evolutionary Anthropology 11: 117-124.

Mercader, J., Panger, M. Boesch, C. 2002. Excavation of a chimpanzee stone tool site in the African rainforest. Science 296: 1452-1455. 

Mercader, J., Garralda, M.D., Pearson, O., Bailey, R. 2001. 800-year-old human remains from the tropical forest of Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo: the rock shelter site of Matangai Turu Northwest. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 115: 24-37.

Mercader, J., Runge, F., Vrydaghs, L., Doutrelepont, H., Corneile, E., Juan-Treserras, J. 2000. Phytoliths from archaeological sites in the tropical forest of Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo.  Quarternary Research 54: 102-112.

Mercader, J., Rovira, S., Gómez-Ramos, P. 2000. Forager-farmer interaction and ancient iron metallurgy in the Ituri rainforest, Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa 35: 107-122.

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