Mary E. Prendergast is an archaeologist and a professor at Saint Louis University’s Madrid campus. Her research examines the history of human–animal relationships and the links among diet, environment, and social dynamics. Her most recent work explored biological exchange—the movements of animals, plants, and diseases—in the context of early Indian Ocean trade.
At Radcliffe, Prendergast is producing a series of papers examining the complex mosaic of foragers and food producers living across eastern Africa during the past 5,000 years. Prendergast’s work, which draws on data gathered during a decade of excavations and animal bone analyses in Kenya and Tanzania, will critically assess the ways in which such data challenge traditional paradigms of thought in African archaeology; for example, in the application of ethnographic analogies, the categorization of the material record into ages and stages, and the delineation of bound social groups whose identities are defined by their diet.
Prendergast studied old-world archaeology and art at Brown University and obtained her MA and PhD degrees in anthropology at Harvard University. She has received support for her research from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, from which she most recently received a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship.