Caroline Cartwright


+44 (0)20 7323 8581


Caroline Cartwright’s primary areas of scientific expertise cover the identification and interpretation of organics such as wood, charcoal, fibres and other plant remains, shell, ivory and bone from all areas and time periods in the British Museum’s collection. She also identifies plant inclusions used as temper in pottery, as well as identifying macro-organics (plant fragments and molluscs) in cuneiform tablets.

She has led many teams of archaeobotanists, archaeozoologists and human osteologists on archaeological projects in various parts of the world including the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.

Caroline’s research interests focus on the human resource exploitation of plant and animals, modelling environmental reconstruction, past human ecology, vegetation, climate and subsistence change. She also undertakes research into the evidence from the archaeological record for the biology, biogeography and diversity of Mediterranean-climate ecosystems.


Selected Current projects

Ra’s al-Hadd (Oman) (shell, plant remains, fish bones etc)

Tell es-Sa’idiyeh (Jordan) (organics)

Amara West (Sudan) (wood, charcoal, textile fibres)

Organic artefacts from Oceania (barkcloth, fibres, wood, shell)

Wooden artefacts from Australia; Aboriginal resource use and trade

Egyptian Roman period mummy portraits (wood)

Egyptian wooden coffins and other funerary items

Topical Fuelwoods Project: the role of wood in a sustainable society

Mesoamerican shell, wood and other plant remains

El Corazón del Caribe Project (Puerto Rico): pre-Columbian use of wood and charcoal from Mona Island caves

Royal tombs at Ur (Mesopotamia): mineralised textiles

Bannu Project (Pakistan): palaeoenvironmental reconstruction based on charcoal from excavations at Rehman Dheri, Tarakai Qila and other sites


Previous projects

Mexican turquoise mosaics (shell, wood, plant fibres etc)

Jericho wood

Stonea Grange (wood)

Runnymede (organics)

Arctic clothing (animal hair)

Limestone stelae

Sutton Hoo (organics)


External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Member of the International Association of Wood Anatomists (IAWA)


Selected publications

Cartwright, C.R. and Taylor, J.H. 2015 Ancient Egyptian funerary food: new insights British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 9; 97-105.

Cartwright, C.R. 2015 INVITED REVIEW The principles, procedures and pitfalls in identifying archaeological and historical wood samples Annals of Botany 116 (1); 1-13.

Cartwright, C.R., Duffy, C.M. and Wang, H. 2014 ‘Microscopical examination of fibres used in Ming dynasty paper money’ British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 8; 105-116.

Attenbrow, V.J.  and Cartwright, C.R. 2014 ‘An Aboriginal shield collected in 1770 at Kamay Botany Bay: an indicator of pre-colonial exchange systems in south-eastern Australia’ Antiquity 88; 883-895.

Cartwright, C.R., Parkington, J.E. and Cowling, R.M. 2014 “Chapter 5. Understanding Late and Terminal Pleistocene vegetation change in the Western Cape, South Africa: the wood charcoal evidence from Elands Bay Cave”, in, C.J. Stevens, S. Nixon, M.A. Murray and D.Q. Fuller (eds.) Archaeology of African Plant Use, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California; 59–72.   

Cartwright, C.R. 2013 “Identifying the woody resources of Diepkloof Rock Shelter (South Africa) using scanning electron microscopy of the MSA wood charcoal assemblages” Journal of Archaeological Science 40; 3463-3474

Meeks, N., Cartwright, C.R., Meek, A. and Mongiatti, A. (eds.) 2012 Historical technology, materials and conservation: scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis Archetype Publications in association with The British Museum, London

King, J.C.H., Carocci, M., Cartwright, C.R., McEwan, C. and Stacey, R. (eds.) 2012 Turquoise in Mexico and North America: science, conservation, culture and collections Archetype Publications in association with The British Museum, London.

Cartwright, C.R., Spaabæk, L.R. and Svoboda, M. 2011 Portrait mummies from Roman Egypt: ongoing collaborative research on wood identification British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 5; 49-58.

McEwan, C., Middleton, A., Cartwright, C.R. and Stacey, R. 2006   Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico, British Museum Press, London