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. 2018: Charcoal and wood; Chapter 8. In D.A. Welsby (ed.) A Kerma Ancien cemetery in the Northern Dongola Reach. Excavations at Site H29. Sudan Archaeological Research Society Publication Number 22, SARS, London; 207-209.

Fraser, J., Cartwright, C.R. 2018: Putting Jericho under the microscope. MUSE 21; 12-13.

Fraser, J., Cartwright, C.R. 2018: Khirbet Um al-Ghozlan Archaeology in Jordan Newsletter 2016 and 2017 Seasons; 27-28.

Łucejko, J.J., Mattonai, M., Zborowska, M., Tamburini, D., Cofta, G., Cantisani, E., Kúdela, J., Cartwright, C.R., Colombini, M.P., Ribechini, E., Modugno, F. 2018: Deterioration effects of wet environments and brown rot fungus Coniophora puteana on pine wood in the archaeological site of Biskupin (Poland). Microchemical Journal 138: 132-146. .

Salvant, J., Williams, J., Ganio, M., Casadio, F., Daher, C., Sutherland, K., Monico, L., Vanmeert, F., De Meyer, S., Janssens, K., Cartwright, C.R., Walton, M. 2018: A Roman Egyptian Painting Workshop: Technical Investigation of the Portraits from Tebtunis, Egypt. Archaeometry 60: 815-833.

Tamburini, D., Cartwright, C.R., Melchiorre Di Crescenzo, M., Rayner, G. 2018: Scientific characterisation of the dyes, pigments, fibres and wood used in the production of barkcloth from Pacific islands. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. doi: 10.1007/s12520-018-0745-0.

Cartwright, C.R. 2018  Chapter 9. Some Methods for Reconstructing the Woody Resources of Neolithic Farmers in the Caribbean. In B. Reid (ed.) The Archaeology of Caribbean and Circum-Caribbean Farmers 6000 BC to AD 1500; 237-251

Cartwright, C.R. 2018 Textile fragments on silver plaque A23 and other silver plaque fragments A28, in, R. Jackson and G. Burleigh (eds.) Dea Senuna: Treasure, Cult and Ritual at Ashwell, Hertfordshire. The British Museum Research Publication 194;17

Tamburini, D., Cartwright, C.R., Cofta, G., Zborowska, M., & Mamoňová, M. 2018 Distinguishing the signs of fungal and burial-induced degradation in waterlogged wood from Biskupin (Poland) by scanning electron microscopy. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 1-20 

Tamburini, D., Cartwright, C.R., Pullan, M. & Vickers, H. 2018 An investigation of the dye palette in Chinese silk embroidery from Dunhuang (Tang dynasty) Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences [published online 30 January 2018] 18pp

Cartwright, C.R. text and FE SEM images of crystals in charcoal (Brazilian fuelwood): article by C. Wilson “Ripe for burning” New Scientist 1 July 2017 & on line (28 06 2017):

Samson, A., Wrapson, L., Cartwright, C.R., Sahy, D., Stacey, R. & Cooper, J. 2017 Artists before Columbus: A multi-method characterization of the materials and practices of Caribbean cave art, Journal of Archaeological Science (advance online publication)

Cartwright, C.R. & Ryan, P. 2017 Archaeobotanical research at Amara West in New Kingdom Nubia, in, N. Spencer, A. Stevens & M. Binder (eds.) Nubia in the New Kingdom. Lived experience, pharaonic control and indigenous traditions. British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 3. Peeters, Leuven; 271-286

Cartwright, C.R. 2017 Identification of charcoal and other plant remains from Tawahin es-Sukkar (TeS) and Khirbet Shaykh ʻIsa (KSI). In, R. Jones (ed.) Sweet Waste. Medieval sugar production in the Mediterranean viewed from the 2002 excavation at Tawahin es-Sukkar, Safi, Jordan. Potingair Press, Glasgow; 168 & 188 – 192

Gasson, P., Cartwright, C.R. & Leme, C. 2017 Anatomical changes to the wood of Croton sonderianus (Euphorbiaceae) when charred at different temperatures. IAWA Journal 38; 117–123

Cartwright, C.R. & Veldmeijer, A. 2017 Scanning electron microscope identification of plant material used in ancient Egyptian footwear JEOL (Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux), 46: 93-119

Cartwright, C.R. 2016 Report on the scanning electron microscope (SEM) examination of the basketry container and other organic artefacts from Whitehorse Hill cist. In A. M. Jones (ed.) Preserved in the Peat: an Extraordinary Bronze Age Burial on Whitehorse Hill, Dartmoor, and its Wider Context Oxbow Books, Oxford; 267-273.  

Cartwright, C.R., Porraz, G. & Parkington, J. 2016 The wood charcoal evidence from renewed excavations at Elands Bay Cave, South Africa. Southern African Humanities 29; 249–58

Cartwright, C.R. 2016 A note on wood species and identification. In, G. Sculthorpe & M. Nugent (eds.) Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja,(Returning to Mokare’s Home Country) Western Australian Museum; 58

Cartwright, C.R., Duffy, C. & Wang, H. 2016 Paper Money of the Ming Dynasty: Examining the Material Evidence. (Chapter 19).   In C. Clunas, J. Harrison-Hall & L. Yu-ping (eds.) Ming China: Courts and Contacts 1400 – 1450. Research Publication 205. The British Museum, London; 170-177

Cartwright, C.R. 20th August 2016 Aperture feature with scanning electron microscope images of “Breadbugs” (text by Emily Benson after input on ancient Egyptian tomb food by C.R. Cartwright) New Scientist Issue 3087; 24-25

Cartwright, C.R. 2016 Wood in ancient Egypt: choosing wood for coffins. In J. Dawson & H. Strudwick (eds.) Death on the Nile. Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge in association with D Giles Limited, London; 78-87 & 251

Cartwright, C.R. & 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

Williams, J., Kevin, P., Cartwright, C.R. & Norris, J. 2014 Sacred souvenir: the Holy Sepulchre models in the British Museum British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 8; 29-38

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

Attenbrow, V.  & 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  also see

Tubb, J.N. & Cartwright, C.R. 2014 The human remains from Tell es-Sa’idiyeh: international custodianship, respect and research. In, A. Fletcher, D. Antoine & J. Hill (eds.) Regarding the Dead: Human Remains in the British Museum. Research Publication 197. British Museum Press; 115-122

Cartwright, C.R., Parkington, J.E. & 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 & D.Q. Fuller (eds.) Archaeology of African Plant Use. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California; 59–72  

Ostapkowicz, J., Bronk Ramsey, C., Brock, F., Cartwright, C.R., Stacey, R. & Richards, M. 2013  Birdmen, cemís and duhos: material studies and AMS 14C dating of Pre-Hispanic Caribbean wood sculptures in the British Museum Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (12); 4675-4687

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

Cartwright, C.R. & King, J. 2012 Identifications of hairs and fibres in Great Lakes objects from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries using variable pressure scanning electron microscopy British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 6; 69-81

Meeks, N., Cartwright, C.R., Meek, A. & 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., Carocci, M., Cartwright, C.R., McEwan, C. & 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. & Taylor, J. 2011 Investigating technological and environmental evidence from plant remains and molluscs in cuneiform tablets British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 5; 67-72

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

Tomber, R., Cartwright, C.R. &  Gupta, S. 2011 Rice temper: technological solutions and source identification in the Indian Ocean Journal of Archaeological Science 38; 360-366

Leme, C., Cartwright, C.R. &  Gasson, P.G. 2010 Anatomical changes to the wood of Mimosa ophthalmocentra and Mimosa tenuiflora when charred at different temperatures IAWA Journal 31 (3); 333-351

Stacey, R., Cartwright, C.R., Tanimoto, S. & Villing, A. 2010 Coatings and contents: investigations of residues on four fragmentary sixth-century BC vessels from Naukratis (Egypt).  British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 4; 19-26

Thomas, K.D. & Cartwright, C.R.  2010 The biological remains from Sheri Khan Tarakai,  In  F. Khan, J. Knox, K. Thomas, C. Petrie &  J. Morris (eds.) Sheri Khan Tarakai and Early Village Life in the Borderlands of North-West Pakistan. Bannu Archaeological Project Surveys and Excavations 1985-2001 Bannu Archaeological Project Monographs. Oxbow Books, Oxford; 305-342

Texier, P., Porraz, G., Parkington, J., Rigaud, J-P., Poggenpoel, C.,  Miller, C., Tribolo, C., Cartwright, C.R., Coudenneau, A., Klein, R., Steele, T. &  Verna, C. 2010. ‘A Howiesons Poort tradition of engraving ostrich eggshell containers dated to 60,000 years ago at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa’ PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) 107 (14); 6180-6185

Stacey, R. &  Cartwright, C.R. 2009 Construction, modification and repair of Mexican mosaics: evidence from the adhesives, In, J. Ambers, C. Higgitt, L. Harrison &  D. Saunders (eds.)  Holding it all Together: ancient and modern approaches to joining, repair and consolidation. Archetype Publications, London; 61-67

Cartwright, C.R., Ward, C., Tubb, J. & Delaunay, H. 2009 The Middle Bronze Age furniture from Tomb P19 at Jericho: wood identification and conservation challenges British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 3; 111-120

Cartwright, C.R. 2009 Scanning electron microscopy at the British Museum and the Aztec turquoise mosaics from Mexico. Hitachi E.M. News. Electron Microscopy News. May 2009 No. 3; 38-42

Cartwright, C.R. & Taylor, J.H.  2008 Wooden Egyptian archery bows in the collections of the British Museum British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2; 77-83

Cartwright, C.R. & Middleton, A.P. 2008 Scientific aspects of ancient faces: mummy portraits from Egypt British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2; 59-66

Cartwright, C.R. 2008 The plant remains  In R. Parkinson (ed.) The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun. British Museum Press, London; 47-48

Cartwright, C.R. &  Meeks, N. 2007 Aztec conch shell working: high-tech design British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 1;43-48

Cartwright, C.R. 2007 Turquoise mosaics, In R. Smith (ed.) The Museum BBC Books, Frome; 61-65

Stacey, R., Cartwright, C.R. & McEwan, C. 2006 Chemical characterization of ancient Mesoamerican ‘copal’ resins: preliminary results Archaeometry 48; 323-340

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

Cartwright, C.R., McEwan, C., Middleton, A. &  Stacey, R. 2006   Dazzling Stones (Aztec-Mixtec mosaics under the microscope) British Museum Magazine number 55; 44-46

Cartwright, C.R. 2005 The Bronze Age wooden tomb furniture from Jericho; the microscopical reconstruction of a distinctive carpentry tradition Palestine Exploration Quarterly 137; 99-138

Cartwright, C.R. 2005 The wood charcoal assemblage from Barnhouse In C. Richards (ed.) Dwelling among the Monuments: The Neolithic village of Barnhouse, Maeshowe passage grave and surrounding monuments at Stenness, Orkney. McDonald Institute Monograph, Cambridge; 359-365

Cartwright, C.R. 2004 Reconstructing the use of coastal resources at Ra’s al-Hadd, Oman, in the third millennium BC Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 34; 45-51

Cartwright, C.R. 2003 Grapes or raisins? An Early Bronze Age larder under the microscope Antiquity 77 (296); 345-348

Cartwright, C.R. 2003  Unusual use of freshwater mussel (Unio sp.) shells during the Early Bronze Age at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, Jordan Environmental Archaeology 8; 85-89

Cartwright, C.R.  &  Glover, E. 2002 Ra’s al Hadd: reconstructing the coastal environment in the 3rd millennium BC and later  Journal of Oman Studies 12; 41-53

Cartwright, C.R.  2002 Reconstrucción de los recursos de madera a través de las muestras de carbon  In R. Novella, J.M. Gonsález &  M.A.M. Cos (eds.) La Costa Norte de Michoacán en la época prehispánica. BAR International Series 1071, Oxford; 215-217

Cartwright, C.R.  2002  Grape and grain; dietary evidence from an Early Bronze Age store at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Jordan Palestine Exploration Quarterly  134; 98-117

Cartwright, C.R. 2001 Cedrus libani under the microscope; the anatomy of modern and ancient Cedar of Lebanon wood Archaeology and History in Lebanon 14; 107-113

Cartwright, C.R. 2001 The plant remains In D. Welsby (ed.) Life on the desert edge. Seven thousand years of settlement in the Northern Dongola Reach, Sudan. Sudan Archaeological Research Society Publication 7, London; 556-567

Cartwright, C.R. 2001 Environmental archaeology In A. Burnett and J. Reeve (eds.) Behind the scenes at the British Museum. British Museum Press, London; 56

Parkington, J., Cartwright, C.R., Cowling, R.M., Baxter, A. &  Meadows, M. 2000 Palaeovegetation at the last glacial maximum in the western Cape, South Africa: wood charcoal and pollen evidence from Elands Bay Cave South African Journal of Science 96; 543-546

Cartwright, C.R. & Middleton, A.P. 1999 Piecing together ancient Egypt  British Museum Magazine 33;25-26

Cowling, R.M., Cartwright, C.R., Parkington, J.E. & Allsopp, J.C. 1999 Fossil wood charcoal assemblages from Elands Bay Cave, South Africa: implications for Late Quaternary vegetation and climates in the winter-rainfall fynbos biome. Journal of Biogeography 26 (2);367-378

Cartwright, C. R. 1999 Reconstructing the woody resources of the medieval Kingdom of Alwa, Sudan In M. van der Veen (ed.) The Exploitation of Plant Resources  in Ancient Africa. Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, New York;241-259

Cartwright, C. R. 1998 The wood, charcoal, plant remains and other organic material from Soba In D. Welsby (ed.) Soba II. Renewed excavations within the metropolis of the Kingdom of Alwa in Central Sudan. British Institute in Eastern Africa Memoir 15, British Museum Press, London;255-268

Cartwright, C. R. 1998 Seasonal aspects of Bronze and Iron Age communities at  Ra’s al-Hadd,

Oman Environmental Archaeology 3;97-102

Cartwright, C. R.  &  Parkington, J. 1997 The wood charcoal assemblages from Elands Bay Cave, southwestern Cape: principles, procedures and preliminary interpretation  South African Archaeological Bulletin 52;59-72

Cartwright, C.R. 1997 Egyptian mummy portraits: examining the woodworkers’ craft In M. Bierbrier (ed.) Portraits and Masks. Burial Customs in Roman Egypt. British Museum Press, London;106-111

Cartwright, C. R. 1997 Interim report on the archaeobotanical remains from the 1996 season of excavations of the Early Bronze Age complex at Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh, Jordan In J. Tubb et al. (eds.) Interim report on the ninth season of excavations at Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh, Jordan Palestine Exploration Quarterly 129;72-75

Cartwright, C. R. 1996 Preliminary report on the archaeobotanical material In J. Tubb et al. (eds.) Interim report on the eighth (1995) season of excavations at Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh Palestine Exploration Quarterly 128;39-40

Cartwright, C. R. 1994 The archaeobotanical remains from the 1993 season  In J. Tubb & P. Dorrell (eds.) Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh 1993: interim report on the seventh season of excavations  Palestine Exploration Quarterly 126;66‑78

Cartwright, C. R. 1994 Preliminary results of the study of fish remains from a 3rd millennium BC site, HD1, at Ra's al‑Hadd, Oman  In  W. Van Neer (ed.)  Fish Exploitation in the Past.  Proceedings of the 7th meeting of the ICAZ Fish Remains Working Group. Annales du Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale, Sciences Zoologiques no. 274, Tervuren; 239‑241

Cartwright, C. R.  & Clapham, A. 1993 The archaeobotanical remains from Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh, Jordan  In J. Tubb &  P. Dorrell (eds.) Tell es‑Sa'idiyeh 1992: interim report on the sixth season of excavations Palestine Exploration Quarterly 125;73

Cartwright, C. R. 1991 Material culture. Economy and Subsistence In P. Drewett (ed.) Prehistoric Barbados. Institute of Archaeology, University College London and Barbados Museum & Historical Society, London;101‑165

Bedwin, O., Cartwright, C.R., Drewett, P. & Rudling, D. 1983 Rescue Archaeology in Sussex 1982: A Ninth Progress Report on the Sussex Archaeological Unit Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London 20;73-100

Cartwright, C. R. 1982 Chapter II: Aspects of the Economy and Environment of Bullock Down, 4000 B.C. to A.D. 1550 In P. Drewett (ed.) The Archaeology of Bullock Down, East Sussex: The Development of a Landscape. Sussex Archaeology Society Monograph 1;8-38