Katherine Grillo profile photo

Katherine Grillo

Specialty area(s)

African archaeology, pastoralism, material culture, ethnoarchaeology, ceramic analysis

Brief biography

I have recently been selected as the new General Editor of the Journal of African Archaeology.

My own research interests center on the materiality of cattle-based pastoralism in eastern Africa, and the ways that material culture, particularly ceramic technologies, have been a critical part of mobile pastoralist repertoires through time and space. My doctoral research was an ethnoarchaeological study of material culture in Samburu herding communities in northern Kenya, and I am now focusing attention on expanding our archaeological understanding of the Pastoral Neolithic period in eastern Africa. I currently co-direct two major field projects, one examining the social significance of monumental “pillar sites,” massive communal cemeteries built by the region’s earliest herders, in the Turkana Basin, northwestern Kenya, and one examining the largest Pastoral Neolithic settlement site in eastern Africa farther south at Luxmanda, Tanzania. These projects are all geared with an eye towards improving our understanding of pastoralist adaptations and resilience in Africa’s dryland environments from past to present.


Current courses at UWL

ARC 100: Discovering Our Past
ARC 200: World Archaeology
ARC 312 : African Archaeology
ANT/ARC 330 : Pastoralism: Past and Present
ANT/ARC 346 : Ethnoarchaeology and Experimental Archaeology
ANT/ARC 357 : Peoples and Cultures of Africa
ARC 415: Advanced Lab Methods (Ceramic Analysis)
ARC 489/499: Honors/Senior Thesis


Ph.D. Washington University in St. Louis (2012)
A.M. Washington University in St. Louis (2006)
B.A. University of Virginia (2002)

Professional history

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. Assistant Professor, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. 2013-present.

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany. Washington University and the Volkswagen Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow. 2012-2013. 

Research and publishing

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

Grillo, K.*, M. Prendergast,* D. Contreras, T. Fitton, A. Gidna, S. Goldstein, M. Knisley, M. Langley, A. Mabulla (2018). Pastoral Neolithic settlement at Luxmanda, Tanzania. Journal of Field Archaeology 43(2):102-120. *co-first authors.

Skoglund, P., J. Thompson, M. Prendergast, ... K. Grillo (22/42) ... R. Pinhasi, J. Krause, and D. Reich (2017). Reconstructing prehistoric African population structure. Cell 171(1):59-71.

Langley, M., M. Prendergast, and K. Grillo (2017) Organic technology in the Pastoral Neolithic: osseous and eggshell artefacts from Luxmanda, Tanzania. Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences

Beyin, A., M. Prendergast, K. Grillo, and H. Wong (2017) New radiocarbon dates for terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene settlements in West Turkana, northern Kenya. Quaternary Science Reviews, 168:208-215.

D. Wright, K. Grillo, and R. Soper (2016). Stone cairns and material culture of the middle to late Holocene, Lake Turkana. Journal of African Archaeology, 14(2):209-222.

C. Ashley and K. Grillo (2015). Archaeological ceramics from eastern Africa: past approaches and future directions. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 50(4)460-480.

K. Grillo (2014). Pastoralism and Pottery Use: An Ethnoarchaeological Study in Samburu, Kenya. African Archaeological Review 31(2):105-130.

Prendergast, M., K. Grillo, A. Mabulla, and H. Wong (2014). New dates for Kansyore and Pastoral Neolithic ceramics in the Eyasi Basin, Tanzania. Journal of African Archaeology 12(1):89-98.

Prendergast, M., A. Mabulla, K. Grillo, L. Broderick, A. Gidna, O. Seitsonen, and D. Gifford-Gonzalez (2013). Pastoral Neolithic sites on the southern Mbulu Plateau, Tanzania. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48(4):498-520.

K. Grillo and E. Hildebrand (2013). The context of early megalithic architecture in eastern Africa: the Turkana Basin c. 5000-4000 BP. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48(2):193-217.

Hildebrand, E. and K. Grillo (2012). Early Herders and Monumental Sites in Eastern Africa: New Radiocarbon Dates. Antiquity 86(332):338-352.

Hildebrand, E., J. Shea, and K. Grillo (2011). Four Middle Holocene Pillar Sites in West Turkana, Kenya. Journal of Field Archaeology 36(3):181-200.

Marshall, F., K. Grillo, and L. Arco (2011). Prehistoric Pastoralists and Social Responses to Climatic Risk in East Africa. In Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural Persistence in an Ever-changing Environment, edited by N. Miller, K. Moore, and K. Ryan, pp. 39-74. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Series. Penn Press, Philadelphia.

Other Book Chapters and Book Reviews:

K. Grillo (2014). Book Review, Pastoralism in Africa: Past, Present, and Future. (M. Bollig, M. Schnegg, and H.-P. Wotzka, eds.), for Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa.

K. Grillo (2014). El pastoreo en África oriental (Pastoralism in eastern Africa). in La Cuna de la Humanidad (The Cradle of Humankind), official publication of the Museo Arqueológico Regional (Regional Archaeological Museum) at Olduvai, Tanzania, pp. 221-229, 305-307.