Professor Karen Hardy
- Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology (Archaeology)
I completed my PhD in 1993 at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.
I spent the following 12 years working on projects to recover evidence for Mesolithic occupation in the north west coast of Scotland. During this time, I also took care of my 5 small children.
In 2005, I was awarded an EU Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship at the University of Sydney, with the return phase at the University of York.
This was completed in 2008 and I was offered a position as an ICREA Research Professor. ICREA is the acronym for the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. I remained at ICREA until October 2022.
In 2022, I was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant of €2.5m and offered my current position in Glasgow. Sadly, the UK government did not sign the collaboration agreement that was required for the ERC to continue to allow their projects to be based in the UK. I therefore had to resign my ERC project in order to return home. Fortunately, the UKRI has provided matched funding for all 2022 ERC grantees who wished to be based in the UK, so that we can keep our projects. I will be based in Glasgow for the duration of this project, until 2027.
My research is focused on early prehistoric periods before the emergence of farming. Specifically, I study the use of plants as food and medicine in pre-agrarian and non-agrarian populations as well as twisted fibre technology for string and rope making.
I also study pioneer populations, human adaptations, use of land and seascapes – including intertidal and submerged landscapes – and the paleoenvironment of the north-west European Atlantic coastline from the Late Pleistocene to to the mid Holocene. At this time, sea levels were lower than today, and north-west Scotland represented part of the north-westerly limit of the European continental landmass.
POWERFUL PLANTS. The Power of Plants as Food, Medicine and Raw Materials Before Agriculture.
2022 – 2027. UKRI ERC Advanced Replacement Fund. Originally awarded €2.5m, this was replaced in full by a UKRI award to enable the project to be based in the UK.
This project will use archaeological evidence, supported by experimental archaeology and ethnographic data, to investigate the social, cultural and genetic roles of the human use of plants before farming. Plants are essential to our physical, psychological and physiological wellbeing providing us with energy, nutrients, medicines and raw materials. The depth of the human connection to plants suggests this has always been the case. Yet the role of plants before the emergence of agriculture around 10,000 years ago is virtually unknown. This project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to investigate three areas - food, medicine and technology - in which use of plants was pivotal in shaping human trajectories, with implications that are still evident today
Pioneer human populations in the Isle of Skye from the Late Upper Palaeolithic to the Late Mesolithic.
Funded by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, The Prehistoric Society and private donations.
There are few traces of the earliest people to reach north Britain before the Late Mesolithic period but over the past few years evidence has emerged suggesting that members of different cultural groups ventured across Doggerland, most probably following herds of reindeer and reached what is today Scotland both during the Late Glacial Interstadial and the subsequent cold period known locally as the Loch Lomond Readvance. The north-west coast is particularly important in the search for the earliest evidence of these northern British pioneer populations due to low levels of industrialisation. The Isle of Skye and surrounding areas have revealed a concentration of sites from this time.
PRESS COVERAGE (SUMMARY)
- Popular Science ‘We’re surprisingly good at surviving amputations’
- BYU radio, USA. ‘Constant Wonder’. 30 minute radio interview. http://www.byuradio.org/constant-wonder
- NHK (Japan) The Origin of Food. Episode 1 (In Japanese). Carbohydrates (Specialist contributor in Israel, Cantabria and Barcelona). Around 20 million viewers.
- 3.4.19. ‘Two million year old toothache may have killed an early human’. New Scientist. Invited Expert Comment. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2198666-two-million-year-old-toothache-may-have-killed-an-early-human/
- ‘Expert commentator’ The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/neanderthal-medicine/573028/
- Extensive international press coverage 2017 ‘Diet and Environment’ article and ‘Nature’ article
- 2016 Extensive Spanish press coverage of 2016 Antiquity article.
- 2016 Tolerance of smoke may have given us an edge over Neanderthals. New Scientist, 2nd August 2016 https://www.newscientist.com/article/2099655-tolerance-of-smoke-may-have-given-us-an-edge-over-neanderthals/
- 2015, Reports based on QRB article (Hardy et al., 2015b) included in the BBC '100 things we didn't know last year' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35132976
- 2015. Worldwide coverage of QRB article. Summarised in: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mace-lab/media/our-research/real-paleo-diet.
- Many radio and magazine interviews; e.g. 15 radio interviews on Breakfast show across Canada on QRB article.
- Worldwide coverage of QI Qesem Cave article: e.g. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/06/17/oldest-evidence-of-manmade-air-pollution-found-in-dental-plaque-from-palaeolithic-israel/
- Hardy, K., La placa dental aporta una perspectiva nova sobre la dieta dels nostres ancestres prehistòrics UAB Divulga October.
- 2014 Numerous interviews and articles related to PLOS ONE article (2014) including National Geographic, El Mundo, Voice of America, New York Times, BBC East, BBC 5 Live, Dental Tribune International, Haaretz, Israel, Voice of America, National Public Radio Washington DC.
- 2013 Neanderthal self-medication in context article was the subject of a Der Spiegel article
- Numerous interviews and articles related to Naturwissenschaften article (Hardy et al, 2012), in newspapers, journals, magazines including Nature, National Geographic, New Scientist, Scientific American and across the world (e.g. Russia, Australia, Mexico, Argentina and throughout Europe) in many languages, Spanish TV coverage (various), Spanish radio live interviews, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 ‘Material World’.
- Hardy et al., 2012. The Academic Minute 2ND USA Radio show: http://wamc.org/post/dr-karen-hardy-autonomous-university-barcelona-neanderthals-and-medicinal-plants
- Hardy et al., 2012 selected as one of the 10 most important archaeological discoveries of 2012, Archaeological Institute of America.
- ‘Expert’ commentator, in Barras C., Farming has deep roots in Chinese Ice Age. New Scientist, 18th March 2013
- 2005 – 2011 Participated in several BBC Radio 4 programmes including Open Country (interviewed in Skye), and several BBC food programmes.
BBC Scotland. The Skye Trail (Triple Echo Productions).