University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Anthropology

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Professor Stanley H Ambrose PhD

Professor of Anthropology, Center for African Studies, and Center for Global Studies

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  • Office:
    Department of Anthropology
    607 S Mathews Ave.
    M/C 148
    Urbana, IL 61801
  • Phone: (217)244-3504
  • Email:

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Office Hours

  • M/W 2:30-4:00

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Africa
  • Archaeology
  • Modern Human Origins
  • Stable Isotope Ecology and Paleoecology
  • Lithic Technology
  • Evolution of Human Diet
  • East Africa


  • PhD Berkeley, Anthropology, 1984
  • Post-doctoral Scholar, UCLA, 1984-85


  • African Prehistory (ANTH 448)
  • Analysis of Lithic Technology (ANTH 452)
  • History Of Archaeological Theory (ANTH 461)
  • History of Human Evolution (ANTH 242)
  • Research Design and Proposal Writing (ANTH 511)
  • Evolution of Humans and Culture (ANTH 102)
  • Archaeometry (ANTH 499SA)



  • Ambrose, Stanley H., Leslea Hlusko, and Mwanzia D. Kyule. Lemudong’o – Paleontology, Geology and Paleoecology of a Terminal Miocene Formation in Southwest Kenya. Cleveland: Kirtlandia (Cleveland Museum of Natural History), 2007.
  • Krigbaum, John, and Stanley H. Ambrose. Bone Chemistry and Bioarchaeology. 22 (3): 191-304: Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 2003.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H., and M. A. Katzenberg. Biogeochemical Approaches to Paleodietary Analysis. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum, 2000.

Book Contributions

  • "Obsidian hydration dating and source exploitation studies in Africa." The Dating and Provenance of Obsidian and Ancient Manufactured Glasses. Alberquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012. 56-72.
  • "The influence of environmental factors on enamel hypoplasia in domestic sheep and goats in southern Kenya Masailand." Tracking Down the Past; Ethnohistory meets archaeozoology. 2009.
  • WoldeGabriel, Giday, W. H. Gilbert, William K. Hart, Paul R. Renne, and Stanley H. Ambrose. "Geology and Geochronology." The Daka Member: A Unique Window into the Pleistocene of Africa. Comp. Berhane Asfaw. Ed. W. H. Gilbert. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. 13-43.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Raiders of the lost Art: Implications of rock art forgery at Lukenya Hill, Kenya, for cultural and natural heritage protection strategies." The Future of Africa’s Past: Proceedings of Rock Art Conference, 2004, Nairobi,. Nairobi: Trust for African Rock Art, 2007. 106-111.
  • Beehr, Dana, and Stanley H. Ambrose. "Were they what they cooked? Stable isotopic analysis of Mississippian pottery residues." We Are What We Eat: Archaeology, Food, and Identity. Ed. Katherine Twiss. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, 2007. 171-191.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Small things remembered: Origins of early microlithic industries in Subsaharan Africa.." Thinking Small: Global Perspectives on Microlithic Technologies. Ed. Robert Elston and Steven Kuhn. Washington, DC: Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, No 12, 2002. 9-29.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Middle and Later Stone Age settlement patterns in the central Rift Valley, Kenya: Comparisons and contrasts." Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age. Ed. Nicholas Conard. Tubingen: Kerns Verlag, 2001. 21-43.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Prospects for stable isotopic analysis of Later Pleistocene hominid diets in West Asia and Europe.." Origin of Neanderthals and Modern Humans in West Asia.. Comp. Takeru Akazawa, Kenichi Aoki, and Ofer Bar-Yosef. New York: Plenum, 1998. 277-289.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Isotopic analysis: Methodological and interpretive considerations." Investigations of Ancient Human Tissue: Chemical analyses in anthropology. Comp. Mary K. Sandford. New York: Gordon and Breach Scientific, 1993. 59-130.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H., and Lynette C. Norr. "Isotopic composition of dietary protein and energy versus bone collagen and apatite: purified diet growth experiments.." Molecular Archaeology of Prehistoric Human Bone. Comp. Joseph Lambert and Gisela Grupe. Berlin: Springer, 1993. 1-37.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H., and Karl G. Lorenz. "Social and ecological models for the Middle Stone Age in southern Africa." The Human Revolution: Behavioral and Biological Perspectives in the Origins of Modern Humans.. Comp. Paul Mellars. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990. 3-33.

Journal Articles

  • "Kangaroo tooth enamel oxygen and carbon isotope variation on a latitudinal transect in southern Australia: implications for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction." Oecologia 171 (2013):
  • "Seasonal variation in kangaroo tooth enamel oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in southern Australia." Quaternary Research (2012):
  • "Early MIS 3 occupation of Mochena Borago rockshelter, southwest Ethiopian highlands: Implications for Late Pleistocene archaeology, paleoenvironments and modern human dispersals." Quaternary International (2012):
  • "Reply to the Comment on ‘Environmental impact of the 73 ka Toba super-eruption in South Asia." Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (2010):
  • "The 74 ka Toba super-eruption and southern Indian hominins: archaeology, lithic technology and environments at Jwalapuram Locality 3." Journal of Archaeological Science (2010):
  • "Environmental impact of the Toba mega-eruption inferred from paleosol carbonate stable isotopes in central India." Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (2009):
  • Coleman, Magen E., Jeffrey R. Ferguson, David J. Robertson, and Stanley H. Ambrose. "A new look at the geochemistry of obsidian from East Africa." International Association of Obsidian Studies Bulletin 39 (2008): 11-14.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "A tool for all seasons." Science 314 (2006): 930-931.
  • White, Tim D., Giday WoldeGabriel, Berhane Asfaw, Stanley H. Ambrose, Yonas Bayene, Raymond L. Bernor, Jean-Renaud Boisserie, Brian Currie, Henry Gilbert, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, William K. Hart, Leslea J. Hlusko, F. C. Howell, Reiko T. Kono, Thomas Lehmann, Antoine Louchart, C. O. Lovejoy, Paul R. Renne, Haruo Saegusa, Elisabeth S. Vrba, Hank Wesselman, and Gen Suwa. "Asa Issie, Aramis, and the origin of Australopithecus." Nature 440 (2006): 883-889.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Howiesons Poort lithic raw material procurement patterns and the evolution of modern human behavior: A response to Minichillo (2006)." Journal of Human Evolution 50 (2006): 365-369.
  • Jim, Susan, Vickie Jones, Stanley H. Ambrose, and Richard P. Evershed. "Quantifying dietary macronutrient sources of carbon for bone collagen biosynthesis using natural abundance stable carbon isotope analysis." British Journal of Nutrition 95 (2006): 1055-1062.
  • Balasse, Marie, Anne Tresset, and Stanley H. Ambrose. "Stable carbon and oxygen isotope evidence for winter foddering of sheep with seaweed in the Neolithic of Scotland." Journal of Zoology 270 (2006): 170-176.
  • Hu, Yaowu, Stanley H. Ambrose, and Changsui Wang. "Stable isotopic analysis of human bones from Jiahu site, Henan, China: Implications for the transition to agriculture." Journal of Archaeological Science 33 (2006): 1319-1330.
  • Pechenkina, Ekatarina A., Stanley H. Ambrose, Xaolin Ma, and Robert A. Benfer. "Dietary changes in the Late Neolithic of northern China (Yangshao culture) based on carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios." Journal of Archaeological Science 32 (2005): 1176-1189.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Evidence of long-term seasonal climate forcing in rhizolith isotopes during the last glaciation." Geophysical Research Letters 31.13 (2004):
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Geoscience methods lead to paleo-anthropological discoveries in Afar Rift, Ethiopia." EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 85.20 (2004): 273-280.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Mio-Pliocene mammals from the Middle Awash." Ethiopia Geobios 37 (2004): 536-552.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Stable carbon isotopic evidence for differences in the dietary origin of bone cholesterol, collagen and apatite: implications for their use in palaeodietary reconstruction." Acta 68 (2004):
  • Balasse, Marie, Stanley H. Ambrose, Andrew B. Smith, and Steven R. Leigh. "Determining birth seasonality of prehistoric sheep by analysis of tooth enamel oxygen isotope ratios." Journal of Archaeological Science 30 (2003): 205-215.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Did the super-eruption of Toba cause a human population bottleneck? Reply to Gathorne-Hardy and Harcourt-Smith." Journal of Human Evolution 45 (2003): 231-237.
  • "Paleolithic Technology and Human Evolution." Science 291 (2001): 1748-1753.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Chronology of the Later Stone Age and food production in East Africa." Journal of Archaeological Science 25 (1998): 377-392.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic winter, and the differentiation of modern humans." Journal of Human Evolution 34 (1998): 623-651.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H., and Nancy E. Sikes. "Soil carbon isotope evidence for Holocene habitat change in the Kenya Rift Valley." Science 253 (1991): 1402-1405.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Effects of diet, climate and physiology on nitrogen isotope abundances in terrestrial foodwebs.." Journal of Archaeological Science 17 (1990): 431-451.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Preparation and characterization of bone and tooth collagen for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis." Journal of Archaeological Science 17 (1990): 431-451.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "Reconstruction of African human diet using bone collagen carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios." Nature 319 (1986): 321-324.
  • Ambrose, Stanley H., and Michael J. DeNiro. "The isotopic ecology of East African mammals.." Oecologia 69 (1986): 395-406.

Encyclopedia Entries

  • Ambrose, Stanley H. "East African Neolithic." Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Vol. 1, Africa. New York: Kluwer Academic, 2001.

Works in Progress

  • 1. THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF MODERN HUMAN ORIGINS IN EAST AFRICA. We are investigating the chronology of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) by dating volcanic ashes in archaeological sites in the Kenya Rift Valley in collaboration with Mwanzia D. Kyule, Mulu Muia (U. Nairobi), Martin A.J. Williams (U. Adelaide, Alan Deino (Berkeley Geochronology Center) and Ian Steele (U. Chicago). Several sites document the Acheulean to MSA, and MSA to LSA transitions.
  • 3. LATE PLEISTOCENE HUMAN POPULATION HISTORY AND CLIMATE CHANGE. The penultimate ice age and abrupt climate changes at the beginning of the last ice age, particularly the supereruption of Toba (Sumatra), may have caused several severe bottlenecks in African human populations. Environmental stresses may have promoted the evolution of social cooperation that facilitated subsequent dispersals out of Africa. These dispersals may have resulted in additional population bottlenecks in the populations that left Africa during the early last glacial. Evidence for changes in social and territorial organization in Africa during the last Ice Age is being obtained from our current fieldwork in Kenya.
  • 2. OBSIDIAN SOURCE SURVEY IN KENYA. We are currently studying the evolution of macro-regional exchange networks by obsidian artifact source and MSA and Early LSA artifact chemistry in collaboration with Jeffrey Ferguson and Michael Glascock of the University of Missouri Research Reactor Archaeometry Laboratory. Electron microprobe analysis of sources is being performed by UIUC graduate student Philip Slater in the UIUC Geology Department Microprobe Lab, directed by Professor Craig Lundstrom. Philip Slater, and John Munyiri (National Museums of Kenya) are participating in source collection and artifact assemblage sampling.
  • 4. GLACIAL REFUGIUM IN SW ETHIOPIA. The impact of last glacial climate changes on the distribution of human population refugia in southern Ethiopia is being studied by isotopic analysis of paleosols along an altitude transect from the upper Omo Valley to Mt. Damota in Wolayta Province in collaboration with a team led by Steve Brandt (U. Florida) and Elizabeth Hidebrand (SUNY Stony Brook). UIUC graduate student Yu Dong (Doreen) is preparing samples for carbon isotope analysis.
  • 6. RECONSTRUCTING EARLY ETHIOPIAN HOMINID ENVIRONMENTS WITH STABLE ISOTOPES. We are using carbon and oxygen isotopes of fossil soils and herbivore tooth enamel to reconstruct terminal Miocene through Pleistocene hominid habitats in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia, with the research team directed by Tim White (Berkeley) and Giday WoldeGabriel (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Plio-Pleistocene sites in Konso, Ethiopia, with the research team led by Gen Suwa (Tokyo), Shigehiro Kato (Hyogo Museum), Japan, and Yonas Beyene (ARCCH) and Berhane Asfaw (Rift Valley Research Services), Ethiopia. We are testing models of the relationship between the appearance of grasslands and the evolution of bipedalism, and patterns of seasonal variation in diet and climate, in order to test “variability selection” models in human evolution.
  • 5. TOBA ASH AND PALEOSOL ISOTOPES IN INDIA. The impact of the Toba eruption on the landscape of central peninsular India is being studied by isotopic analysis of paleosols stratified above and below the volcanic ash in collaboration with Martin A.J. Williams (U. Adelaide), Parth Chauhan (Stone Age Institute, Indiana U), and Umesh Chattopadhyaya and Jagganath Pal (U. Allahabad), and another team led by Michael Petraglia (Cambridge) in southern India.
  • 8. ENVIRONMENTAL ISOTOPE PALEOBIOGEOCHEMISTRY LABORATORY. The laboratory is equipped for preparing bones, teeth, soft tissues, plants, carbonized potsherd residues, soils and shells for carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopic analysis. Our Finnegan MAT 252 mass spectrometer permits automated analyses of sub-milligram samples of organic matter, and carbonates, and analysis of incremental growth structures. Current research projects include investigating pastoral herd management strategies in Kenya, South Africa, Scotland, and Iran determining pastoral site function and structure in Kenya, pottery functions in eastern North America, and human subsistence strategies in the USA, China, Peru, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Israel, Denmark, highland Mexico and elsewhere.
  • 9. STRONTIUM ISOTOPE ANALYSIS OF TRADE, EXCHANGE, MOBILITY AND TRANSHUMANCE. Analyses of bones, teeth and shells are being performed in the UIUC Geology department ICP-MS laboratory (Nu Instruments multi-collector mass spectrometer) directed by Craig Lundstrom and Tom Johnson, to investigate transhumance, mobility, trade and exchange patterns, including elephant ivory in East Africa (Ashley Cotou, York U.), ostrich eggshell beads of the Kalahari San (Polly Wiessner, U. Utah, Marina Sergeyeva, UIUC), humans in Ghana (Abbie Thompson, Wash. U.), Middle Woodland of eastern North America (Dana Beehr, UIUC), and stock exchange patterns in the Thukela Valley, South Africa (Elizabeth Arnold, SSRC Canada Post-doctoral scholar, UIUC).
  • 7. GEOLOGY AND PALEOECOLOGY OF TERMINAL MIOCENE FOSSIL SITES IN SOUTHWEST KENYA. Fossil-bearing sediments of a paleolake basin dating to 6-5.8 million years, named the Lemudong’o Formation, have been studied with a team led by Leslea Hlusko (Berkeley), in collaboration with Christopher Nyamai and Eliud Mathu (Geology, U. Nairobi), Martin A.J. Williams (U. Adelaide) and Alan Deino (Berkeley Geochronology Center), and many paleontological specialists with support from the Revealing Hominid Origins Initiative (NSF-HOMINID) program directed by Tim White and F. Clark Howell (Berkeley). Research to 2006 is summarized in Kirtlandia vol. 57 (2007).