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Morell-Hart Shanti, Assistant Professor

photo of Shanti Morell-Hart

Shanti Morell-Hart

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

McMaster Paleoethnobotanical Research Facility (MPERF)

Area(s) of Interest:


My research centers on gastronomic heritage, the origins and impacts of agriculture in the development of societies, contributions of plants to ritualized activity, the range and diversity of botanical practices, and transformations in human-environment dynamics. I am firmly committed to multidisciplinary approaches to human problems, both past and present, and the dynamic role of ethnobotanical and spatial research in this endeavor. Methodologically, I employ paleoethnobotany, archival research, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling. I also incorporate linguistic approaches to practice and foodways, charting the dynamic language of ethnobotanical activity in production, reproduction, and transformation. I particularly focus on narratives of "collapse" and resilience as related to human negotiations of ecological variability.

Currently, I am engaged in research in Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo), Honduras, and Guatemala. I am also completing a book titled Gastronomic Heritage: Stakes in Antiquity (McGill-Queen's University Press) that investigates the role of archaeogastronomy in narratives of food security, revitalization, and resilience. I explore the ways that gastronomic heritage is established through ties to ancient foodways and contextualized through modern conceptions of health, sustainability, and identity.

Methodologically, my work employs a multi-pronged approach to human-plant practice. I extract botanical residues from diverse loci including ceramic vessels, stone implements, and sediments, to analyze macroremains and microremains (seeds, phytoliths, and starch grains). I compare these results with historic and ethnographic narratives, and modeled geographic patterns. The use of GIS allows me to explore the spatial dimension of ethnobotanical practice, in the way that the use of paleoethnobotany allows me to explore the botanical dimension of placemaking.

I am also the director of the McMaster Paleoethnobotanical Research Facility (MPERF), a state-of-the-art laboratory made possible through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding.  These facilities are available for extractions, identifications, and analyses of botanical residues from Mesoamerica and Ontario.

I am currently accepting graduate applications for 2019-2020 in both the MA (1-year and 2-year program students) and PhD programs in Anthropology. My teaching and supervisory interests include: foodways, ethnoecology, paleoethnobotanical analysis, spatial analysis, Mesoamerica, ancient history, and gastronomic heritage.


Search course offerings in Anthropology


Courses (2018-19)


  • ANTHROP 3AS3 - Archaeology and Society
  • ANTHROP 3K03 - Archaeological Interpretation


  • ANTHROP 2PA3 - Introduction to Anthropological Archaeology
  • ANTHROP 4AA3 - Materiality, Matter and Social Lives

Courses (2017-18)


  • ANTHROP 3BB3 - Paleoethnobotany
  • ANTHROP 749 - Gastronomic Heritage


  • ANTHROP 2BB3 - Ancient Mesoamerica: Aztecs to Zapotecs
  • ANTHROP 4CC3 - Archaeology of Foodways





Farahani, Alan, Katherine L. Chiou, Rob Q. Cuthrell, Anna Harkey, Shanti Morell-Hart, Christine A. Hastorf, and Payson D. Sheets
2017   Exploring Culinary Practices through GIS Modeling at Joya de Cerén, El Salvador. In Social Perspectives from Environmental Archaeology Data: Food, Place, and PeopleMaria Bruno and Matthew Sayre, editors.  Springer.

Luna Erreguerena, Pilar, James C. Chatters, Dominique Rissolo, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Deborah Bolnick, Shanti Morell-Hart, Patricia A. Beddows, Eduard Reinhardt, Alberto Nava-Blank, Alejandro Alvarez, Franco Attolini,  and Roberto Chávez-Arce
2017  Hoyo Negro: Un Sitio Prehistórico en Quintana Roo.  In Investigación, Conservación, y Manejo del Patrimonio Cultural Sumergido en México.  Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH).  Distrito Federal, México.

Chatters, James C., Dominique Rissolo, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Thomas W. Stafford, Jr., Brian M. Kemp, Alejandro Alvarez, Alberto Nava-Blank, Franco Attolini, Patricia A. Beddows, Eduard Reinhardt, Shawn Kovacs, Shawn Collins, Shanti Morell-Hart, Roberto Chávez-Arce, Susan Bird, and Pilar Luna Erreguerena
2017    Hoyo Negro: Tapping the Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Potential of a Deeply Submerged, Underground Chamber on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. In The Archaeology of Underwater Caves.  Peter Campbell, Editor.  Oxbow Books.

Herlich, Jessica and Shanti Morell-Hart
2015   Visualization and Collaborative Practice in Paleoethnobotany.  The SAA Archaeological Record 15(4):24-30.

Morell-Hart, Shanti
2015   The Scene of Disciplined Seeing.  Then Dig

Morell-Hart, Shanti
2015     Paleoethnobotanical Analysis, Post-Processing.  Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany.  Jade D'Alpoim Guedes, John Marston, and Christina Warinner, editors. University Press of Colorado. 

Chatters, James C., Douglas J. Kennett, Yemane Asmerom, Brian M. Kemp, Victor Polyak, Alberto Nava Blank, Patricia Beddows, Eduard Reinhart, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Deborah A. Bolnik, Ripan S. Malhi, Brendan Culleton, Pilar Luna Erreguerena, Shanti Morell-Hart, Dominique Rissolo, and Thomas W. Stafford
2014    Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Links Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans.  Science 344(6185), 16 May 2014.

Morell-Hart, Shanti, Rosemary A. Joyce and John S. Henderson
2014     Multi-proxy Analysis of Plant Use at Formative Period Los Naranjos, Honduras.  Latin American Antiquity 25(1). 

Morehart, Christopher and Shanti Morell-Hart
2013    Beyond the Ecofact: Toward a Social Paleoethnobotany in Mesoamerica. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory20(3).

Morell-Hart, Shanti
2012     Foodways and Resilience under Apocalyptic Conditions.  Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) 34(2).