Ph.D. – University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014
Evolutionary and Ecological Theory, Coastal and Island Archaeology (New World: California, Mesoamerica), Environmental Archaeology, Foraging and Proto-agricultural Societies, Foodways, Paleoethnobotany, Zooarchaeology, Archaeometry, Archaeological Curation & Collections Management.
Current Research Projects:
I am a prehistoric archaeologist with a focus on the evolutionary ecology of ancient coastal foraging and proto-agricultural societies in the New World. My research broadly bridges the land and sea, or more correctly, examines how humans in the past adapted to coastal environments.
My research is data-intensive and draws on my technical expertise in paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, and multi-isotope geochemistry, as well as quantitative evaluation of the diverse data derived from such analyses. Relying on these methods, I emphasize the study of prehistoric foodways as a critical window into the past, allowing us to evaluate all manner of human and environmental interactions within an explicitly ecological framework.
My work on the Northern Channel Islands of California has focused on macro-demographic changes within ancient Chumash populations through integrated analysis of foodways, reproductive ecology, and foraging behavior. My continuing Channel Islands research investigates demographic and social-political shifts in light of complex, human-plant-animal interactions and climate-induced environmental change facilitating greater understanding of hunter-gatherer socio-economic variation, adaptation, and resilience.
Within the context of long-term entanglements between humans, foodways, and the natural environment, I also focus on the intensification of food production throughout Mesoamerica. I recently completed pilot research along the Soconusco coast of Chiapas, Mexico gathering baseline data for a multi-year, interdisciplinary field research program focused on the role of natural disasters and food insecurity in Archaic and Formative economies. This project seeks to evaluate the role of stochastic natural environmental perturbations (i.e. volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding) as they inform the integration of cultigens as a part of a mixed foraging/farming economy and fundamentally contributes to understanding how ecological risk shapes human behavior.
I am also continuing research collaboration on the analysis of well-preserved desiccated plant remains recovered from the El Gigante rockshelter in Honduras aimed at reconstructing incipient arboriculture, field crop intensification, and evolving foodways that shaped the tropical forests and cultural developments of Mesoamerica throughout the Holocene (11,400-1500 cal BC).
More broadly I strive to develop research that contributes to broad discussions superseding traditional disciplinary boundaries, including efforts to reconstruct Late Holocene nearshore marine paleothermal patterning and upwelling, to refine our understanding of prehistoric anthropogenic impacts on marine invertebrates, and contribute new data regarding ocean acidification and the effects of sea surface temperature variation on vulnerable intertidal populations.
ANTH 421: Museums and their Function
ANTH 484: Internships in Anthropology
ANTH 637: Paleoethnobotany
Selected and Recent Publications:
2016 Thakar, Heather B., Michael A. Glassow, and Carol A. Blanchette (In Press) “The Forest and the Trees: Small-Scale Ecological Variability and Archaeological Interpretations of Temporal Changes in California Mussel Shell Size.” Quaternary International, special issue entitled “Methodological issues in Archaeomalacological Studies”, edited by Antonieta Jerardino and Patrick Faulkner. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.08.031
2016 Thakar, Heather B., Michael A. Glassow, and Carol A. Blanchette (In Press) “Reconsidering Evidence of Human Impacts: Implications of Within-Site Variation of Growth Rates in Mytilus californianus along Tidal Gradients.” Quaternary International, special issue entitled “Methodological issues in Archaeomalacological Studies”, edited by Antonieta Jerardino and Patrick Faulkner. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2015.10.018
2016 Thakar, Heather B. “Foraging Ancient Landscapes: Seasonal and Spatial Variation in Prehistoric Exploitation of Plant and Animal Food Resources on Santa Cruz Island, California.” Journal of California and Great Basin Archaeology, 36:1, special issue on California Paleoethnobotany edited by Seetha Reddy and Eric Wohlegemuth.
2016 VanDerwarker, Amber M., Dana N. Bardolph, Kristen M. Hoppa, Heather B. Thakar, Lana S. Martin, Allison Jaqua, Matthew E. Biwer, and Kristina M. Gill “New World Paleoethnobotany in the New Millennium (2000-2013).” Journal of Archaeological Research, 24(2):125-177.
2014 Thakar, Heather B. “Sites Forlorn: Dating Intervals of Abandonment at Three Shell Middens on Santa Cruz Island, California using Bayesian Chronological Models.” Journal of Archaeological Science 52:633-634.
2012 Glassow, Michael A., Heather B. Thakar, and Douglas J. Kennett “Red Abalone Collecting and Marine Water Temperature during the Middle Holocene Occupation of Santa Cruz Island, California.” Journal of Archaeological Science 39(10):2574-2582.
2011 Thakar, Heather B. “Intensification of Shellfish Exploitation: Evidence of Species-Specific Deviation from Traditional Expectations.” Journal of Archaeological Science 38(10): 2596- 2605.