Patrick Roberts

Research & Institution

Institutional Contact

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Department of Archaeology

Kahlaische Str. 10,

07745 Jena,



As Group Leader of the Stable Isotope Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, I am committed to innovatively applying stable isotope methods to questions of past human climate, environment, diet and mobility. This has led me to publishing international peer-reviewed publications in a variety of archaeological research contexts: from reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions in East and South Africa, South Asia, and Saudi Arabia associated with Pleistocene human habitation of these regions to dietary complexities in 18th and 19th century historical populations.

My main theoretical interest revolves around the importance of tropical forests to human history. Once considered 'pristine' or 'unattractive' to pre-industrial human occupation we now know that they have a long and diverse history of interaction with populations of hunter-gatherers, farmers, and even urban dwellers. I have undertaken fieldwork around the tropical world and published a number of papers focusing on rehabilitating tropical forests as key sites of our global human story. Summarising this work I recently wrote the book, 'Tropical Forests in Prehistory, History, and Modernity' published with Oxford University Press.

I also believe it is important that our understanding is brought to bear on the present and I have taken part in UNESCO symposia that bring together archaeologists and anthropologists, alongside policy makers and interest groups, to discuss potential solutions for the conservation of ecological and cultural heritage in global tropical forest environments. I currently lead the ERC funded PANTROPOCENE project which seeks to determine when past human activities in tropical forests began to have feedbacks on the earth system, leaving legacies for sustainability and landscape use in the 21st century.

Awards & Affiliations


Beutenberg Campus Award for Best Young Scientist

PAST Paper Award and PanAfrican Archaeological Association Best Paper Award

Invited Member of the Editorial Board of Quaternary International and the International Quaternary Association