Dr Joshua James Emmitt

2010 - BA(Hons), 2011 - MA, 2017 Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, School of Social Sciences, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Profile Image
Research Fellow

Research | Current

Phd Thesis: Looking past presence and absence: An examination of socio-economic variability in middle Holocene Egypt through pottery analysis

In the past the socio-economy of middle Holocene Egypt was interpreted based on the presence or absence of material correlates including structures, stone tools, pottery, and domesticated plants and animals. Together these formed the traits of a Neolithic Package that were thought to spread from southwest Asia to Egypt during the middle Holocene. Modern research now shows that the traits attributed to the Neolithic Package did not develop uniformly over time and space, so the package concept is less useful. Contemporary approaches focus on processes to interpret socio-economy, such as occupation duration, mobility, and exchange. These are measured through analysis of material culture such as stone artefacts and the placement of features on a landscape. However, more examples are required that use material culture types that are abundant and preserve well, such as pottery. Past research has focused on a small proportion of pottery assemblages, typically whole vessels and decorated sherds, both used to form typologies and identify cultural groupings. Similarities in decorative styles or vessel forms is used to infer movement between different cultural groups. However, these culture-historical interpretations mean that large volumes of un-diagnostic sherds are disregarded for analysis. My research uses non-destructive methods, such as x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and fragmentation ratios, to analyse all artefacts in pottery assemblages to understand the impact of the processes noted above. XRF analysis is used to identify the geochemical signatures of the materials used in pottery manufacture. This enables the identification of pottery that is not likely locally made and so provides a proxy for movement. The differential fragmentation of pottery is used in estimates of how many vessels the sherds in an assemblage represent and so provides a means for assessing occupation duration. Pottery from several places in Egypt that date to the middle Holocene are compared. Results suggest movement between locations beyond what was previously inferred in culture-historical interpretations. These results are interpreted in the wider North African context.


  • Photo competition winner, 64th Conference for the New Zealand Archaeological Association, 27-30 November 2018, Auckland
  • Best Student Poster, 62nd Conference for the New Zealand Archaeological Association, 22-25 June 2016, Blenheim
  • Arts Impact Poster Presentation Award, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, September 2015.
  • Catherine Southwell-Keely Travel Grant, Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, University of Sydney, February 2014.
  • Senior Prize in Ancient History, University of Auckland, December 2009.

Areas of expertise

Archaeology, GIS, Photogrammetry, Ceramic analysis, pXRF

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

HSB - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 8, Room 836
New Zealand

Social links

Web links