Dr Matiu Prebble

ARC Research Fellow

Expertise: Palaeoecology, Palynology, Pacific Island Biogeography

Visit Dr Matiu Prebble’s academia.com website page

Contact: matthew.prebble@anu.edu.au

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga

PhD Student: 2002-2006

Research interests:
Human impact on island environments; microbotanical and macrobotanical remains; palynology; ancient plant DNA, sediment stratigraphy, taphonomy, 14C AMS dating of pollen and phytolith concentrates; Indo-Pacific history, ethnobotany, environmental history and plant biogeography; environmental restoration.

Current research projects:
2008-2009: Australian Research Council Discovery Award to M. Prebble and N. Porch. Title: Using fossil insects and plants to trace the initial colonization of humans in Remote Oceania.

Sub-fossil Pritchardia palm fruits from Tubuai, French Polynesia, March 2008

2007-2008: Joint NZ Marsden and Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Post-Doctoral Fellowship funded project researching the use of stratified rat gnawed seeds to detect the initial human colonisation of Pacific islands.

Modern rat-gnawed Elaeocarpus floridanus seeds from Mangaia, Cook Islands, April 2008.

2006: Archaeobotany in Papua New Guinea / ongoing research

Survey of recently cut drainage ditch, Kosipe, Owen Stanley Range, Central Province Papua New Guinea, December 2007

Since 2006, I have been working with Prof Glen Summerhayes (Otago), Prof. Geoff Hope (ANU), Dr Matt Leavesley (UPNG) and Dr Andy Fairbairn (UQ) exploring the rich plant-human relationships unique to Papua New Guinea. Under the umbrella of a number research projects funded by NZ Marsden, ARC and more recently RIHN (Japan) we have been aiming to clarify some of the key issues in archaeobotany concerning both Pleistocene and Holocene plant use.

Teaching interests
Archaeology and human impact on islands, Asia-Pacific environmental history, the geography and archaeology of plant domestication, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, botanical introductions and extinctions, invasive species ecology, archaeobotany; sediment stratigraphy, geomorphology, taphonomy.

Courses taught at the Australian National University:
ARCH 2108 Animals, plants and people: co-lecturer with Prof Colin Groves (course co-ordinator)
This course explores the archaeology of animal and plant domestication. My role is exploring the major geographical centers of plant domestication. I ask what is domestication? What contrasts and similarities exist in the plants and the cultures that have led to the domesticated relationships? When is an economic plant a domesticate?

Recommended texts for the plant section of this course are:

  • Zeder, M.A,. D.G. Bradley, E. Emshwiller, B.D. Smith (eds) 2006 Documenting domestication: new genetic and archaeological paradigms. University of California Press.
  • Bellwood, P.S 2005 The first farmers. Blackwell Publishing
  • Tannahill, R. 1988. Food in history. Penguin
  • Prebble, M., Denham T. (eds) Forthcoming Archaeobotany in practice: understanding the past, people and plants in Australasia. ANGA


2006: PhD (Archaeology and Natural History) Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Australia Thesis title: Islands, floras and history: an environmental history of plant introduction and extinction on the Austral Islands (French Polynesia).
2001: Master of Science (Geology) School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Thesis title: A phytolith analysis-based paleoenvironmental interpretation of the Lower Taieri Plain, Otago, New Zealand.
1998: Batchelor of Science BSc Honours (Botany and Ecology) School of Biological Sciences Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Representative and most recent refereed articles:
Prebble, M., J. Wilmshurst In press. Detecting the initial impact of humans and introduced species on island environments in Remote Oceania using palaeoecology. Biological Invasions
Kennett, D., A. Anderson, M. Prebble, E. Conte, and J. Southon. 2006. Environmental consequences of colonization and fortification on Rapa, French Polynesia. Antiquity. 80: 340-354.
Prebble, M., R. Sim, J. Finn, and D. Fink. 2005. A Holocene pollen and diatom record from lowland tropical Australia. Quaternary Research 64: 357-371
Prebble, M. and J. Shulmeister. 2002. An analysis of phytolith assemblages for the quantitative reconstruction of late Quaternary environments of the Lower Taieri Plain, Otago, South Island, New Zealand II. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Journal of Paleolimnology 27: 415-427

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