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Assistant Professor
Office: Turlington Hall, Room B346
Phone: 352-294-6880


  • Ph.D. Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University, 2007
  • M.S. Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University, 2005
  • M.A. Latin American Studies, Stanford University, 1998
  • B.A. Religion/Latin American Studies, Amherst College, 1996

Research Interests

Geoarchaeology, geospatial archaeology, past human-environment interactions, Andean archaeology

Personal Statement

I am an anthropological geoarchaeologist interested in human-environment interactions, particularly anthropogenic components of dynamic landscapes and environmental change.  My research currently includes both field-based and modeling projects in Peru, Utah, Jordan, France, and Greece, where I examine landscape change and its relationship to long-term human occupation, looking at the ways in which humans have both adapted to and caused environmental changes.

My field projects include investigations of:

  • long-term culture-climate interactions in the Chicama Valley on the north coast of Peru,
  • the effects of landscape taphonomy on use of archaeological radiocarbon assemblages as population proxies in Utah’s Bonneville Basin,
  • landscape engineering that formed part of the early ceremonial complex of Chavín de Huántar in Peru, and
  • the environmental contexts of early experimentation with agriculture in Jordan’s Wadi al-Hasa (at the Neolithic sites of el-Hemmeh and Sharara).

My work on digital and quantitative modeling focuses on understanding the consequences of environmental change at human spatial and temporal scales.  Using spatially-explicit modeling to integrate archaeological, geoarchaeological, and paleoenvironmental data, I work to understand both the effects of changing climates on human communities and the long-term legacies of anthropogenic environmental changes.  My research in Jordan, for example, maps fragmented paleosurfaces in order to reconstruct Early Holocene landscapes, model early experiments with cultivation and domestication, and assess human landscape impacts in the early Neolithic.  In Provence I use a variety of modeling approaches to explore the impacts of Holocene climate changes on potential agricultural productivity and use GIS and other tools to analyze settlement patterns for evidence of those impacts.

Past projects include:

  • landscapes of long-term resource extraction (at the Quispisisa obsidian source in the Peruvian Central Andes and at the Stélida chert source on the Greek island of Naxos,
  • development of methods for quantifying the damage done by looting of archaeological sites, with test cases in Jordan and Peru, and
  • exploration of simulated data to evaluate the use of summed probability distributions from assemblages of 14C dates as population proxies.

I have been a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Ecosystem Research at CAU Kiel in Germany, a postdoctoral research fellow in the interdisciplinary LabEx OT-Med at Aix-Marseille Université in France, and an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland.

Positions and Honors

Positions and Employment

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Maryland
  • Postdoctoral research fellow, LabEx OT-Med, Aix-Marseille Université, France
  • Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Ecosystem Research, CAU Kiel, Germany

Other Experience and Professional Memberships


Selected Publications

2019  Contreras, Daniel A., Alberte Bondeau, Joël Guiot, Alan Kirman, Eneko Hiriart, Loup Bernard, Romain Suarez, and Marianela Fader. “From Paleoclimate Variables to Prehistoric Agriculture: Using a Process-Based Agroecosystem Model to Simulate the Impacts of Holocene Climate Change on Potential Agricultural Productivity in Provence, France.” In Kluiving, Sjoerd, ed.  Geoarchaeology Approaches and Methods: Special Issue of Quaternary International 501B:303-316.

2018  Contreras, Daniel A., Eneko Hiriart, Alberte Bondeau, Alan Kirman, Joël Guiot, Loup Bernard, Romain Suarez, and Sander Van Der Leeuw. “Regional Paleoclimates and Local Consequences: Integrating GIS Analysis of Diachronic Settlement Patterns and Process-Based Agroecosystem Modeling of Potential Agricultural Productivity in Provence (France).” PLOS One.

2018  Contreras, Daniel A., Joël Guiot, Romain Suarez, and Alan Kirman.  “Reaching The Human Scale: A Spatial and Temporal Downscaling Approach To The Archaeological Implications Of Paleoclimate Data.” Journal of Archaeological Science 93:54-67.

2017  Contreras, Daniel A., ed. The Archaeology of Human-Environment Interactions: Strategies for Investigating Anthropogenic Landscapes, Dynamic Environments, and Climate Change in the Human Past. Routledge Studies in Archaeology.

2015  Contreras, Daniel A., “Landscape Setting as Medium of Communication at Chavín de Huántar, Peru.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25(2):1-17.

2014  Contreras, Daniel A. and John Meadows. “Summed Radiocarbon Calibrations as a Population Proxy: A Critical Evaluation Using a Realistic Simulation Approach.” Journal of Archaeological Science 52:591-608.

More Publications Available on Google Scholar

Contribution to Science

Research Support

Ongoing Research Support

  • National Science Foundation Grant (PI with Brian Codding, co-PI) Collaborative Research: Improved Taphonomic Correction of Past Population Dynamics (Award 1921013)
  • National Science Foundation Grant (co-PI with Ben Vining [PI] and Aubrey Hilman [co-PI]) Collaborative Research: Coupling and Cohesion as Factors Affecting Vulnerability to Abrupt Climate Change (Award 1847131)

Completed Research Support (within the past three years)


Courses Taught

  • Global Prehistory: Postglacial Environments and the Origins of Food Production
  • Data Analysis for Archaeology
  • Archaeological Perspectives on the Anthropocene