An Interview with Anneke Janzen, the Cotsen Institute's New Postdoctoral Scholar

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how your life led you to archaeology?

I’ve always been interested in animals and their bones, and I’m pretty sure this dates back to a 2nd grade school project that involved “excavating” chicken bones from a sandbox. During my undergrad years at UC Berkeley, I had many opportunities to pursue those interests by volunteering at the UC Museum of Paleontology, and working at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Human Evolution Research Center while I completed a BA in Anthropology and Integrative Biology. I took a zooarchaeology class in my fourth year and was hooked- there was no turning back! 

Could you tell us a bit about your research interests/PhD thesis?

My research centers on the emergence and spread of pastoralism in East Africa. I explore these questions through the analysis of livestock remains from archaeological sites. My dissertation research looked at mobility and herd management strategies of early herders in Kenya. I used more traditional zooarchaeological methods, like analysis of livestock slaughter patterns, combined with the analysis of the stable isotope composition of livestock tooth enamel to examine seasonal and longer term changes in animal diet and location. 

What are some things you look forward to accomplishing while here at the Cotsen?

I’m really excited about working on a new project in which I use isotopic methods to look at the impacts of pastoralism on ancient wildlife migration patterns in Kenya and Tanzania. Since I have some of the specimens I’m working on here in LA, this has been a great opportunity to work with grad students and train them in some of the methods I use. I’m also looking forward to publishing work from previous projects, including my dissertation, and laying the groundwork for some upcoming projects. 

Being that this is your first time living in Los Angeles, what are your impressions so far and what facet(s) of the city are you most excited to learn about?

Honestly my schedule has prevented me from really see much of LA so far, but just from what I’ve seen it’s a very diverse city, and I look forward to exploring it more. I’m also interested in the history of Los Angeles, and love that my daily commute takes me by the La Brea Tar Pits. I also just visited the excellent mammal collections at the Natural History Museum!

Finally, do you have any other messages you’d like to send to the students, the faculty, and/or the rest of the Cotsen community?

Thanks for the amazing welcome! I’ve only been here for two months, but already I really feel like part of the institute!