Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters

Jun. Prof. Dr. Cynthianne Spiteri

Fields of Interest

My main research interests lie in palaeodietary reconstructions, particularly during transitory periods, and how these relate to, and shape the general health and social dynamics of a community. I am interested in technological transformation of animal and plant material used for dietary and non-dietary purposes, the introduction of new materials/foodstuffs in ancient communities and the contact, trade and politics in place at the time. I am also interested in changes to the culinary repertoire over time, and how this is influenced by choice and availability.

To answer these questions, I apply Organic Residue Analysis (ORA) to ceramic vessels, therefore identifying vessel content and function, and to dental calculus, targeting lipid biomolecules directly ingested or inhaled by individuals. I also carry out experimental work with the aim of better understanding taphonomic processes, and how these help in interpreting scientific data obtained from archaeological contexts, as well as method optimisation and development, in particular in identifying new biomarkers, and therefore contributing to widening the field of biomarker research. I am also interested in further exploring the interaction between lipids and the ceramic fabric.


2015-2018:  Bedeutungen und Funktionen mediterraner Importe im früheisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa (BEFIM, Meanings and Functions of Mediterranean Imports in Early Iron Age Central Europe)

This project focused on analysing local and Attic imports from key Celtic sites, including Vix Mont Lassois (Burgundy, France) and the Heuneburg (Germany), with the aim of testing whether the function of imported vessels changed in their new context.

Website: www.befim.de

2016 – 2021: Transformations of Food in the Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age (FoodTransforms)

This project focuses on the circulation and introduction of food products in Israel, Egypt and the Aegean dating from the 15th-12th centuries BC and comprises four complementary analytical techniques (ORA, Proteomics, Plant Microfossil Analysis and aDNA) in collaboration with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Leiden University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. For this project, we are carrying out ORA on ceramic vessels and human dental calculus with the aim of obtaining a more holistic picture of the diet at this time.

Website: www.globalhist.geschichte.unimuenchen.de/research/projects/foodtransforms/index.html

Since 2014 -

I also collaborate on several smaller projects, also as part of student (BA, MSc, MA, PhD) supervision, looking at dietary changes at periods of transition in South Africa, Pakistan, Israel, Anatolia and Europe.

Scientific Activity

2014 - : Junior Professor for Archaeometry at the Eberhard Karls Unitersität Tübingen, Germany
2012-2014: Post-Doctoral Researcher within the Junior Research Group on Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
2008: Casual Research Technician in Molecular Archaeology at the University of Bradford, UK
2008: Quality Control Laboratory Analyst at Arrow Pharm (Malta) Ltd., Malta
2006: Freelance Archaeologist (Researcher) at Heritage Malta, Malta


2008-2012: PhD in Archaeology, University of York, UK

2008-2010: Preparing Future Academics: Accredited Teaching at Higher Education Programme

2006-2007: MSc Scientific Methods in Archaeology, University of Bradford, UK

2002-2005: BA (Hons.) Archaeology, University of Malta, Malta

Teaching experience

Supervisor: Since 2015 I have supervised students’ research at BA, MA, MSc and PhD levels

Lecturer: Chemistry for Archaeologists (BA), Institute for Natural Sciences, Tübingen University (2014-2015, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Lecturer: Introduction to Archaeological Sciences (BA), Institute for Natural Sciences, Tübingen University (2014-2015, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Lecturer & Module Co-coordinator: Introduction to the Natural Sciences in Archaeology: Geoarchaeology and Archaeometry (BA), Institute for Natural Sciences and Institute for Pre- and Early History and Archaeology of the Middle Ages, Tübingen University (2014-2015, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Lecturer: Diet and Consumption in Prehistory (BA/MA), Institute for Pre- and Early History and Archaeology of the Middle Ages, Tübingen (2014-2015, 2017-2018)

Lecturer & Module Coordinator: Introduction to Archaeometry (MSc), Institute for Natural Sciences, Tübingen University (2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Lecturer & Module Coordinator:  Practical Archaeometry (MSc), Institute for Natural Sciences, Tübingen University (2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Lecturer & Module Coordinator: Organic Materials (MSc), Institute for Natural Sciences, Tübingen University (2014-2015, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

Guest Lecturer: Organic Materials in Palaeodietary Studies, Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta (April 2017)

Lecturer (teaching experience): Introduction to Bimolecular Archaeology (BSc), Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Laboratory Demonstration (teaching experience): Introduction to Biomolecular Archaeology (BSc), Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Marking and feedback sessions (teaching experience): Introduction to Archaeological Science (BSc), Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Seminar (teaching experience): Coastal Landscapes (MA), Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Seminar (teaching experience): Palaeodiet (BSc), Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Fieldtrip instructor (teaching experience): Accessing Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of York (2010)

Lecturer (teaching experience): Introduction to Biomolecular Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of York (2009)

Laboratory demonstration (teaching experience): Introduction to Biomolecular Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of York (2009)


Drieu, L., Rageot, M., Wales, N., Stern, B., Lundy, J., Zerrer, M., Gaffney, I., Bondetti, M., Spiteri, C., Thomas-Oates, J., Craig, O.E. (accepted). Is it possible to identify ancient wine production using biomolecular approaches? STAR: Science & Technology of Archaeological Research.

Debono Spiteri, C., Muntoni, I.M., Radina, F., Craig, O. (in press). Ricostruire la dieta delle popolazioni neolitiche in Puglia: il contributo di analisi biomolecolari ed isotopiche su ceramiche impresse e dipinte. In Radina F. (ed.), Preistoria e Protostoria della Puglia, Studi di Preistoria e Protostoria III. Firenze, Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria.

Delpino, M.A. (in press). Modellini di imbarcazioni ed attrezzi lignei "crestati" dal villaggio neolitico de La Marmotta”. Bollettingo di Paletnologia Italiana, 99 (n.s. XVII) [Contributed analytical data]

Craig, O., Saul, H., Spiteri, C. (2020). Residue Analysis. In M. Richards & K. Britton (Eds.), Archaeological Science: An Introduction (pp. 70-98). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781139013826.004.

Rageot, M., Mötsch, A., Schorer, B., Gutekunst, A., Patrizi, G., Zerrer, M., Cafisso, S., Fries-Knoblach, J., Hansen. L., Tarpini. R., Krausse, D., Hoppe, T., Stockhammer, P.W., Spiteri, C. (2019). The dynamics of Early Celtic consumption practices: a case study of the pottery from the Heuneburg. PLoS ONE,

14(10): e0222991. doi.org 10.1371/journal.pone.0222991.

Rageot, M., Mötsch, A., Schorer, B., Bardel, D., Winkler, A., Sacchetti, F., Chaume, B., Della Casa, P., Buckley, S., Cafisso, S., Fries-Knoblach, J., Krausse, D., Hoppe, T., Stockhammer, P.W., Spiteri, C. (2019). New insights into Early Celtic consumption practices: organic residue analyses of local and imported pottery from Vix-Mont Lassois. PLoS ONE,

14(6): e0218001. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218001.

Spiteri, C., Cafisso, S. (2018). Vorläufiger Bericht zu den Ergebnissen der Analysen organischer Rückstände (ORA) in Gefäßen aus der phönizischen Nekropole von Ayamonte, in: Marzoli, D.  und García Teyssandier, E. (eds.), Die phönizische Nekropole von Ayamonte. Die Ausgrabung im Jahre 2013 und ihre vor- und Begleituntersuchungen. Mit Beiträgen von Helmut Becker, Benjamín Cabaco Encinas, Arie Kai-Browne, Ingrid Gamer-Wallert, Dagmar Fritzsch, Bärbel Heussner, Karl-Uwe Heussner, Torsten Klein, Michael Kunst, Reinder Neef, Juan Aurelio Pérez Macías, Ernst Pernicka, Thomas G. Schattner, Thorsten Schifer und Ulrich Stockinger, MB 37, 237-243. ISBN: 9783447109932.

Spiteri, C., Muntoni, I.M., Craig, O. (2017). Dietary practices at the onset of the Neolithic in the Western Mediterranean revealed using a combined biomarker and isotopic approach. In Salazar-García D.C. and García-Puchol O. (eds.), Times of Neolithic transition along the Western Mediterranean, 253-279. Springer Series Fundamental Issues in Archaeology. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-52939-4_10.

Debono Spiteri, C., Gillis, R.E., Roffet-Salque, M., Castells Navarro, L., Manen, C., Muntoni, I.M., Segui, S., Urem-Kotsou, D., Whelton, H.L., Craig, O.E., Vigne, J.D., Evershed, R.P. (2016). Regional asynchronicity in dairy production and processing in early farming communities of the northern Mediterranean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(48), 13594-13599. DOI10.1073/pnas.1607810113.

Henry, A.G., Debono Spiteri, C., Büdel, T, Hutschenreuther, A., Schmidt, S. Watzke, J. (2016). Methods to isolate and quantify damaged and gelatinized starch grains. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10, 142–146. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.09.003.

Heron, C., Habu, J., Katayama Owens, M., Ito, Y., Eley, Y., Lacquin, A., Radini, A., Saul, H., Debono Spiteri, C., Craig. O.E. (2016). Molecular and isotopic investigations of pottery and ‘charred remains’ from Sannai Maruyama and Sannai Maruyama No. 9, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. Japanese Journal of Archaeology, 4, 29-52.

Saña M., Antolín F., Bergadà M., Castells L., Craig O., Edo M., Spiteri C. (2015). Prácticas agropecuarias durante el Neolítico antiguo y medio en la cueva de Can Sadurní (Begues, Barcelona). In Actas do 5º Congresso do Neolítico Peninsular (eds. Gonçalves V., Diniz M., Sousa A.C.), pp. 57-67. UNIARQ, Lisboa. ISBN: 978-989-99146-1-2.

Oxilia, G., Peresani, M., Romandini, M., Matteucci, C., Debono Spiteri, C., Henry, A.G., Schulz, D., Archer, W., Crezzini, J., Boschin, F., Boscato, P., Jaouen, K., Dogandzic, T., Broglio, A., Moggi-Cecchi, J., Fiorenza, L., Hublin, J.J., Kullmer, O. and Benazzi, S. (2015). Earliest evidence of dental caries manipulation in the Late Upper Palaeolithic. Scientific Reports 5, 12150; doi: 10.1038/srep12150.

Debono Spiteri, C., Salazar-García, D.C., Vella, N. (2015). Phoenician maritime pioneering and Punic expansion: reconstructing trade and dietary patterns. The European Archaeologist 46: 38-39.

Meurkens, L., van Beek, R. Doorenbosch, M., Fokkens, H., Heunks, E., Debono Spiteri, C., Knippenberg, S., Meirsman, E., van Hees, E., Verbaas, A. (2015). A Late Neolithic Single Grave Culture burial from Twello (central Netherlands): environmental setting, burial ritual and contextualisation, Analecta Praehistorica Leidensea 45, 29-53. ISBN: 9789082225129

Debono Spiteri, C. and Craig, O. (2014). Biomolecular and isotopic characterisation of lipid residues absorbed in Impressed Wares from the Early Neolithic village of Skorba. Malta Archaeological Review, 10, 14-22.

Debono Spiteri, C. and Meirsman, E. (2014). Organische residu analyse van de EGK-beker. In: Meurkens, L. (ed.), Graven en bewoningssporen van het laat-neolithicum tot en met de Romeinse tijd: opgravingen in het plangebied De Schaker in Twello (Archol rapport 260), Leiden, 90-93. ISSN: 1569-2396.

Salazar-García D.C., Debono Spiteri C., Demarchi B. (2013). Integrated novel applications for dietary reconstructions in Prehistory. The European Archaeologist 40: 71-73.

Heron, C., and Debono Spiteri, C. (2012). Lipid analysis of flagons, cups and beakers from Iron Age/Roman cremation graves. In Allen, T., Donnelly, M., Hardy, A., Hayden, C. And Powell, K. (eds.), A road through the past: archaeological discoveries on the A2 Pepperhill to Cobham road-scheme in Kent, 429-431. Oxford Archaeology Monographs. ISBN: 9780904220681

Spiteri C., Craig, O.E., Muntoni, I.M., and Radina, F. (2011-2013). The transition to agriculture in the Western Mediterranean, evidence from pots. Rivista di Studi Liguri LXXVII-LXXVIII: 79-86.

Debono Spiteri, C., Heron, C. and Craig, O. (2011). Characterising surviving residues from archaeological ceramics: a biomolecular approach. In Sarcella, S. (ed.), Archaeological ceramics: a review of current research. BAR International Series S2193. Oxford, Archaeopress. ISBN: 1407307487

Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen

Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters

Abteilung für Jüngere Urgeschichte und Frühgeschichte

Schloß Hohentübingen

72070 Tübingen