Steven Goldstein

  • Assistant Professor

Steven Goldstein (PhD Washington University in Saint Louis, 2017) is an anthropological archaeologist who studies long-term relationships between food systems, mobility, climate change, and technology over the last 12,000 years in eastern and southeastern Africa. After completing his PhD he undertook a 2 year post-doctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena, Germany followed by a 3 year position as a Research Group Leader at the same institute before coming to Pittsburgh.

He has been directing community-based field projects in Kenya since 2014 and Zambia since 2017 that assess questions related to the spread of mobile pastoralism, origins of agriculture, and hunter-gatherer responses to environmental stress. To address these questions, he applies expertise in lithic technological studies, landscape archaeology, GIS, and geoarchaeological methods. His current field research largely centers on assessing how conditions of food security were impacted by the expansion of African states and beginnings of European colonialism over the last few hundred years. He is also engaged in a book project examining the social and economic transformations in herder lifeways across the last 4000 years in eastern Africa.

Degrees and Education

Washington University in Saint Louis

Research Description

Kakapel Archaeological Project: This collaborative project between the Max Planck Institute and the National Museums of Kenya investigates a 12,000 year record of demographic, economic, and climatic change at Kakapel Rockshelter, western Kenya. Excavations directed by Dr. Goldstein have revealed the largest record of plant food use in the region, including the adoption of diverse crops that arrived during migrations into the Lake Victoria Basin from different parts of the African continent. Coupled with archaeogenetic and paleoclimatic analyses, this project is building a unique perspective on when and how agricultural strategies developed in eastern Africa.

Origins of Agriculture in Zambia: Working with partners at the University of Zambia and Livingstone Museum, this project has involved excavations at several Early and Late Iron Age sites across Central and southern Zambia.  The goals of the project are to establish a high-resolution chronology for the arrival, spread, and intensification of lifeways based on mobile herding and plant agriculture.

Small-scale responses to large-scale climate change at Lothagam-Lokam: This project co-led by Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Elizabeth  Hildebrand (SUNY-Stony Brook), and Dr. Elizabeth Sawchuk (Cleveland Museum of Natural History) investigates how small-scale fisher-hunter-gatherer communities along the Lake Turkana Basin of northern Kenya responded to Climate change between c. 12000-5000 years ago. Paleoclimatic data reveals a complex pattern of regional rainfall change and local environmental shifts impacted the livelihoods of people living in the area. Archaeological analysis suggests people responded to local stresses through changes in the organization of group mobility, and to lasting aridification through technological innovation and intensification. These perspectives are providing new insights into how small-scale communities in the past successfully managed climatic crises.

Prehistoric Eastern African Quarry Survey (PEAQS): The PEAQS project seeks to identify and document patterns of lithic raw material access across eastern Africa. It is particularly focused on the diversity in stone quarrying strategies, core preparation strategies, and lithic reduction techniques applied at quarries and mines. By identifying these central nodes in long-distance regional exchange and interaction networks, we hope to better understand the relationship between stone-tool using peoples, mobility and land-use, trade networks, and economic organization. So far, research has included examination of obsidian quarries on Mt. Eburru and the Lake Naivasha Basin in Central Kenya.  






2022 Goldstein, S.T., Shipton, C., Miller, J., Ndiema, E., Boivin, N., Petraglia, M.  “Technological organization through the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene in eastern Africa’s coastal forests: Implications for understanding human-environment interactions.” Quaternary Science Reviews 280:107390.

2022 Goldstein, S.T., Farr, J., Kayuni, M., Katongo, M., Fernandes, R., Janzen, A., Markham, B., Crowther, A., & Boivin, N. “Excavations at the Iron Age village site of Fibobe II, Central Zambia.” Journal of African Archaeology.

2021 Mueller, N.G., Goldstein, S.T., Odeny, D., & Boivin, N. “Variability and preservation biases in the archaeobotanical record of Eleusine coracana (finger millet): Evidence from Iron Age Kenya.” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.

2021 Goldstein, S.T., Crowther, A., Henry, E.R., Katongo, M., Janzen, A., Farr, J., Picin, A., Le Moyne, C., Boivin, N. “Revisiting Kalundu Mound, Zambia: Implications for the timing of social and subsistence transitions in Iron Age southern Africa.” African Archaeological Review 38(4): 625-655.

2021 Storozum, M., Goldstein, S.T., Conterras, D.A., Gidna, A., Mabulla, A., Grillo, K., & Prendergast, M.E. “Legacies of ancient herder settlement: soil development and landscape evolution on the Mbulu Plateau, Tanzania.” Catena 204:105376.

2021 Janzen, A., Richter, K.K., Brown, S., Mwebi, O., Gatwiri, F., Katongo, M., Goldstein, S.T., Douka, K., Bovin, N. “Distinguishing African bovids using Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS).” PLoS1 16 (5), e0251061.

2021 Goldstein, S.T. “Lithic technological organization of the “Elmenteitan” in southern Kenya: Implications for mobility and climatic resilience.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 61: 101259.

2021 Bleasdale, M., Richter, K., Janzen, A., Brown, S., Scott, A., Zech, J., Wilkin, S., Wang, K., Schiffels, S., Desideri, J., Besse, M., Ndiema, E., Ogola, C., Manthi, F., Zahir, M., Petraglia, M., Trachsel, C., Nanni, P., Grossman, J., Hendy, J., Crowther, A., Roberts, P., Goldstein, S., Boivin, N. “Ancient proteins provide direct evidence of dairy consumption in eastern Africa.” Nature Communications 12(632).

2020 Scerri, E., Kuhnert, D., Blinkhorn, J., Groucutt, H., Roberts, P., Zerboni, A., Orijemie, A., Barton, H., Candy, I., Goldstein, S., Hawks, J., N’Dah, D., Niang, K., Nicoll, K., Petraglia, M., & Vella, N. “Field based sciences must transform in response to COVID-19.” Nature Ecology & Evolution.

2020 Wang, K.*, Goldstein, S.T.*., Bleasdale, M.,  Clist, B., Bostoen, K.,  Bakwa-Lufu, P., Buck, L. T., Crowther, A.,  Dème, A., McIntosh,  R., Mercador Florin, J., Ogola, C., Power, R., Sawchuk, E., Willmsen, E., Petraglia, M., Ndiema, E., Manthi, F. K.., Krause, J., Roberts, P.,  Boivin, N., Schiffels, S. “Ancient genomes reveal complex patterns of population movement, interaction and integration in sub-Saharan Africa.” Science Advances 6(24). *Co-Corresponding authors

2020 D’errico, F., Shipton, C., Pitarch, A., Le Vraux, E., Goldstein, S., Boivin, N., Ndiema, E., Petraglia, M. “Trajectories of Middle to Later Stone Age cultural innovation in eastern Africa: the case of Panga ya Saidi, Kenya.” Journal of Human Evolution 141: 102737.

2019 Goldstein, S.T. “Lithic technology of the earliest herders at Lake Turkana, northern Kenya.” Antiquity 93 (372): 1495-1514

2019 Stephens, L., Fuller, D., Boivin, N., Rick, T….Goldstein, S (54th of 120)….Ellis, E.C. “Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use.” Science 365(6456): 897-902.

2019 Goldstein, S.T. “Infrastructures of pre-colonial food-security in eastern Africa,” In A. Logan & M. Shoeman (Eds) Useable Pasts Forum: Critically Engaging Food Security, African Archaeological Review.

2019 Goldstein, S.T. “The lithic assemblage from Sugenya: A Pastoral Neolithic site of the Elmenteitan    group in southwestern Kenya.”  Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 54: 4-32.

2019 Goldstein, S.T. “Knowledge transmission through the lens of lithic production: A case study from the Pastoral Neolithic of southern Kenya.”  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 26: 679-713.

2019 Capriles, J., Albarracin-Jordan, J., Lombardo, U.,Osorio, D., Maley, B., Goldstein, S.T., Herrera, K.A., Glascock, M.D., Domic, A., Veit, H., & Santoro, C.M. “Adaptation to High Altitude Ecosystems, and the Late Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherers of the Bolivian Andes.” Revista Textos Anthopológicos 20(9) :9-32.

2018  Marshall, F.B., Reid, R.E.B., Goldstein, S.T., Storozum, M., Wreschnig, A., Hu, L., Kiura, P., Shahack-Gross, R., & S.H. Ambrose.  “Ancient herders enriched and restructured African grasslands.” Nature 561: 387-390.

2018 Goldstein, S., Hildebrand, E., Storozum, M., Sawchuk, E., Lewis, J., Ngugi, C. & L. Robbins. “New archaeological investigations at the Lothagam harpoon site at Lake Turkana, Kenya.” Antiquity 91(360).

2018  Hildebrand, E., Grillo, K., E. Sawchuk, E., Pfeiffer, S., Conyers, L., Goldstein, S.,Hill, A.C., Janzen, A., Klehm, C., Helper, M., Kiura, P., Ndiema, E., Ngugi, C., Shea, J.J., and H. Wang.  “A monumental cemetery built by eastern Africa’s earliest herders near Lake Turkana, Kenya.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 115 (36): 8942-8947.

2018 Sawchuk, E., Goldstein, S., Grillo, K., & E. Hildebrand. “Cemetery construction and the spread of pastoralism in eastern Africa.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 51: 187-205.

2018 Goldstein, S.T. “Picking up the pieces: Reconstructing lithic production strategies at a Late Holocene obsidian quarry in southern Kenya.” Journal of Field Archaeology 43(2): 85-101.

2018 Capriles, J., Albarracin-Jordan, J., Bird, D., Goldstein, S., Jarpa, G., Maldonado, C. & C. Santoro.  “Mobility, subsistence, and technological strategies of early Holocene hunter-gatherers in the Bolivian Altiplano.” Quaternary International 473b: 190-205.

2018 Grillo, K., Prendergast, M., Contreras, D., Fitton, T., Gidna, A., Goldstein, S., Knisley, M., Langley, M. & A. Mabulla. “Pastoral Neolithic Settlement at Luxmanda, Tanzania.”  Journal of Field Archaeology 32(2): 102-120.

2017 Goldstein, S.T. and J.M. Munyiri. The Elmenteitan Obsidian Quarry (GsJj50): “New perspectives on obsidian access and exchange during the Pastoral Neolithic of southern Kenya.” African Archaeological Review 34(1): 43-73.

2017 Frahm, E., Goldstein, S.T., & C.A. Tryon. „Forager-fisher and pastoralist interactions along the Lake Victoria shores, Kenya: Perspectives from portable XRF of obsidian artifacts from Kansyore rock shelters.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 11: 717-742.

2016 Goldstein, S.T. and C.M. Shaffer. “Experimental and archaeological investigations of geometric microlith function among Mid-to-Late Holocene herders in southwestern Kenya.” Journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Science 9(8): 1767-1788.

2016 Capriles J., Jordan, J., Lombardo, U., Osorio, D., Herrera, K., Maley, B., Goldstein, S.T., Domic, A. I., Glascock, M.D., Veit, H. & C. Santoro. “High-altitude adaptation and late Pleistocene foraging in the Bolivian Andes.” Journal of Archaeological Sciences: Reports 6: 46-474.

2014 Goldstein, S.T. “Quantifying endscraper reduction in the context of obsidian exchange among early pastoralists in southwestern Kenya.” Lithic Technology 39: 3-19.