Helina Woldekiros

Helina Woldekiros

Assistant Professor of Archaeology
PhD, Washington University in St. Louis
research interests:
  • Old World Archaeology
  • Africa
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Ethnoarchaeology
  • State Formation and Power Relations
  • Pastoralism
  • Landscape History
  • Food Systems
  • Biodiversity
  • Agricultural Organization
  • Trade
  • Faunal Exchanges

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1114
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Helina Woldekiros' work focuses on human adaptations in the Horn of Africa during the beginnings of food production, agricultural diets, pastoralism, and mobile responses to climatic change in extreme ecological/environmental settings.

As an Aksumite scholar and faunal expert my research focuses on distinctive political, economic and agricultural systems that developed in the Horn of Africa over the last 3000 years. Recent research examines links between Africa and Asia through Arabia, and ancient Aksumite trade routes. My studies of ancient chickens, cattle and other farm animals contextualize livestock biodiversity in ancient and modern agricultural systems through a better understanding of cycles of introduction and local care and animal breeding in the Horn of Africa. These themes bear on contemporary agricultural practice and resilience.

I also have a particular interest in the role of local and regional trade in subsistence commodities such as salt in the economic organization of early states in the northern Horn of Africa from the pre-Aksumite (>800 BCE–CE 900) period to modern times. I am working to reconceptualize the roles of the state and of independent local actors in the socioeconomic and political organization of complex societies through research on the organization of the modern and Aksumite Salt Route from the Ethiopian highlands to the Danakil Depression. I focus on the role of caravans and ways that multiple economic strategies and a salt-oriented niche economy has been used to secure a stable livelihood in the Horn of Africa through changing natural and sociopolitical environments over the last 5000 years.

I have a broad interest in human animal relations globally and have analyzed faunal material from the Sudan, Turkmenistan and St. Augustine, Florida. With experience in human osteology and human evolutionary questions, I have also worked on grief and mourning in contemporary Ethiopian societies.

Selected Publications

Woldekiros, H.S., D'Andrea, A.C., Thomas, R., Foster, A., Lebrasseur, O., Miller, H., Roberts, J. and Sykes, N. 2019 Archaeological and biometric perspectives on the development of chicken landraces in the Horn of Africa. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2773.

Woldekiros, H.S. 2019 The Route Most Traveled: The Afar Salt Trail, North Ethiopia 1. Chungara, 51(1): 95-110. DOI:10.4067/S0717-73562019005000502.

Harrower, M.J., I.A. Dumitru, C. Perlingieri, S. Nathan, Kifle Zerue, J.L. Lamont, A. Bausi, J.L. Swerida, J.L. Bongers, H.S. Woldekiros, L.A. Poolman, C.M. Pohl, S.A. Brandt, E.A. Peterson (in press). 2019 Discovery and Excavations of an Aksumite Town, Beta Samati (Ethiopia). Antiquity.

B. Clarkson, P., Santoro, C., E. Levy, T., Núñez, L., Nielsen, A., Rosen, S., Forster, F., Capriles, J., Khazanov, A., Frachetti, M., Valenzuela, D., G. Standen, V., Cases, B., Pimentel, G., Lecoq, P., Medinacelli, X., Briones, L., Wink, A., Tripcevich, N., Woldekiros, H. 2017 A worldwide network for comparative studies on caravans: past, present and future. Journal of Chilean Anthropology 49(3): 297-307.

Woldekiros, Helina S., and Catherine A. D’Andrea. 2016 Earliest evidence for domestic chickens (Gallus gallus) in Africa. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27(3): 329-341.  https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2540

D’Andrea, Catherine A., Michael P. Richards, Laurence A. Pavlish, Shannon Wood, Andrea Manzo, and Helina S. Woldekiros. 2011 Stable Isotopic Analysis of Human and Animal Diets from Two Pre-Aksumite/Proto-Aksumite Archaeological Sites in Northern Ethiopia. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 367-374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2010.09.015.


Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, 2011  
The Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, 2010
National Science Foundation: Dissertation Improvement Grant, 2009