Dr. Rita Dal Martello

Research Associate
Department of Archaeology
FEDD Research Group

Main Focus

Rita Dal Martello is currently based at the Department of Asian and North African Studies at the Ca'Foscari University in Venice, Italy.

In March 2023 she completed her stay as post-doctoral researcher for the Domestication and Anthropogenic Evolution Independent Research Group (DAE) in the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology.

Between 2020-2022 she was a research fellow for the “Fruits of Eurasia: Domestication and Dispersal” (FEDD) project, funded by the European Research Council.

Dr. Dal Martello specializes in the analysis of ancient plant remains as the first line of evidence to investigate past subsistence practices, with a geographical focus on China and Central Asia.In addition to direct plant remains, she also analyses material culture and textual evidence related to past plant use and dispersal to reconstruct ancient routes of connections and exchange.

Her main research interests focus on understanding the development of complex agrarian societies along early contact and trade routes during late prehistoric and early historic times. More broadly, she is interested in agricultural and culinary traditions along ecological frontier zones. She is also interested in tracing the spread of crops outside their domestication centres and how the movement of plants and people impacted changes in agricultural societies through time and space, with special attention to the production and consumption of local minor crops in the context of climate instability.

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Dal Martello received her PhD in 2020 in Archaeology from University College London, UK. She investigated the timing and development of agricultural systems in the frontier region of Yunnan, Southwest China. Her doctorate research addressed debates on rice and other crops dispersal within South China and beyond.

During her PhD, she contributed to the “Comparative Pathways to Agriculture” (ComPag) ERC-funded project (2013-2018), which aimed to create a global comparative synthesis of early agricultural systems based on archaeobotanical data. 

She holds a MA degree in Neolithic Archaeology from the School of Archaeology and Museology at Peking University, China, where she focused on the early contacts between the Chinese Central Plains and the Steppes, investigating the nature of these across the Eurasian continent during Neolithic times. She also holds a BA in Language, Culture and Society of East Asia from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. 



Yang, W., Jiang, ZL., Yao, A., Dal Martello, R., Jiang, JM., Xie, HM.,; Chen, XX. (2023) Food production and agricultural systems on the southwestern frontier of the Han Empire: archaeobotanical remains from the 2016 excavation of Hebosuo, Yunnan. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, vol. 15

Dal Martello R., von Baeyer M., Hudson, M., Bjorn, R.G., Leipe, C., Zach, B., Mir-Makhamad B., Billings T.C., Muñoz Fernández, I.M., Huber B., Boxleitner, K., Lu, J-C., Chi, K-A., Liu, H.L., Kistler, L., and Spengler R.N. (in review) The domestication and dispersal of large-Fruiting Prunus spp.: A metadata analysis of archaeobotanical material. Agronomy. Special issue “Pathways to Plant Domestication: New Insights from Archaeobotany

 Yang W., Jiang Z.L., Yao A., Dal Martello R., Jiang J.M., Xie H.M., and Chen X.X. (in review) Food production and agricultural systems on the southwestern frontier of the Han Empire: archaeobotanical remains from the 2016 excavation of Hebosuo, Yunnan. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

 Billings T.C., Cerasetti B., Forni L., Arciero R., Dal Martello R., Carra M., Rouse L.M., Boivin N. and Spengler R.N. (2022) Agriculture in the Karakum: An archaeobotanical analysis from Togolok 1, Turkmenistan (ca. 2200-1900 B.C.). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 931 doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.995490

Dal Martello R. (2022) The origins of multi-cropping agriculture in Southwest China: Archaeobotanical insights from third to first millennium B.C. Yunnan. Asian Archaeology doi.org/10.1007/s41826-022-00052-2

Xue, Y.N., Dal Martello R. (joint first author), Qin, L., Stevens, C.J., Min, R., and Fuller, D. Q (2022). Post-Neolithic broadening of agriculture in Yunnan, China: Archaeobotanical evidence from Haimenkou. Archaeological Research in Asia: 30: 100364. doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2022.100364

Dal Martello R., Li, X.R. and Fuller, D. Q (2021) “Two-season agriculture and irrigated rice during the Dian: archaeobotanical results and radiocarbon dates from Dayingzhuang, Yunnan, Southwest China”. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 13, 62.  doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01268-y

Murphy C., Fuller, D. Q, Stevens, C.J., Gregory, T., Silva, F., Dal Martello, R., Bodey, A., Rau, C. (2019) “Looking Beyond the Surface: Use of High-Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography on Archaeobotanical Remains”. Interdisciplinaria Archaeologica Natural Sciences in Archaeology: 10 (1). 

Dal Martello R., Min, R., Stevens, C., Higham, C., Higham, T., Qin, L. and Fuller, D.Q., (2018) “Early Agriculture at the crossroads of China and Southeast Asia: archaeobotanical evidence and radiocarbon dates from Baiyangcun, Yunnan”. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 20: 711-721.  doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.06.005


Selected conference papers and invited lectures

10 November, 2022. Invited speaker. China Night Lecture Series, Institute of Archaeology, UCL. Lecture title: "Secondary crop domestication: a case study from Haimenkou".

17 June, 2022. IWGP 19th Conference, České Budějovice (Czech Republic). "Comparative moprhometric study of post-domestication evolution of trans-Eurasian cereal crops".

11 June, 2022. Invited speaker, I Sabati dell'Accademia, Accademia delle Antiche Civiltá, Milano. Lecture title: "Semi che raccontano. Agricoltura e commercio nell'Asia Centrale Meridionale dal V al I millennio a. C."

20 May, 2021. Invited speaker, University of Zurich. Lecture title: “The origins and dispersal of Trans-Eurasian cereal crops: perspectives from archaeobotany.”

June 24, 2019. Invited speaker, From Villages to Cities: Agricultural Production and Settlement Growth in Eastern Eurasia, International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) Symposium, University College London. Paper title: “Agricultural Production in Yunnan from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age”.

June 3-8, 2019. IWGP International Working Group for Palaeoethnobotany conference, Lecce, Italy. Poster: “Agricultural trajectories in Southwest China: introduction and local plant use in Yunnan”.

April 29, 2019. Invited speaker, Asian Archaeology Seminar Series, Cambridge University. Paper title: “Tracing the spread of agriculture and local plant use innovation in Yunnan, Southwest China”.

October 29, 2018. Invited speaker, Asian Archaeology Seminar Series, Oxford University. Paper title: “Exploring Agricultural Pathways in Southwest China: archaeobotanical material from early sites”.

September 23-28, 2018. The Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association IPPA 21st Congress, Hue, Vietnam. Paper title: “Comparing the agricultural pathways of India and Southwest China: similarities and differences between crops and agricultural practices in distinct geographies”. Co-presented with Dr. Eleanor Kingwell-Banham.

August 3-6, 2018. Invited speaker, Current Frontiers in the Archaeobotany of Rice International Workshop, Beijing, China. Paper title: “Rice mixed economies in Southwest china: insights from weed flora”.

June 7-12, 2018. SEAA Society for East Asian Archaeology 8th Worldwide Conference, Nanjing, China. Paper title: “Recent developments on the spread of agriculture to Southwest China: a comparative analysis of archaeobotanical, remains, ecology and climate in Yunnan”.

December 1-3, 2017. AEA Association for Environmental Archaeology annual conference, Edinburgh, UK. Poster: “How can agriculture adapt to diverse environments? A case study from Yunnan, Southwest China”.

June 8-12, 2016. SEAA Society for East Asian Archaeology 7th Worldwide Conference, Cambridge-Boston, USA. Paper title: “Archaeobotanical Results from Baiyangcun site, Yunnan: exploring agricultural practices in Southwest China”.

April 15-19, 2015. SAA Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, USA. Paper title: “Rethinking Qijia Burial Practice”.


Research Projects

co-PI of Prunus Archaeological Research, Investigation and Survey (PARIS), jointy led with Dr. Madelynn von Baeyer

Archaeobotanist for the Togolok Archaeological Project (TAP), led by Dr. Barbara Cerasetti (ISMEO)

Archaeobotanist for the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, led by Prof. Luca Maria Olivieri (Ca'Foscari, ISMEO)

Fruits of Eurasia: Domestication and Dispersal (FEDD) project

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