Dr. Maria Guagnin

Research Associate
Department of Archaeology

Main Focus

My research interests focus on prehistoric settlement patterns and rock art in northern Arabia. I have developed a range of new research methods that integrate methodologies from animal conservation studies, climate modelling, archaeozoology, and rock art research – and I have used these methods to reconstruct Holocene ecosystems and to identify cultural memory and population dynamics across periods of subsistence change. 

I co-directed the Project “Dating and conservation of ancient camel sculptures in northern Saudi Arabia” with Dr Guillaume Charloux (CNRS), which was supported by a grant from the Gerda Henkel Foundation (Grant No AZ 43/Z/18).

I am currently directing a project that explores the potential for Epipalaeolithic and early Holocene rock art and archaeology in Saudi Arabia, funded by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (SRG2223/231473).

My wider research interests include population dynamics and settlement patterns across changing environments and landscapes. I have considerable fieldwork and research experience in the Sahara, the Near East and Europe.

Curriculum Vitae

I joined the Department of Archaeology as a Postdoctoral Researcher for the Palaeodeserts Project in 2016 and have recently held a Dahlem Research Fellowship at Freie Universität Berlin (2017-2019). I previously also held a postdoctoral position with the Palaeodeserts Project at the University of Oxford (2014-2016).

I carried out my doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh (2005-2010), where I focused on the rock art and Holocene environment on the central Sahara. My thesis is entitled ‘From Savanna to Desert: Animal Engravings in the Changing Prehistoric Environment of the Wadi al-Hayat, Libyan Sahara’.



Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., Stileman, F., Jibreen, F., Alsulaimi, M., Breeze, P. S., Stewart, M., Hatton, A., Drake, N. A., Jha, D. K., Al-Tamimi, F., Al-Shamry, M., Al-Shammari, M., Kay, A., Groucutt, H. S., Alsharekh, A. M. & Petraglia, M. D. 2023. Before the Holocene humid period: Life-sized camel engravings and early occupations on the southern edge of the Nefud Desert. Archaeological Research in Asia, 36, 100483. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2023.100483

Lucarini, G., Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., Radini, A., Alsharekh, A. M. & Petraglia, M. 2023. Plant, Pigment, and Bone Processing in the Neolithic of Northern Arabia – New Evidence from Use-wear Analysis of Grinding Tools at Jebel Oraf. PLOS One, 18, e0291085. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0291085
Guagnin, M., Haburaj, V., Groucutt, H. S., Hoelzmann, P., Gauci, R., Vella, N. C., Parisi, C., Cassar, M., Cassar, Y., Asciak, G. & Scerri, E. 2023. Evaluating possible prehistoric cave art in the central Mediterranean: Analyses of pigment traces and identification of taphonomic processes at Għar Ħasan, Malta. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 47, 103815. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2022.103815
Fradley, M., Simi, F. & Guagnin, M. 2022. Following the herds? A new distribution of hunting kites in Southwest Asia. The Holocene, 32, 1160-1172. https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836221114290
Guagnin, M., Charloux, G., Stewart, M., Mora, P., Alsharekh, A. M., Hilbert, Y., Groucutt, H. S., Alqaeed, A. & Alali, Y. 2022. The Camel Site reliefs — an investigation of the site’s original layout and use. In: Foote, R., Guagnin, M., Périssé, I. & Karacic, S. (eds.) Revealing Cultural Landscapes in North-west Arabia. Oxford: Archaeopress, 110-132. 
Charloux, G., Guagnin, M., Alsharekh, A. & Petraglia, M. D. 2022. A Rock Art Tradition of Life-sized Naturalistic Engravings of Camels in Northern Arabia: New Insights on the Mobility of Neolithic populations in the Nafud Desert. Antiquity Project Gallery, 96, 1301-1309. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.95
Hilbert, Y. H., Clemente-Conte, I., Crassard, R., Charloux, G., Guagnin, M. & Alsharekh, A. M. 2022. Traceological analysis of lithics from the Camel Site, al-Jawf, Saudi Arabia: an experimental approach to identifying mineral processing activities using silcrete tools. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 14, 93. 10.1007/s12520-022-01559-
Guagnin, M., Charloux, G., Alsharekh, A. M., Crassard, R., Hilbert, Y. H., Andreae, M. O., Preusser, F., Dubois, F., Burgos, F., Flohr, P., Stewart, M., Mora, P., Alqaeed, A. & Alali, Y. 2021. Life-sized Neolithic camel sculptures in Arabia: A scientific assessment of the craftsmanship and age of the Camel Site reliefs. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 103165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.103165
Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., Martin, L., Kingwell-Banham, E., Breeze, P., Graham, L., Ott, F., Stewart, M., Zahrani, B., Al-Omari, A., Alsharekh, A. & Petraglia, M. D. 2021. A tale of two hearth sites: Neolithic and intermittent mid to late Holocene occupations in the Jubbah oasis, northern Saudi Arabia. Archaeological Research in Asia, 26, 100278. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2021.100278
Groucutt, H. S., Breeze, P. S., Guagnin, M., Stewart, M., Drake, N., Shipton, C., Zahrani, B., Al Omari, A., Alsharekh, A. M. & Petraglia, M. D. 2020. Monumental landscapes of the Holocene humid period in Northern Arabia: The mustatil phenomenon. The Holocene, 30, 1767-1779. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959683620950449
Andreae, M. O., Al-Amri, A. M., Andreae, C. M., Guagnin, M., Haug, G., Jochum, K. P., Stoll, B. & Weis, U. 2020. Archaeometric studies on pretroglyphs and rock varnish at Kilwa and Sakaka, northern Saudi Arabia. Arabian archaeology and epigraphy, 31, 219-244.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aae.12167

Charloux, G., Guagnin, M., Norris, J. 2020. Large-sized camel depictions in western Arabia: A characterisation across time and space. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 50, 85-108.

Guagnin, M., Breeze, P., Shipton, C., Ott, F., Stewart, M., Martin, L., Graham, L., el-Dossary, S., Kingwell-Banham, E., Zahrani, B., al-Omari, A., Alsharekh, A. & Petraglia, M. 2020. The Holocene humid period in the Nefud Desert: Hunters and herders in the Jebel Oraf palaeolake basin, Saudi Arabia. Journal of Arid Environments 178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2020.104146

Petraglia, M.D., Groucutt, H.S., Guagnin, M., Boivin, N. 2020. Human responses to climate and ecosystem change in ancient Arabia. PNAS 117 (15), 8263-8270. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1920211117

Scerri, E.M.L., Guagnin, M., Groucutt, H.S., Armitage, A.J., Parker, L.E., Drake, N.A., Louys, J., Breeze, P., Zahir, M., Alsharekh, A., Petraglia, M.D. 2018. Neolithic pastoralism in extreme marginal environments during the mid-Holocene wet phase, northern Saudi Arabia. Antiquity 90 (365), 1180-1194. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2018.108

Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., el-Dossary, S., al-Rashid, M., Moussa, F., Stewart, M., Ott, F., Alsharekh, A., Petraglia, M.D. 2018. Rock art provides new evidence on the biogeography of kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis), wild dromedary, aurochs (Bos primigenius), and African wild ass (Equus africanus) in the Early Holocene of northwestern Arabia. Journal of Biogeography 45(4), 727-247. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13165

Guagnin, M., Perri, A., Petraglia, D. 2018. Pre-Neolithic evidence for dog-assisted hunting strategies in Arabia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 49, 225-236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2017.10.003

Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., al-Rashid, M., Moussa, F., El-Dossary, S., Bin Sleimah, M., Alsharekh, A., Petraglia, M. 2017. An Illustrated Prehistory of the Jubbah Oasis: Reconstructing Holocene Occupation Patterns in Northwestern Saudi Arabia from Rock Art and Inscriptions. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 28: 138–152. https://doi.org/10.1111/aae.12089

Guagnin, M., Shipton, C., Martin, L., Petraglia, M. 2017. The Neolithic site of Jebel Oraf 2, northern Saudi Arabia: First report of a directly dated site with faunal remains. Archaeological Research in Asia 9, 63-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2017.02.001

Guagnin, M., Jennings, R., Eager, H., Parton, A., Stimpson, C., Groucutt, H., Drake, N., Pfeiffer, M., Stepanek, C., Alsharekh, A., Petraglia, M. 2016. Rock art imagery as a proxy for Holocene environmental change: a view from Shuwaymis, NW Saudi Arabia. The Holocene. DOI: 10.1177/0959683616645949 

Guagnin, M., Jennings, R.P., Clark-Balzan, L., Groucutt, H.S., Parton, A., Petraglia, M. 2015. Hunters and herders: Exploring the Neolithic transition in the rock art of Shuwaymis, Saudi Arabia. Archaeological Research in Asia 4, 3-16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2017.02.001

Guagnin, M. 2015. Animal Engravings in the Central Sahara: A proxy of a proxy. Environmental Archaeology 20 (1), 52-65. DOI 10.1179/1749631414Y 

Barnett, T. and Guagnin, M. 2014. Changing places: rock art and Holocene landscapes in the Wadi al-Ajal, south west Libya. Journal of African Archaeology 12 (2), 165-182. 

Guagnin, M. 2014. Patina and Environment in the Wadi al-Hayat: Towards a Chronology for the Rock Art of the Central Sahara. African Archaeological Review 31 (3), 407-423. DOI 10.1007/s10437-014-9161-8

Guagnin, M. 2012. From savanna to desert: Rock art and the environment in the Wadi al-Hayat (Libya), in D.Huyge, F van Noten and D. Swinne (eds.) The Signs of Which Times? Chronological and Palaeoenvironmental Issues in the Rock Art of Northern Africa. Brussels: Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, 145-157. 

Guagnin, M. 2012. The rock carvings of the Messak: Monuments in a Changing Landscape, in M. Furholt, M. Hinz & D. Mischka (eds.) “As time goes by?“ Monumentality, Landscapes and the Temporal Perspective (Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie 206). Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, 95-104. 

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