Anneli Ekblom

My research and teaching the last few years can Anneli Ekblomperhaps be summarised as experimentations in ways of ‘seeing the world relationally’. To me this way of viewing and representing the world is the outcome of the practice of Historical Ecology. The climate crises and the precarious conditions of the Anthropocene calls for new ways of representing and knowing the world, a natural contract alongside the social one. Since my PhD my research has focused on relations between humans-nature ranging from the very physicality of landscape changes in flora and climate to conflicts and contestations when it comes to conservation and heritage. Through supervision of masters theses in Global Environmental History I have also with the students explored forms of representation – writing narratives about the world that does not essentialise nature or people and that convey the intimate entanglement of people, other organisms and landscapes.

My interest in Historical Ecology was formed during the time I wrote my PhD thesis at Uppsala University, cross examining many sources; archaeological data, written sources, interviews with local residents, palaeoecology and landscape analysis to produce an environmental history of a place. Furthermore, the thesis presented environmental data from a region, southern Mozambique were there had been no similar analysis, enabling me to pioneer in this area. After completion of my thesis I was fortunate to be able to expand my interest also to southern Africa, working within Kruger National Park with vegetation history during a three year long post-doc at Long term ecology lab, Oxford University. Coming back to Uppsala I continued expanding my interest in historical ecology through various research projects both in Southern and Eastern Africa and Sweden, finally resulting in the creation of a masterprogramme in Global Environmental History.  I am currently involved in a book project on the Historical Ecology of Limpopo National Park Mozambique (see below).

Apart from the above engagements I also have a number of comissions of trust: Mar 2016- Member of Swedish national committee for global environmental change (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences); Jan 2015- Chair of the Board of Societas Archeologica Upsaliensis, SAU.; Sep 2014- Scientific steering committee of Integrated History and Future for People on Earth IHOPE; April 2015-Sep 2018 Steeringgroup for Centre for Biological Diversity (CBM), SLU and Uppsala University.

Research Projects

Landscape transformations and socio-ecological management in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique.

The project was funded by VR 2012-2015 (Co-PI Michel Notelid, and with collaboration with Rebecca Witter). We use archaeology, anthropology and paleoecology to analyse the long-term and contemporary socio-natural dynamics in Limpopo National Park (PNL) and lower Limpopo Valley, Mozambique. PNL is an area constituted by a very high vulnerability to climatic variability (socially and biologically) but with a long and continuous occupation by a mosaic of farmers, pastoralists as well as hunter and gatherers since at least 800 AD. Our project addresses three main research questions: How have past and current resource management practices contributed to shape the PNL landscape over time? How have historical shifts in socio-environmental relationships contributed to shape social and biological resilience and vulnerability and what can we learn from this when it comes to building resilience today? How can landscape history contribute to improving equity and sustainability in conservation management and what can we learn from this example internationally?

As some villages are now moving from the park we have documented the heritage places and narratives of the landscape and history in collaboration with these communities. As the park is under construction currently we also have the ability to follow the process of resettlement and conservation and both its contentions and collaborations. See project webpage.

Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC)

Countries such in eastern Africa require new frameworks for envisioning and planning desired futures. The main aim of the ARCC project (funded by the Swedish Research Council, VR in association with Sida) is to address how socioecological systems may respond under future climate change and social scenarios? We ask how socioecological systems in the study area have changed over the past 300 years? Climatic and vegetation data from the last 300 years help us understand how ecosystems have responded to past climate change, and how will it may respond to climate change in the future. We also explore how the biodiversity of the region been generated, how is it maintained and how biodiversity protection impacts livelihoods today? See project webpage.

Biocultural heritage and developing new industries Mozambique

Biocultural heritage is an emerging concept drawing on local knowledge, land-use practices and heritage values to define sustainability and resilience from the perspective of local inhabitants (see review here). Building on and reinvigorating local practices for heritage and biodiversity management is important given that the effects of climate change are accelerating and climatic insecurity and its effects on food production and security are increasingly pertinent issues. The programme is a 5 year bilateral cooperation and training programme with Eduardo Mondlane University funded by Sida with four PhD students in archaeology and one in anthropology. The aims of the programme is to build a framework for contract archaeology and management of bio-cultural heritage in Mozambique, developing also a framework for local ownership of heritage places and for local payments for ecological-heritage service.

Re-Contextualising Climate Change

This project emanates from the research cluster Historical Ecology at department of Archaeology and Ancient History but also brings in collaborations with the climate Change Leadership research node. Using data from different time periods and parts of the globe, this theme is intended to examine how researchers conventionally understand past climate change, and asks how might we rethink the material record of social adaptabilities and transformations to better understand what it means to live through an era of rapid climate change? see more

Ekologiska rum Mälardalen (The ecological dynamics of places in Mälardalen)

The project, aims to analyse and synthesise the current knowledge on palaeo-ecology, human transformations of the landscape and ecological dynamics in the Mälar Valley. The archaeological material in combination with the palaeoecological data also offers possibilities to better understand the long term ecological dynamics of these different landscapes – for instance when it comes to the management of meadows and grazing areas in the past and present – the historical understanding offers unique possibilities to study the connection between management practices and biological diversity. In the book Framtidens naturvärden i kulturmiljöer - fallstudie Gamla Uppsala we discuss Gamla Uppsala's many values from historical, current and future perspectives in order to better combine cultural and biological heritage goals. The book is a result of the project "The Future of Nature Values in Cultural Environments - Case Study Gamla Uppsala" funded by National Antiquities with the purpose to investigate how cultural heritage places surrounded by strong legal protection and whose surroundings are also protected in urban planning also more actively, through landscapemanagement can be reservoirs for biodiversity and knowledge parks.

Long term landscape dynamics of the Southern Africa savanna

The development of tools for fine-tuning climate projection models, biome-shift predictions and land cover change is of crucial relevance for decision making and policy formulation with respect to biodiversity, livelihood security and social planning. This project has received networking funding from Sanord and SSESS. The long term aims of this project are to: 1) provide long-term reconstructions of biome-shift dynamics in southern Africa and study its inter-relationship with climatic variability and landcover/land use change. Such data will provide essential tools for monitoring, mitigating and predicting the rate and direction of biome and micro-biome changes, 2) provide data for fine-tuning climate-model projections for southern Africa, a region where climate proxies remain limited, climatic variability is high and rainfall variability is a serious constraint for livelihoods. Available regional climate models are contradictory and unable to predict rainfall, which has direct implications for societies that could potentially be assisted by climate forecasting. The proposal springs from an ongoing inter-institutional and cross-disciplinary collaboration between Swedish (Elin Norström, Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University; Anneli Ekblom. Departments of Archaeology and Ancient History, and Geosciences, Uppsala University) and South African researchers (Lindsey Gillson, Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town; Jemma Finch School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal) (see publications below).

Archaeobotany and contract archaeology

Alongside a focus on African savannas I have had a long standing interest in Swedish landscape dynamics, particularly the interplay between human settlement and the physical landscape. As an archaeobotanical consultant for contract archaeology since 1999I have aimed to develop the archaeobotanical method to address archaeological research within the context of Swedish heritage management and contract archaeology. Through the archaeobotanical consultancy Geark I have compiled 61 archaeobotanical reports (10 co-authored with Jennie Andersson). My own research interest in these circumstances has been the social organisation of the landscape as expressed in the remains of the physical landscape such as pollen and macrofossils (see list of reports in Ekblom CV).


I teach at all levels of undergraduate education at Department of Archaeology and Ancient History from A to master’s level and at Cemus (Centre for Environment and Development Studies, CSD Uppsala), I have been involved in course management of undergraduate and graduate courses. I teach the topics “African and Comparative Archaeology”, “Landscape Archaeology”, “Historical Ecology” and “Environmental history and sustainability ”. I am the coordinator and main supervisor in the Ma programme in Global environmental History (GEH). See list and links of GEH master theses. I am currently also the studydirector of the PhD programmes at Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.

PhD supervision:


Last modified: 2022-01-27