Wesleyan portrait of Kate  Birney

Kate Birney

Associate Professor of Classical Studies

Downey House, 294 High Street, 212

Chair, Archaeology

Associate Professor, Archaeology

Associate Professor, Art History


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BA Yale University
MT Harvard University
PHD Harvard University

Kate Birney

I am a Mediterranean field and environmental archaeologist studying ecology and commercial exchange. My current research focuses on the cultivation, production and exchange of botanical commodities (ancient plant medicines, perfumes, and crops) throughout the Mediterranean, with a particular focus on connections between the ancient Near East and the Greek world. Birney Lab is home to the Ancient Ecophysiology Initiative, an interdisciplinary research project that lies at the intersection between archaeology, plant chemistry, philology, and environmental science.  We draw upon ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian and Classical texts together with environmental archaeology to reconstruct the environments in which key plants and crops  were grown, and experimentally model the impact of microclimate on their growth patterns and bioactive compounds. This research helps us to understand how climate and cultivation strategies impacted the potency and use of ancient plants, and to rediscover traditional species and resilient agricultural practices that may offer productive pathways in a changing climate.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Fall 2023: W 12:30-2pm and by appointment


Fall 2024
GRK 350 - 01
Afterlife Ancient Greece