Margaret Adebisi Sowunmi (née Jadesimi) is a Nigerian botanist and environmental archaeologist. She was Professor of Palynology and Environmental Archaeology at the University of Ibadan. She pioneered the study of environmental archaeology and palaeoethnobotany in Nigeria and is the founder and president of the Palynological Association of Nigeria.
Sowunmi was born in Kano, Northern Nigeria on September 24, 1939. Her father was a pastor in the Church of Nigeria. She attended St Anne’s School Ibadan for her secondary school education. She studied for a BSc in Special Botany in the Department of Botany, at University College Ibadan, graduating in 1962. She received a postgraduate scholarship in 1963 to undertake Ph.D. research in palynology. In order to undertake research in palynology, Sowunmi travelled to Sweden to study with Gunnar Erdtman, who supervised her Ph.D. She earned her Ph.D. in botany from the University of Ibadan in 1967.
In 1967, Sowunmi was appointed a postdoctoral research fellow in the Archaeology Unit at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. In 1971 she established the Nigerian University Palynology Laboratory. Sowunmi was appointed Professor of Palynology and Environmental Archaeology in 1982. Throughout her career Sowunmi held various visiting positions, in 1997 in the Department of African Archaeology, Uppsala University, and in 1998 at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London and the Departments of African Archaeology and African Archaeobotany, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität. During the course of her career, she supervised seven Ph.D. students, and is noted for being an inspirational teacher. Sowunmi has worked on gender issues in archaeology in Nigeria, including modifying androcentric course titles. Sowunmi was the founder and president of the Palynological Association of Nigeria, and president of the West African Archaeological Association. Sowunmi retired in 2004.
Awards and honors
In 2003, Sowunmi received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Humanities by Uppsala University to recognize her outstanding scholarship and research and teaching contributions in environmental archaeology and paleobotany.