Introduction to Archaeology: Class 14
Archaeobotany and Bioarchaeology
Copyright Bruce Owen 2002
Today we once again cover two basically unrelated topics: archaeobotany (also called
paleoethnobotany) and an introduction to bioarchaeology
do the readings to get more of the story!
two terms for the field with different emphases, but generally covering work done by the
: study of ancient plant remains
usually focuses on reconstructing environment, climate, resource availability, etc.
: study of ancient plant-human relationships and their changes over time
diet and food preparation (cuisine)
implications about farming and gathering practices
determining if a site was occupied year-round, or only during certain seasons
craft uses of plants (fibers for textiles, gourds for net floats, reeds for mats or house
construction, basketry, etc.)
uses of plants for fuels
can have implications about ethnic, occupational, status, etc. relationships
(what Thomas calls "plant macrofossils", even though they are not
fossils): pieces of plant material that are big enough to pick out while excavating, or that
turn up in the screen
a related kind of macrobotanical find: casts or impressions in ceramics, bricks, etc.
example of wheat and barley impressions from Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, early Neolithic
(7000 - 4500 BC)
macrobotanical remains are often used to help to reconstruct diet
kinds of corn and cobs
guavas, peppers, beans, etc.
macrobotanical remains are sometimes found in coprolites, also very useful for
: dried feces (human, dog, etc.)
only preserved in special circumstances
usually very dry environments
often contain macrobotanical remains
also small bone fragments, microscopic botanical material, parasites that reflect
general health status
a very direct, specific source of data on diet, even specific meals and cuisine
analysis requires specialists!
Peruvian example of coprolites