What is Paleoethnobotany?
Paleoethnobotany, also known as archaeobotany, is the study of human-plant interrelationships. Paleoethnobotany is an important component of a comprehensive study of any archaeological site, in addition to ceramic, lithic, or faunal analyses. Identification, analysis, and interpretation of the plants recovered from an archaeological site can give insight into past subsistence, economy, and environment. What kind of plants were people gathering for food or medicine? When, where, and why were plants domesticated? What crops were people growing and how important were they to the economy? What types of plants were used as firewood, or for construction of houses? How did human use of land alter the composition of plants on the landscape? These are just a few of the questions that a paleoethnobotanist will help answer.
As a consultant, I collaborate with cultural resource management (CRM) firms to complete detailed, quality identification and analysis of plant remains, such as seeds and wood, from archaeological sites. While paleoethnobotany can include the study of many different types of plant remains, from pollen to phytoliths, I specialize in macro-remains (plant parts large enough to be seen under a low powered microscope). Typically, these are carbonized plant parts such as seeds that are recovered through flotation.
My regional specializations are in the Greater Southwest and Midwest/Eastern North America. Other regions may be considered by special request.
Clients can contact me regarding analysis of flotation samples at any stage in the planning, excavation, or analytical process. The sooner I am involved in a project, however, the better the results will be because a strategy for in-field sampling and analysis can be designed to address specific questions.