Cover image for Paleoethnobotany : a handbook of procedures
Paleoethnobotany : a handbook of procedures
Pearsall, Deborah M.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Academic Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxxii, 700 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


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CC79.5.P5 P43 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Paleoethnobotany is the study of human-plant interactions throughout history. This edition presents the diverse approaches and techniques used by anthropologists and botanists in the study of human-plant interactions. It shows why anthropologists must identify plant remains and understand the ecology of human-plant interactions. Additionally, it demonstrates why botanists need to view the plant world from a cultural perspective and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the archaeological record. This edition of the definitive work on doing paleoethnobotany follows the steady growth in the quantity and sophistication of paleoethnobotanical research. It features a rewritten chapters on phytolith analysis and a new chapter Integrating Biological Data. It also includes new technqiues, such as residue analysis, and new applciations of old indicators, such as starch grains. An expanded examination of pollen analysis, more examples of environmental reconstruction, and a better balance of international examples increase the versatility of this holistic view of palaeoethnobotany. 4

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Plant materials have been used by archaeologists for a century or more to determine environments, relative dates, and resources of prehistoric societies (e.g., G.W. Dimbleby, Plants and Archaeology, 2nd ed., 1978). Since the 1930s, archaeologists, social anthropologists, and botanists have jointly developed a subdiscipline, paleoethnobotany. Jane M. Renfrew in her Palaeoethnobotany (1973), described its scope and utility. The present volume is the first extensive and critical guide to the field and to laboratory procedures for recovering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence in the three main categories: macro-remains, pollen and other microfossils, and phytoliths (silica casts from cells of certain plant groups). Although methods are described in detail, Pearsall's firsthand experience permits critical treatments much beyond a laboratory manual. The first chapter has a short history and a survey of the field; concern is expressed for quality of training and research in this developing area and for provincialism of researchers. In the final chapter, summaries of applications to actual sites provide an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the several plant sources of evidence. Each of the six chapters has thorough documentation and citations to the literature. An extensive index to topics, halftone illustrations, diagrams, and tables add to the exceptional usefulness of this volume for advanced undergraduate students and researchers. -W. S. Benninghoff, University of Michigan

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Editionp. xiii
Preface to the First Editionp. xix
List of Tablesp. xxi
List of Figuresp. xxv
Chapter 1. The Paleoethnobotanical Approach
Introductionp. 1
Historical Overviewp. 3
Nature and Status of Ethnobotanyp. 6
Chapter 2. Techniques for Recovering Macroremains
Introductionp. 11
In Situ Collection of Materialp. 12
Screening Techniquesp. 13
Water Recovery: Flotation Techniquesp. 14
Terminologyp. 15
Development of Flotation in the New Worldp. 19
Development of Flotation in the Old Worldp. 22
Machine-Assisted Flotation in North Americap. 26
Building and Operating Flotation Systems: Sample Designsp. 29
Manual Flotationp. 29
Machine-Assisted Flotation: Water Separators and SMAP Machinesp. 44
Machine-Assisted Flotation: Froth Flotationp. 59
Sampling for Macroremainsp. 66
Strategies for Samplingp. 66
Sampling Techniquesp. 69
Hints for Good Samplingp. 75
Issues and Directions in Recovery of Macroremainsp. 77
Choosing a Recovery Systemp. 77
Problem Soilsp. 88
Chemical Flotationp. 89
Testing Flotation Recovery Ratesp. 93
Saltwater Flotationp. 96
Chapter 3. Identification and Interpretation of Macroremains
Introductionp. 99
Initial Processing of Samplesp. 100
Basic Hand-Sorting Proceduresp. 100
Subsampling Large Flotation Samplesp. 111
Alternatives to Hand Sortingp. 116
Sorting Desiccated and Waterlogged Samplesp. 117
Building a Comparative Collectionp. 119
Plant-Collecting Proceduresp. 120
Pressing and Drying Specimensp. 124
Identification of Comparative Materialsp. 127
Preparing a Working Laboratory Collectionp. 128
Basic Identification Techniquesp. 133
Seedsp. 133
Fruits and Nutsp. 140
Woodp. 144
Roots and Tubersp. 153
Fibers, Leaves, and Non-Woody Stemsp. 162
Cultivated Plant Materialp. 168
Specialized Identification Techniquesp. 170
Embedding, Sectioning, and Grindingp. 170
Electron Microscopyp. 175
Morphometric Analysisp. 177
Residue Analysesp. 178
Presenting and Interpreting Resultsp. 188
Qualitative Presentationp. 191
Quantitative Analysisp. 192
Reporting Resultsp. 224
Interpreting Macroremain Data: Case Studiesp. 227
Issues and Directions in Macroremain Analysisp. 239
Sources of Seedsp. 240
The Meaning of Abundance Measuresp. 242
Sources of Bias in the Paleoethnobotanical Recordp. 244
Proof and Falsificationp. 245
The Roles of Macroremain Analysis in Paleoethnobotanyp. 247
Chapter 4. Pollen Analysis
Introductionp. 249
Nature and Production of Pollenp. 251
Formation of Pollenp. 251
Pollen Grain Structurep. 251
Pollen Representationp. 258
History of Pollen Analysisp. 263
Field Samplingp. 270
Sampling Strategiesp. 270
Taking Soil Samplesp. 279
Sampling Modern Vegetationp. 288
Laboratory Analysisp. 289
Sampling a Corep. 290
Soil Extraction Techniquesp. 290
Processing Coprolitesp. 297
Processing Floral Specimensp. 300
Mounting Slidesp. 301
Counting and Identifying Pollenp. 302
Presenting and Interpreting Resultsp. 311
Presenting Datap. 312
Interpreting Sedimentary Datap. 318
Case Study: Identifying Human Influences on Vegetation, An Example from the Pacificp. 338
Interpreting Archaeological Pollen Datap. 344
Issues and Directions in Archaeological Pollen Analysisp. 348
Preservationp. 348
Context and Sampling Issuesp. 349
Methodological Concernsp. 350
The Roles of Pollen Analysis in Archaeology and Paleoethnobotanyp. 352
Chapter 5. Phytolith Analysis
Introductionp. 355
Nature and Occurrence of Phytolithsp. 356
What Are Phytoliths?p. 356
The World of Phytolithsp. 360
Identifying Plants Using Phytolithsp. 375
Phytolith Depositionp. 392
Phytoliths and Archaeology: A Brief Historyp. 395
Field Samplingp. 399
Sampling Soil and Sedimentsp. 399
Sampling Vegetationp. 410
Laboratory Analysisp. 411
Phytolith Laboratoryp. 411
Soil-Processing Proceduresp. 416
Processing Comparative Plant Materialp. 435
Scanning and Counting Proceduresp. 444
Presenting and Interpreting Resultsp. 460
Presenting Resultsp. 460
Interpreting Phytolith Datap. 468
Case Study 1 How Common Was Maize at Real Alto?p. 473
Case Study 2 Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction: Integrating Phytolith and Pollen Datap. 483
Issues and Directions in Phytolith Analysisp. 491
What Plants Produce Diagnostic Phytoliths?p. 491
How, and from What Sources, Are Phytoliths Deposited in the Samples We Study?p. 493
How Are Phytoliths Extracted, Scanned, Quantified, and Reported?p. 493
What Are the Roles of Phytolith Analysis in Paleoethnobotany? In Archaeology?p. 494
Chapter 6. Integrating Biological Data
Part I Indicators of Diet and Health
Introductionp. 498
Indirect Dietary Indicatorsp. 501
Botanical Datap. 501
Faunal Datap. 507
Direct Indicatorsp. 520
Gut Contents and Coprolitesp. 520
Stable Isotopesp. 522
Trace Elementsp. 535
Skeletal Indicators of Nutrition and Healthp. 546
Part II The Interplay of Dietary Indicators
Predictions from Dietary Indicatorsp. 561
Indirect Indicators: Botanical and Faunal Datap. 561
Coprolite Datap. 562
Isotopesp. 562
Trace Elementsp. 563
Nonspecific Indicators of Stressp. 564
Combined Indicators for Eight Neotropical Dietsp. 566
Diets 1 and 2p. 566
Diets 3 and 4p. 569
Diets 5-8p. 572
From Model to Reality: Two Archaeological Case Studiesp. 578
Coastal Ecuador: Formative Period Dietp. 579
Paloma, Peru Casep. 588
Conclusionsp. 591
Referencesp. 593
Indexp. 695