Archaeobotany

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Archaeobotany (or called also Paleoethnobotany) is a field of botany closely related to archaeology and its techniques. It focuses on the investigation of the relation between man and the plants in the past and could be considered as part of the research on vegetation history. By analysing plant remains from both historical and prehistorical sites ancient cultivated and wild growing floras are reconstructed. The main questions of this research topic are:

  • Where did the cultivated plants originate and how they spread and how did their use developed through the time?
  • Which plants and plant materials were used for which purposes and why?
  • How the vegetation was shaped by the human activities into its present state?
  • To which extend the vegetation change was climatically or anthropogenically driven?

Plant remains as different as plant macrofossils (Figure 1: seeds, fruits; Figure 2 and 3: wood fragments) or plant microfossils (pollen, spores, phytoliths, algae, etc.) are used as sources of archaeobotanical information. According to this fact, archaeobotany makes use of manifold auxiliary disciplines: macrofossil analysis (carpology), wood anatomy and wood charcoal analysis (anthracology), dendrochronology (with annual ring analysis) and dendroclimatology, palynology (pollen analysis), plant morphology and anatomy, plant systematics and plant sociology.

For the Sagalassos Research Project at the city of Sagalassos and Tepe Düzen especially plant macrofossil analysis and wood charcoal analysis has been a main focus of the archaeobotanical work: in contrast to palynology only macroremains, plant remains larger than 100 µm (0,1 mm) are inspected. Some more information on the ongoing archaeobotanical research could be seen in the web reports from the excavation campaigns 2008 and 2009.

Researchers involved

Elena Marinova is working since 2007 as archaeobotanist at the Center for Archaeological Sciences at K.U.Leuven. Previously (2001-2007) she worked as assistant professor at the department of Botany, Sofia University “Sv. Kliment Ohridsiï”, Bulgaria. She obtained her PhD at the Rheinische-Friedrich-Willem Universität, Bonn, Germany in 2001 on a thesis entitled 'Comparative Palaeoethnobotanical Study of the Vegetation History and the Development of the Prehistoric Landuse in Bulgaria'. Since 1996 she has participated as archaeobotanist at several international archaeological excavations in Bulgaria, Egypt, Romania, Syria, and Turkey (Sofia University, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, University of Salzburg, Universite Paris I, University of Tübingen, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, K.U.Leuven).

A poster on archaeobotanical research in Sagalassos can be downloaded below. The poster is in Dutch. It was presented on the open house of the Centre for Archaeological Sciences to an audience of Sagalassos enthusiasts.



Poster Archeobotanical
Research (3 MB)