The Science of Organic Residue Analysis and the Art of Cultural Interpretation II

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

For those interested in the analysis of archaeological organic residues (biomolecular, micro-, and macroremains), our primary interest is in the development of public and professional presentations to bridge the gap between the science and the significance behind the data. Because many chemical and morphological methods are complex and unfamiliar to scientists and laypersons alike, explaining the rigor and the validity of the methodology often dominates the presentations. The cultural implications of the findings are oversimplified. We challenge researchers to create presentations that are suitable for the general audience, where the method and the interpretation are given equal weight. We encourage the use of creative, well-constructed, and easily understood visuals. We also welcome presentations that target specific age groups, such as high school and secondary education forums. The cultural interpretation should extend beyond the past and reach into the present—how well can a general audience understand the method and the meaning of the research? We hope that the papers produced for this session will be subsequently presented in academic and public forums. Our goal for this symposium is that it becomes an exercise in communication that increases the relevance of archaeological work and its accessibility to the public.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • Burning Questions: An Anthracological Approach to Culture, Ecology, and Imperial Expansion at Angkor, Cambodia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristyn Hara.

    Compared to archaeological research in other parts of the globe, the analysis of wood charcoal assemblages, or anthracology, remains an underutilized methodology for investigating aspects of the human past in Cambodia. This paper argues for the importance of anthracology as a viable scientific methodology by foregrounding its interpretive potential in addressing a diverse suite of micro- and macro-scale questions pertaining to human-environment dynamics and cultural practices over the longue...

  • "Call Any Vegetable": Culinary Practices in Neolithic and Metal Age Mekong River Delta (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michelle Eusebio. Philip Piper. Andrew Zimmerman. T. Elliott Arnold. John Krigbaum.

    Almost nothing is known about the early development and diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, which potentially has its origin more than 2,000 years ago. This research investigates the culinary practices in southern Vietnam during the Neolithic and Metal Age (3000 BC-AD 500) by analysis of food residues recovered from earthenware pottery. To identify former food contents, organic residue analysis was conducted on sampled pottery vessels recovered from two Neolithic sites (Rạch Núi and An Sơn) and two...

  • Cooking up a Storm (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cathleen Hauman.

    Food is not only essential for survival but also an important element of any culture. Artifacts for the storage, preparation and serving of food and drink form a large proportion of archaeological assemblages demonstrating that this has always been the case. Understanding how these artifacts were used gives us valuable insight into our past. Organic residue analysis allows us to more accurately determine how a vessel was, in fact, used. My research looked at several vessels sourced from Thailand...

  • An Examination of Anthropogenic Burning in Old Kiyyangan Village, Ifugao (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nathan Downey. Alan Farahani. Stephen Acabado.

    The rapid expansion of the Old Kiyyangan Village (OKV) in Ifugao, Philippines was accompanied by population increase and a shift in crop production—from taro to wet-rice. Archaeological excavations at OKV have also uncovered larger-than-expected quantities of wood charcoal that likely represent burning episodes associated with this shift. Preliminary analysis of the distribution of wood charcoal indicates that specific locations within the OKV were for anthropogenic burning practices. Moreover,...

  • Fire up the Uhmw: Deciphering Botanical Residues from Earth Ovens in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Maureece Levin. Floyd Silbanuz.

    In Pohnpei, Micronesia, the uhmw, or earth oven, is one important way of preparing food. These ovens are typically located in cookhouses next to residential sites. Pohnpeians use heated stones on the ground to cook food and cover items with large leaves while cooking. It is clear that umhw are a long-standing Pohnpeian tradition, as multiple examples have been found in the archaeological record. In this paper, we ask what botanical residues from uhmw can tell us about the prehistory and history...

  • Liangchengzhen Consumption Patterns: Moving from Integrative to Competitive (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rheta Lanehart. Anne P. Underhill. Robert H. Tykot. Fen Wang. Fengshi Luan.

    Patterns of food consumption are intimately linked to economy, social organization, culture, and identity. This study investigated patterns of food consumption across space and time at Liangchengzhen, a Longshan (ca. 2600-1900 B.C.) site located in Shandong Province, China. It was hypothesized that evidence of increasing social inequality with respect to food consumption would be found from early to late phases. Rice and meat from mammals, especially pigs, were hypothesized as the most likely...

  • Organic Residues from Durable Vessels in Prehistoric Southwest Alaska (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marjolein Admiraal.

    Prehistoric people of coastal southwest Alaska used clay and stone vessel technologies for the past 3,000 years. Despite the challenges that the cold and humid subarctic climate posed to the procurement of clay and the drying and firing of pottery, people invested their valuable time and energy in the manufacture and maintenance of these durable vessels. Why? What role did container technologies play in the wider process of food procurement and processing? An increased focus on marine resources...

  • Paleofecal Analysis from a Human Behavioral Ecology Perspective (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenna Battillo.

    Paleofecal research has benefited from many recent methodological advances, such as SEM and high-throughput DNA sequencing. However, as our results grow both more robust and more precise, our interpretations have not always followed suit. Researchers are eager to establish what was on the menu, but often more cautious in exploring the biocultural and evolutionary implications of those findings. Some scholars have argued that it is difficult to apply human behavioral ecology (HBE) models to...

  • Plant Residues from the Pre-Austronesian Tanshishan site (c. 4300 BP) and Their Interpretation (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sheahan Bestel. Tianlong Jiao.

    A mid-Neolithic expansion of farming cultures into the coastal areas of Fujian province, located opposite Taiwan on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, occurred around c. 4300 cal BP. Crops including foxtail millet and rice formed part of these farmers' diet, and plant remains such as bamboo, possibly used for wooden cooking implements, were also common in sediments and residues at these Longshan-period sites. Plant residues from pottery fragments excavated from the Tanshishan site, located in...

  • The Potentials of Anthracology and the Study of Archaeological Parenchyma in Vietnam Archaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jasminda Ceron.

    Archaeobotanical studies in Southeast Asia has been gradually developing in the archaeological scene in providing interpretation of the past. In this paper, a macro-botanical study of Vietnam, focusing on the anthracology (wood charcoal) and archaeological parenchyma, was initiated. The principles and methods used by the archaeologists in other regions in the analysis of wood charcoal and parenchymatous plant tissue are applied in the analysis of the plant remains recovered in the archaeological...

  • Recent Research in Residue Analysis in Old World and New World Contexts (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sean Rafferty.

    Analysis of organic residues continues to be a productive method of extracting information from prehistoric material culture. This paper presents current results of several ongoing research projects, involving several teams of researchers. Two projects present recent research into the origins of tobacco smoking through the analysis of tobacco pipes, including a sample of pipes associated with the Southeastern Late Archaic Poverty Point culture, and a second sample of pipes associated with Early...

  • Residue Analysis for Cacao in Southeastern Utah Ancestral Puebloan Ceramics, Montezuma Canyon, Utah (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Glenna Nielsen-Grimm. Richard Terry. Bryce Brown. Deanne Matheny. Ray Matheny.

    In 2009, theobromine, a biomarker for Theobroma cacao, was found and reported in an analysis of cylindrical vessels from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (Crown and Hurst 2009). Washburn's positive results from ceramics recovered from Brew's excavations at Alkali Ridge, Utah (Washburn et al. 2013) dating to the Pueblo I period, pushed the time depth of cacao use centuries earlier than the findings from Chaco Canyon. They suggest cacao was brought from the south as a journey food and later used as a food...

  • Turning the Desert Green: Reconstructing Late Paleolithic Vegetation at Wadi Kubbaniya, Upper Egypt (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kimball Banks. Linda Cummings. Signe Snortland. Maria Gatto.

    Wadi Kubbaniya is the largest wadi extending from the Western Desert to the Nile in Upper Egypt. The Combined Prehistoric Expedition devoted four seasons in the late 1970s-early 1980s investigating Late Paleolithic (20,000-12,000 BP) settlement-subsistence in the wadi. The Expedition documented one of the most complete occupational sequences for this period in Upper Egypt. Because of excellent preservation, the Expedition was able to reconstruct the vegetation and identify floral resources...

  • Using Ancient Plant Macroremains to Understand Resource Consumption in the Past and Present (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lana Martin.

    Many people recognize the need for markedly different mode of living amid a growing body of scientific evidence that the current world population is environmentally unsustainable. Exploring ancient foodways and landscape management techniques may improve our ability to imagine highly productive modes of food production and resource consumption dissimilar to that of our current global reality. Here, I show how a reconstruction of macrobotanical and faunal remains builds a narrative of...