Reconstructing Agricultural Decision Making from Paleoethnobotanical Remains

Author(s): John Marston

Year: 2015


Paleoethnobotany has long been associated with the identification of crop plants and has led to important insights into domestication and the adoption of farming systems. New methods for the quantitative analysis of botanical remains, together with multiple allied datasets on human diet and environmental change, now allow paleoethnobotanists to generate empirical data on agricultural decision making in the archaeological record.

The breadth of data now available to paleoethnobotanists includes macro- and microbotanical remains from societies worldwide, isotopic proxies for human diet and fertilization of agricultural fields, genetic and phylogeographic histories of crops, and detailed local paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic histories. Together with powerful new theoretical perspectives on human-environmental interaction, including behavioral ecology, niche construction theory, and resilience theory, it is now possible to test directly why farmers chose specific agricultural practices instead of others and to determine the environmental impacts of these agricultural strategies.

I highlight several case studies from my own work and that of other panelists to elucidate the value of a theoretically rich, quantitatively driven, multiproxy analysis of ancient agricultural systems that asks how and why specific agricultural strategies were adopted and what the long-term implications of those decisions were for societies and environments.

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Cite this Record

Reconstructing Agricultural Decision Making from Paleoethnobotanical Remains. John Marston. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394909)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;