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Plants in Ancient Pots: A Comparative Study of Paleoethnobotanical Results from Unwashed and Washed Ceramics

Author(s): Sophie Reilly

Year: 2017

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Paleoethnobotanists study human-plant interactions in the past, including the role of plants in ancient foodways. Microbotanical remains (phytoliths and starch grains) enable the identification of many plants because their morphology can be diagnostic to the family, genus, and species. Microbotanical samples can be extracted from specific artifacts, such as ceramics, enabling a better understanding of their use. Paleoethnobotanists can thus discern associations between certain vessel types and plant remains, and begin to understand the presentation and consumption of ancient meals. Unwashed artifacts are ideal in such studies, as they increase the likelihood of recovering microbotanical residues and mitigate the risk of contamination. However, not all archaeological projects keep samples of unwashed artifacts for future research. This poster presents comparative results from unwashed, washed, and charred ceramic sherds from the Late Formative (200 BC – AD 400) sites of Kala Uyuni and Challapata in the Lake Titicaca basin of Bolivia. I compare the utility of microbotanical results obtained from each of these kinds of sherds and consider whether carrying out analysis on washed or charred sherds is a viable alternative when it is impossible to access unwashed sherds.

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Plants in Ancient Pots: A Comparative Study of Paleoethnobotanical Results from Unwashed and Washed Ceramics. Sophie Reilly. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430432)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16486

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America