Environmental archaeology is the study of the long-term relationship between humans and their environments. Various sub-disciplines are involved to document and interpret this relationship, including palaeoethnobotany, geomorphology, palynology, geophysics, landscape archaeology, human biology and human ecology.
Environmental Archaeology has emerged as a named discipline only in the last 30 years.
It has rapidly grown in significance and is now seen as a major component to most excavation
projects. Many Universities teach the subject as a standard course component and also
as a separate degree. One leading university in this field is Royal Holloway University of London
where the discipline is taught as part of an Environmental Archaeology degree.
Environmental archaeology is the science of reconstructing the relationship between ancient peoples and the environments they lived in.What trees, herbs, vegetables, and flowers did the ancients see around them, Which animals lived nearby and which did they hunt or keep as pets (the study of zooarchaeology)? And where did they find clay for their pottery, grow their crops, or climb hills and dales (the study of geoarchaeology).
Environmental archaeology is traditionally divided into three subfields: zooarchaeology (the study of animal remains), archaeobotany (the study of plant remains), and geoarchaeology (the study of the abiotic landscape). We use both modern comparative and archaeological collections in our research.
The term bioarchaeology was first coined by British archaeologist Grahame Clark in 1972 as a reference to zooarchaeology, or the study of animal bones from archaeological sites.
Like the faunal and soils collections housed in the Environmental Archaeology Laboratory, both archaeological collections and modern reference collections of plants are curated. These collections are an integral part of scientific studies and as such their collection, maintenance, and orderly use are crucial. The plant collections are still in their incipient stages of growth as this component of the environmental archaeology program is a recent addition.
Zooarchaeology, also known as Archaeozoology, is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. The remains consist primarily of the hard parts of the body such as bones, teeth, and shells. Such remains may represent the food refuse of ancient populations as well as animals used for transportation, farm or other labor or pet, or for decoration, clothing and tools and the scrap therefrom.
The Environmental Archaeology Program maintains two types of zooarchaeological research collections. One, the reference or comparative collection, contains skeletons or shells of modern animal species used to identify zooarchaeological materials. The zooarchaeology collection houses samples of animal remains excavated from archaeological sites.
These two collections are irreplaceable vouchers that document characteristics of animal species and provide evidence for a better understanding of conditions and economies of the past. As such they are given the best care possible to ensure their integrity. They are maintained under carefully climate-controlled conditions in a systematic storage system in association with all archived data, reports, and publications.
Holdings consist of anthropogenic (human-influenced) soils and control samples taken from the sites and surrounding off-site areas. Bulk samples of about 350 grams are taken from each natural soil horizon and cultural stratum within excavation units. Augered samples are taken from below the floors of excavation units and from the vicinity of the site. Each sample is air-dried, assigned a catalogue number, and curated in the Museum prior to analysis. Voucher samples are retained for future use.
Studies employ analyses of chemical and grain-size characteristics to answer questions about site configuration and settlement patterns, environmental changes such as sea level rise, and post-depositional alterations in site structure. Chemical analyses include determination of pH, organic carbon and total phosphorus content, and content of acid-extracted elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, aluminum, copper, and zinc. Particle-size distribution analysis is used to quantify changes in soil texture.
Soil morphological descriptions include horizon arrangement, thickness, and boundaries; color, texture, structure, and inclusions such as roots, artifacts, and animal burrows. All of these data are used to compare anthropogenic deposits with native (non-human-influenced) soils to determine site boundaries and interpret site use.
Dena Dincauze has written an authoritative and essential guide to a variety of archaeological methods, ranging from techniques for measuring time with isotopes and magnetism to the sciences of climate reconstruction, geomorphology, ...
Archaeological Prospecting and Remote Sensing surveys some of the highly ingenious non-destructive methods for detecting and mapping remains of ancient cultures that have vanished from the modern surface. Techniques include low-level air photography, magnetic, thermal, electric, and electromagnetic geophysical prospecting.
Environmental archaeology focuses on the ways in which humans have interacted with nature throughout the past. This book discusses what exactly the field is, why it is studied, and what contribution it can make to reconstructing the past. Individual chapters focus on how the field of study developed, its key principles, techniques and approaches, and how environmental archaeologists reach and communicate their interpretations of the evidence.
Environmental archaeology is the study of the long-term relationship between humans and their environments. Various sub-disciplines are involved to document and interpret this relationship, including paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, geomorphology, palynology, geophysics, landscape archaeology, human biology and human ecology.
Environmental archaeology : Environmental Archaeology Environmental archaeology is the science of reconstructing the relationship between ancient peoples and the environments they lived in.