Environmental archaeology
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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

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.

Environmental Archaeology Contains Following Chapter:

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.

Archaeobotany Collections

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.

  • Archaeobotany Reference collection
  • Archaeobotany Collection

    Ongoing Research
  • Plant remains from Spanish colonial sites in Florida. This long-term project has looked at colonial foodways, economies, changing roles of plants, and interactions between Europeans and Native Americans.
  • Plant remains from sites in the Everglades National Park: changing plant use through time and across microhabitats in both coastal and glades regions.
  • Plant use at the Spanish colonial San Luis de Alapachee site in Tallahassee, Florida.
  • Redistribution patterns at the Penal Presidio of Santa Maria de Galve, Pensacola, Florida.

    Previous Research
  • West Indian incipient plant domestication (Newsom, 1993 University of Florida Dissertation).
  • Evaluation of plant use at the prehistoric Seminole Rest site..
  • Santa Rosa/Swift Creek plant analysis at the Bernath Place site.

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.

Zooarchaeology Collections

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.

  • Zooarchaeology Reference Collection
  • Zooarchaeology Collection

    Ongoing Research
  • Economics of natural resource use at the Classic Maya site of Motul de San Jose, Guatemala..
  • Use of environmental products for subsistence and expression of status in areas of developing social complexity in Mesoamerica (Guatemala and Honduras).
  • Subsistence, social status, and animal resource access at Early to Terminal Classic Maya sites in Guatemala and Honduras.
  • Seasonal indicators for hunting, fishing, and gathering activities at sites.
  • Prehistoric human-environment relationships in subtropical, coastal, southwest Florida.
  • The historic period and the balance between the use of wild animals and introduced European domestic ones.
  • Paleoindian and Archaic period uses of animals on the coast of Peru.
  • Oxygen-18 isotopes and Calcium-Strontium ratios from archaeological M. campechiensis shells as indicators of climate change.
  • Animal use and environmental change at coastal and glades sites of the Everglades National Park.

    Previous Research
  • Carbon isotopes in Mesoamerican deer bones as a measure of environmental change.
  • Animal use by the ancient Maya as indicators of social changes (Colonial contact, Maya collapse).
  • Origins of animal domestication in the Andes.
  • Prehistoric sites in the West Indies.

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.

Archaeopedology Collections

    Ongoing Research

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.


    Previous Research
  • The landforms and architectural features at the Pineland site in southwest Florida.
  • Early site environment at Seminole Rest on Mosquito Lagoon in Volusia Co., Florida.
  • Depositional environments of a number of deep-sand sites in central Florida.
  • Sediments from the Aucilla River (in cooperation with the Vertebrate Paleontology program at FLMNH).
  • Spatial relationship between lithics workshops and household areas of inland Archaic sites.
  • Evaluation of site disturbance and evidence of habitation in a cave environment, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands.

Books on the Environmental Archaeology:
Environmental archaeology: principles and practice -Dena Ferran Dincauze - 2000

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, ...

Environmental archaeology: meaning and purpose Umberto Albarella - 2001

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: approaches, techniques & applications - Keith Wilkinson, Chris Stevens - 2003.

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.

Rich Resources over the web on Environmental Archaeology
  • Environmental archaeology in Wiki :

    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.

  • Environmental Archaeology at the Florida : Environmental Archaeology Environmental archaeology is the interdisciplinary study of past human interactions with the natural world - a world that encompasses plants, animals, and landscapes.
  • Environmental Archaeology Useful links

Diciplines by Regional study
  • African Archaeology

    African Archaeology Africa has the longest record of human activity of any part of the world and along with its geographical extent; it contains an enormous archaeological resource. Scholars have studied Egyptology for centuries but archaeologists have only paid serious attention to the rest of the continent in more recent times.
  • American Archaeology

    American Archaeology Archaeology of the Americas is the learning of the archaeology of North America, Central America (or Mesoamerica), South America and the Caribbean, which is to say, the pre-history and Pre-Columbian history of Native American peoples.
  • European archaeology

    European Archaeology In terms of area, Europe is the world's second smallest continent, with an area of 10,400,000 kmē (4,000,000 square miles), making it slightly larger than Australia.
  • Medival archaeology

    Medival archaeology The period covers the commotion caused by the fall of the Medival archaeology Roman Empire and cultures such as the Vikings, Saxons and Franks.
  • Near Eastern Archaeology

    Near Eastern Archaeology Near Eastern Archaeology is a wide generalised application, and is divided into further regional sub-branches, the archaeology of modern states in the region or along broad thematic lines.
  • Post Medieval Archaeology

    Post Medieval Archaeology The Post Medieval Archaeology is considered as a bi-annual journal study of the material evidence of European society. This period saw the conversion of medieval to industrial society.
  • Modern Archaeology

    Modern Archaeology In contrast to the antiquarianism of classical archaeology, anthropological archaeology today is concerned with culture history (i.e., the chronology of events and cultural traditions) and the explanation of cultural processes.