Palaeobotany (ARC3512)

StaffProfessor Jose Iriarte - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

 Students will gain an understanding of how to identify, count, and statistically manipulate such data. By the end of the module, students will be acquainted with how plant assemblages can be interpreted to give us a fuller picture of past economies and human-environment interactions in different archaeological periods

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate basic competence in identification of the plants from some common plant species; prepare and interpret primary archaebotanical data under guidance
  • 2. The ways in which ancient plant assemblages can tell us about past economies and human-environment interactions in different archaeological periods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Have a competent overview of the use and acquisition of practical data
  • 4. Interpret a variety of information forms and assimilate/manage numerical and graphical data

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Manage data and display it graphically
  • 6. Acquire a range of observational and analytical skills which are applicable in the wider world
  • 7. Contribute to group discussions, ask pertinent questions and co-operate with and learn from peers

Syllabus plan

Introduction to archaeobotany, different classes of plant remains, field sampling, and plant recovery techniques. Plant macrofossil identification. Phytolith morphology of grasses (Poaceae). Wood, fruits, and seed phytoliths. Plant domestication I: Phytoliths from wild and domesticated plants. Plant domestication II: Starch grain analysis. Quantification, presentation, and interpretation of archaeobotanical data. Integrating paleoecological methods in the study of past agricultural systems. Human impact on past environments. Case studies

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities30Practical sessions with lecture and discussion elements

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
project one502000 words 1-7written
project two502000 words 1-7written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project oneProject one1-7referred/deferred period
Project twoProject two1-7referred/deferred period

Re-assessment notes

A new title will be set for both projects

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Balick, M. J. and Cox, P. A. (1996). Plants, People, and Culture. New York: Scientific American Library.

Fahn, A. 1982. Plant Anatomy. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Hastorf, C. A. and Popper, V. S. (1989). Current Paleoethnobotany: Analytical Methods and Cultural Interpretations of Archaeological Plant Remains . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Martin, A. C. and Barkley, D. W. (1961). Seed identification manual. London : University of California Press.

Pearsall, D. M. (2000). Paleoethnobotany: A Handbook of Procedures. San Diego: Academic Press.

Piperno, D. R. (2006). Phytoliths: A Comprehensive Guide for Archaeologists and Paleoecologists. New York: Altamira Press.

Piperno, Dolores R., and Pearsall Deborah D. 1998. The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics. Academic Press: New York.

Simpson, B. and Ogorzaly, M. (2000). Economic Botany. Plants in Our World. New York: Mc-Graw Hill- Science

Smith, B. D. 1998. The Emergence of Agriculture. New York: Scientific American Library

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Key words search

Archaeobotany, Phytoliths