People, Plants, and Landscapes: Studies in Paleoethnobotany

People, Plants, and Landscapes: Studies in Paleoethnobotany

People, Plants, and Landscapes: Studies in Paleoethnobotany

People, Plants, and Landscapes: Studies in Paleoethnobotany


Gremillion showcases the potential of modern paleoethnobotany, an interdisciplinary field that explores the interactions between people and plants using archaeological evidence.


Bruce D. Smith

Science, and our understanding of past human societies, does not advance gradually and uniformly across a broad front of inquiry. Rather the advance occurs as rapid and exciting expansions in some areas along the front while in other areas nothing much may happen for long periods of time. Researchers who move into these areas of rapid advance, in which broad new fields of inquiry are opening up, are often faced with exciting and challenging opportunities to apply emerging new theory and technology to expanding and complex data sets.

This book brings together a rich diversity of different case studies carried out within one such region of productive research that has steadily expanded over the past thirty years archaeobotany. Plant remains recovered from archaeological contexts have long held the promise of illuminating a variety of different aspects of past human societies, but it is only in the past thirty years that water flotation, accelerator mass spectrometry dating, scanning electron microscope analysis, and a range of other innovations have fueled the continuing rapid expansion of this region of inquiry. As Patty Jo Watson discusses in the opening chapter of this volume, many of the advances in archaeobotany over the past three decades have taken place in the Near East and in eastern North America, and in both areas a few key individuals have played central roles.

In eastern North America, Richard A. Yarnell has been a central figure throughout this period. in a variety of ways, both direct and indirect, he has charted the course of archaeobotanical research for the region and for a number of generations of scholars. in this regard the chapters comprising this book provide eloquent testimony to the enduring influence and importance of Richard Yarnell's approach, ideas, and interpretive perspective. There is much in this book, I would guess, that will please Yarnell far more than any glowing praise for him. There are ample and provocative theories and interpretations to be discussed and dissected, careful and well-reasoned arguments to consider, and a wealth of new data across a broad temporal and geographical span: in short, all the ingredients of studies that will stand the test of time.

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