Archaeobotany is the discipline devoted to analyzing and interpreting plant remains from archaeological sites, to explore the complex relationships between plants and people. These relationships include the spread and evolution of plants through human agncy, alterations of the environment, and human uses of plants for food, clothing, tools, and ritual.
DRI's archaeobotany laboratory has capabilities to investigate many types of plant evidence for interpreting these relationships. Plant macrofossils from ancient packrat middens are used to reconstruct vegetation patterns in arid settings. Plant macrofossils (including seeds and charcoal) from archaeological sites throughout western North America are identified using extensive in-house reference collections. DRI possesses a state-of-the-art flotation tank to efficiently remove these macrofossils from soils and sediments. The lab also has the capability to process and analyze phytoliths (microscopic mineral bodies made by plants and preserved in sediments), coprolites (fossil feces), and pollen from archaeological context.