PALEOETHNOBOTANY RESEARCH
Ali Neugebauer, 2011 Paleobotany Intern, Franklin & Marshall College

 


Ali Neugebauer floating seeds from Poggio Colla

 


Poggio Colla's paleobotanical research "office"

 

Paleoethnobotany Report - 2007
Lynn Makowksy & Jessica Galeano

The purpose of performing paleoethnobotanical studies at Poggio Colla is to identify the types of plants utilized by the Etruscans on site. A variety of information can be gathered from an in depth analysis of the botanical remains, including insights into the Etruscan diet and common plants used in weaving. For this reason, we have asked each of the trench supervisors to collect a ten-liter soil sample from features and each different stratum, or layer of soil, in their trench.

Above and below: soil with botanical materials from Trench PC 32

Once we have the soil samples, they are individually floated. It takes approximately three hours to float one soil sample due to the high clay content in the soil. Nevertheless, floatation is a very simple procedure. A small portion of the sample is placed in a sieve, which is sitting in a large water barrel. The silt and soil filter out of the sample into the bottom of the barrel. Rocks and larger materials (pottery, tile, mud brick) remain in the bottom of the sieve; this is called the heavy fraction. All of the botanical remains float to the top of the sieve where they are skimmed off with a tea strainer and placed on a sheet of white polyester; this is called the light fraction since it floats. Both fractions are dried and then placed into labeled containers for future use. Pottery, bone, tile, and any other artifacts that are found in heavy fraction are segregated, labeled, and given to the lab.


Lynn Makowsky floating botanical materials

The next part in the process involves sorting the light fraction by size using geological sieves and identifying its components. Typical components include modern roots, charcoal, whole seeds, and seed fragments. The contents are then identified, using a low powered microscope. Once the sample is sorted and identified, whole seeds are counted and all organic material is weighed by size and type. Thus far, the seeds identified in the light fraction are cereal, mainly barley, some wheat, and a few broad beans, chickpeas, and grape pips.


Lynn Makowsky floating botanical materials

Due to the time commitment to sort through each sample, we plan to process more of the light fraction in the near future, after the conclusion of the field season. Ultimately, when all of the light fractions have been processed we plan to analyze the organic remains of Poggio Colla in their entirety. The relationship between the deposition of organic remains over time will hopefully elucidate the function of the site in addition to providing insight on Etruscan diet and weaving practices in greater detail.


Seeds from Poggio Colla trench

Lynn Makowsky - 2005 Field Report:

The purpose of the paleoethnobotanical project is to uncover important information about the human-plant relationship at Poggio Colla. Working with two students, Mara Pillinger and Angela Trentacoste, we are using the methodology developed by Sarah Kupperberg between 1996-1998. The first step is the recovery of the macroremains (the botanical remains visible to the eye) by manual flotation. Flotation uses water to separate the buoyant organic remains from other types of materials. Carbonized wood, grain, seeds, pips and tubers float to the surface and are saved for future analysis. In addition to the recovery, we hope to make some initial identifications in the field this season and analyze the results in relation to the original archaeological context. By integrating the botanical material with the architectural findings and artifact record, we can uncover important environmental and cultural information pertaining to the site. Moreover, we can contribute to the overall existing Etruscan paleoethnobotanical data.


1998: Sarah Kupperberg floating Poggio Colla botanical materials

Research Projects