Paleoethnobotanical identification criteria for bulbs of the North American Northwest

Abstract

Paleoethnobotanical assemblages from the Northwestern region of North America often yield geophyte subterranean organs, but these carbonized remains are difficult to identify to species or genus level. We examine 11 species (8 genera) of the most ethnographically prevalent Northwest geophyte foods for macro- and micro-morphologic geophyte features, with a focus on bulbs from the Asparagales and Liliales orders. In this contribution, we discuss ethnographic practices which may affect archaeological material and provide digital photographic and quantitative references for both fresh and carbonized geophytes. We determine that pavement epidermal cells are the most diagnostic criteria for identifying bulbs in paleoethnobotanical assemblages. These identification standards provide researchers with comparative material to address questions of plant use, preparation, and stewardship across the greater Northwest Coast and Columbia-Fraser Plateau cultural and geographic regions.

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Acknowledgements

Support for this research was provided by the Foley Graduate Student Fellowship through the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University and the Washington State University College of Arts and Sciences Boeing Graduate Fellowship in Environmental Studies. Funding was received from the University of California, San Diego for Carney to carry out part of this analysis. We are also grateful to Fourth Corner Nurseries in Bellingham, WA, Native Foods Nursery in Dexter, OR, Anna and Neil Berquist, and Emily Helmer for helping us source some geophytes when we were unable to harvest them ourselves.

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Carney, M., d’Alpoim Guedes, J. Paleoethnobotanical identification criteria for bulbs of the North American Northwest. Veget Hist Archaeobot (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-020-00808-9

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Keywords

  • Geophytes
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Bulbs
  • Archaeobotany