Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 305-310


  • Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 
  • , Leilani LucasAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London

Introduction and Definition

Archaeobotany is a composite discipline, combining botanical knowledge with archaeological materials. Archaeobotany is also known as palaeoethnobotany (or paleoethnobotany). It focuses on the study of preserved plant evidence from archaeological sites and the reconstruction and interpretation of past human-plant relationships. The term “archaeobotany” emphasizes the archaeological nature of the evidence, with its recognition of site formation processes and sampling issues. The term paleoethnobotany, especially prominent in North America, recognizes the importance of modern ethnobotanical studies in contributing to interpretations of the past. This needs to be kept distinct from the term palaeobotany, which is the study of past plants, their adaptations, evolutionary relationships, and communities, from the fragmented remains that are preserved in old sediments. While palaeobotany takes in the whole history of plant life on land (app ...

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