Seed Caches from Archaeological Contexts: What can they convey about the past?

Date and Time: 
Friday, 18 March, 2016 - 11:00
, Vandy - Athabasca University
, Karen - Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Humans have been caching and storing plant seeds and fruit for thousands of years, providing important insights into ancient plant use invisible in the general archaeological record. Plant storage and caching illuminate human behaviors regarding ancient plant selection, domestication, harvesting and spiritual practices. Concentrations of ancient plant parts can be difficult to distinguish from the natural collection of plants by rodents and insects. As a result, identifying cultural vs natural concentrations of plant remains in archaeological deposits is not always straightforward. This paper: i) outlines key characteristics that can assist archaeobotanists in distinguishing between natural (e.g. nesting and caching by rodents) and cultural (e.g. storage and caching by humans) plant concentrations; ii) discusses some key archaeological sites in the American Southwest with excellent examples of human caching and plant storage; and iii) highlights the interpretive potential of these unique archaeobotanical assemblages for understanding ancient plant use in the region.