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  • Cited by 5
  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: January 2010

18 - Diatoms and archeology



One of the goals of modern archeology is to understand how past communities interacted spatially, economically, and socially with their biophysical environment (Butzer, 1982). To this end, archeologists have developed strong links with zoologists, botanists and geologists to provide information on the environment of past societies and to help understand the complex relationships between culture and environment. This chapter reviews the role of diatom analysis in such studies, and discusses how the technique can be applied at a range of spatial and temporal scales to place archeological material in its broader site, landscape and cultural context. In particular, we examine applications to the provenancing of individual archeological artefacts, the analysis of archeological sediments and processes of site formation, the reconstruction of local site environments, and the identification of regional environmental processes affecting site location and the function of site networks. We have chosen a small number of examples that best illustrate these applications; other case studies directly motivated by archeological problems may be found in recent reviews by Battarbee (1988), Mannion (1987) and Miller and Florin (1989), while diatom-based studies of past changes in sea level, climate, land-use, and water quality that are also relevant to archeological investigation are reviewed elsewhere in this volume (e.g., Bradbury; Cooper; Denys & de Wolf; Fritz et al.; Hall & Smol).

Analysis of archeological artefacts

The direct application of diatom analysis to archeological artefacts is best represented in the field of pottery sourcing and typology.