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CODE 80434
  • 6 cfu during the 2nd year of 8453 CONSERVAZIONE DEI BENI CULTURALI (L-1) - GENOVA
  • 6 cfu during the 2nd year of 9009 METODOLOGIE PER LA CONSERV. RESTAURO BENI CULTURALI(LM-11) - GENOVA
    LANGUAGE Italian
  • SEMESTER 2° Semester


    Within modern Archaeology studies, plant remains are an important source of information, as they can greatly improve our knowledge about the environment in which human activities were carried out in the past and the availability and management of environmental resources. Archaeobotany studies microscopic and macroscopic plant remains that have been preserved in favorable conditions, both in archaeological sites (on site) and outside of settlements (off site).



    The purpose of the course is to show the criteria and methods of studying plant remains useful for the knowledge of the environmental characteristics of the past and for the history of plant resources. Moreover, it provides the basis for knowledge of the relationships between plants and human cultures.


    The course aims to illustrate the types of plant remains useful for obtaining palaeoenvironmental and palethnological information, in the context of archaeological research, understood in a broad sense. Archaeobotany consists in the study of microscopic and macroscopic remains of plants, in order to reconstruct environments from the past and use of plant resources, especially in the field of archeology studies. Archaeobotany consists of the study of the microscopic and macroscopic remains of plants, in order to reconstruct past environments and use of plant resources, especially in the field of archaeology studies. The course aims to provide students with knowledge about the main categories of plant micro-remains (pollen, spores, phytoliths, fibers, microcharcoal) and macro-remains (wood, charcoal, seeds and fruits) especially regarding the possibility of conservation, identification and ecological interpretation of research results. For this purpose, the characteristics of the different types of plant remains and their information potentials are illustrated. A series of examples of research aims to introduce the applicative aspects in different research fields, from the traditional archaeological sites to environmental archeology and historical ecology. In addition to the characteristics of the different types of plant remains of interest to archaeobotany, the fundamental aim of the course is to make people understand the peculiarities of the different types, their information content and the need for advanced disciplinary knowledge for the interpretation of research results.

    At the end of the course, students must have an adequate use of the specific scientific language, a good knowledge of the main types of plant micro- and macro-remains of archaeobotanical interest, the methodologies for their collection, identification and interpretation according to their ecological significance, both with regard to the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments, and for the use of environmental resources (e.g. food, raw materials, fuels, artifacts, etc.) and the traces left  in the environment. They will also need to be able to establish connections between the different topics covered.


    although difficult to possess in a humanistic course, notions of general ecology, plant ecology, and botany would be very useful, which would allow an easier understanding of the topics treated and a better learning of contents and methodologies


    The lessons will hopefully be held in person, with the possibility for students to follow even at a distance (confirmation of the method adopted will be given as soon as possible).

    Frontal lessons are given, for a number of  hours equivalent to 5.5 CFU  and practical laboratory exercises  (0.5 CFU) are carried out on the identification and taxonomic attribution of micro-remains (pollen and spores) and charcoal remains (anthracology).


    Teaching program

    Definition of the matter of study; brief history of Archaeobotany; ecology as a constant reference; plant remains as evidence of palaeo-environments and human activities; sedimentation processes (taphonomy); preservation of plant remains; general sampling criteria; environmental archaeology; the archaeobotanical disciplines.
    Palinology: Pollen and Spores: Nature, Morphology, Identification, Preservation, Sampling, Extraction, Pollen Analysis, Specimen Characteristics and Interpretation of pollen spectra and diagrams, Relationships between Pollen Deposition and Vegetation, Human Activity Indicators.
    Xylology and Dendrology: Principles and Applications; Identification of wood on anatomical bases; Applications in archaeology, dendrochronology, dendroclimatology and radiocarbon age calibration.
    Anthracology: charcoal: nature, characteristics, archaeological interest; taxonomic identification on anatomical bases; Sampling in different contexts; Anthracological analysis: the origin of charcoal and its meaning;  anthracological spectra and diagrams.
    Carpology: seeds, fruits and other macroremains; sampling and extraction; flotation; identification; Interpretation of results (ecology, nutrition, agriculture, trade).
    Fitoliths: nature and characteristics; extraction and identification; paleoenvironmental and palethnobotanic meaning.
    Current flora and vegetation as sources for the environmental history: evidence of the use of plant resources in living species and plant communities.
    Case studies of archaeobotany and of environmental archaeology: anthraology in medieval sites of northern Italy; the production of charcoal; the charcoal burning sites.
    Other information: the course includes some practical exercises regarding the topics dealt with and sometimes also seminars organized by LASA. Further information and bibliographical details will be provided during the lessons. The Powerpoint presentations used for the lessons are available at the Aulaweb website of the Humanities School.


    for the preparation of the exam, in addition to the lessons and exercises, it is recommended to read specialized texts, among which the following are highlighted:

    - Caneva G. (Ed.), 2005 – La Biologia vegetale per i Beni culturali. Vol. II. Conoscenza e valorizzazione (capitoli I, III,VIII, X). Nardini Editore. Firenze.
    - Arobba D. e Caramiello R. (a cura di), 2003 – Manuale di Archeobotanica. Franco Angeli Editore. Milano.
    - Bourquin-Mignot C., Brochier J.E., Chabal L.- Crozat S., Fabre L., Guibal F., Marinval P., Richard H., Terral J.-F., Rhery I., 1999 – La Botanique. Collection “Archeologiques”. Editions Errance. Paris.



    Exam Board



    DAVIDE ATTOLINI (Substitute)

    MARIA ANGELA GUIDO (Substitute)



    February 16th 2022

    Class schedule




    The exam consists of an oral test during which the learning of the topics provided by the course is ascertained

    In the case of taking precautions related to a health emergency, the exams will be carried out remotely, via the TEAMS web platform.


    so that the preparation of the student can be considered adequate, the assessment of the indispensable knowledge of those who face the scheduled oral exam takes place through a series of questions that range on the fundamental topics of the course program. Not only the notional knowledge is evaluated, but also the ability to understand the questions, to identify connections between different topics and to address the same topics from different points of view, the property of language and scientific terminology.

    Exam schedule

    Date Time Location Type Notes
    20/01/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    03/02/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    10/05/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    26/05/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    16/06/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    07/07/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale per motivi di salute del docente, la sessione è soppressa. Per esigenze particolari, che impediscano di attendere la sessione del 28 luglio, si può contattare il docente
    28/07/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale
    08/09/2022 15:00 GENOVA Orale


    The frequentation of lessons and exercises is strongly recommended, especially considering that the subjects of the course are not among those at least partially known to students in the humanities area and may be difficult to understand without adequate explanations such as those given during the lessons, through images, examples and case studies.

    The above is valid, even more so, in the case of lessons and tutorials possibly held at a distance, via TEAMS