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CODE 80434
SEMESTER 1° Semester


Within modern Archaeology studies, plant remains are an important source of information, as they 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. It also provides basic knowledge about ecology and biostratigraphy for the interpretation of complexes of micro- and macroscopic plant remains and the relationships between plant organisms and assets of cultural interest.


The course aims to illustrate the types of plant remains useful for obtaining palaeoenvironmental and palethnological information, in the context of archaeological researches, in a broad contest. Archaeobotany consists in the study of microscopic and macroscopic plant remains, in order to reconstruct past environments and the use of plant resources, especially in the field of archeological studies. The course aims to provide students 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 main aim of the course is to make people understand the peculiarities of these 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 concenring the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments, 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 for 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.


Classes are held in presence. Attendance, although not compulsory, is recommended. No remote learning is available for this course.

Face-to-face teaching is planned 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 charcoal remains (anthracology).

Non-attending students must get in touch with the teacher for some supplementary bibliography.



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: Wood: 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: laboratory exercises about the course topics are also planned together with seminar carried out by the Laboratorio di Archeologia e Storia Ambientale (CIR-LASA).

Non-attending students must get in touch with the teacher for some supplementary bibliography.


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:

• AROBBA D. e CARAMIELLO D. (a cura di), 2003 - Manuale di Archeobotanica. Franco Angeli Editore.

• CANEVA G. (a cura di),2005 - La biologia vegetale per i beni culturali. Vol.II, Conoscenza e valorizzazione. Nardini Editore. Firenze. 500 pp. (cap. 1,3,8,10).

• DI PASQUALE G., 2011 -  Che cos’è l’Archeobotanica. Carocci Editore.


Other bibliography:

•BIRKS H.H., BIRKS H.J.B. , KALAND P.E., MOE D., 1988 – The Cultural Landscape: Past, Present and Future. Cambridge University Press.

•GREIG J.,1989 - Archaeobotany. Handbooks for Archaeologists, n. 4. European Science Foundation. Strasbourg.

•MORENO D., 2018 - Dal documento al terreno. Nuova edizione. In Montanari C. e Guido M.A. (a cura di), Attualità di una proposta storica. Genova University Press.

•TURNE C., CANTI M., BRANCH N., CLARK P., 2005 – Environmental Archaeology: Theoretical and Practical Approaches. Hodder Arnold, London.


Non-attending students must get in touch with the teacher for some supplementary bibliography.







Lessons will start at teh end of September (approximately).

Time schedule: to be planned.

Class schedule




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


To be considered adeguate, the preparation of the student is texted through a series of questions about the fundamental topics of the course program. Not only the notional knowledge is evaluated, but also the property of language and the scientific terminology, the ability to understand the questions, to identify connections between different topics and to address the same topics from different points of view.


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.

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals
Climate action
Climate action
Life on land
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