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Archaeobotanical Studies

Project Team


Anthropologist, University of Tübingen

Archaeobotany is one of the disciplines within environmental archaeology focusing on the analysis of the plant remains from archaeological sites. Archaeobotany, in general, comprises varied study areas which can be named differently according to the biological materials they analyze. The archaeological plant finds are classified as macro-remains (seeds, fruits, and charcoals) and micro-remains (phytoliths, starch, and pollens). Macro-remains are recovered, in most cases, by water flotation which depends on separating the carbonized plants from the soil matrix through the flow of water. Other methods of recovery are also used according to the respected preservation conditions.

Current archaeobotanical studies cover a large number of research themes. Plant subsistence is widely addressed by archaeobotanists from the very beginnings of the discipline. Palaeovegetation and past environmental conditions are also regular subjects in the archaeobotanical literature, especially through pollen and charcoal analyses. Fuel use is a part of the long-lasting discussion in archaeobotany in terms of dung burning as fuel and how to identify dung in the plant material. In case of plant micro-remains, phytolith and starch analyses provide important information on past food habits.

The research goals of archaeobotanical research at Phoenix can be categorized within three interconnected themes; agroecology, plant biodiversity and use of natural resources. Agroecology theme will mainly target to the research questions related to the crop production and past agricultural practices at Phoenix. This is an important research field to understand how past agricultural practices were organized and how ecological conditions of arable fields were during the occupation period. Agricultural terraces are conspicuous landscape features around the settlement hinting human modification of natural landscapes to increase agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the other research themes will be the plant biodiversity and exploitation of natural resources. The wider region shows an exceptional floral biodiversity with about 2000 taxa. Save the presence of an endemic palm species (Phoenix theophrasti), Turkish sweetgum (Liquidambar orientalis) forms pure stands only in this region in the Eastern Mediterranean. That being the case, documenting the plant ancient biodiversity through several lines of material evidence becomes an important task to understand how the ancient inhabitants of Phoenix exploited these floral resources.

Doga Karakaya is an archaeobotanist who specialized in the identification of charred seeds and fruits. He recently finished his Ph.D. at the University of Tübingen in the Natural Sciences in Archaeology Institute on the plant macro-remains from an Early Bronze-Iron Age settlement in south-central Turkey, Tell Tayinat. Furthermore, he was involved in several research projects of Bronze and Iron Ages in Turkey, with good field experience for recovering the plant remains from archaeological deposits. His long-term research interest focuses on how subsistence practices were affected through environmental and political instabilities in the Near East. In what ways people responded to these changes during the transitional periods such as Late Bronze Age-Iron Age is another research interest of Dr. Karakaya. Currently, he is a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Tübingen working on plant macro-remains from Zincirli Höyük in the same region. This study is part of a larger project that aims to uncover the environmental impact of nomadic communities in the south-central Turkey through analysis of environmental archaeological methods.