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We're All About Archaeobotany
We're All About Business
Linda started a small business in 1972 that has grown and developed into PaleoResearch Institute. The field of archaeobotany did not exist at that time. The experiment of extracting pollen from sediments and archaeological sites worked! Further, the experiment of developing and pursuing archaeobotany in a business setting worked! We continue to provide a wide range of services in the biological sciences for the archaeologist. We use our business setting to provide the best quality of research possible within our field.
PaleoResearch Institute was formed to conduct archaeobotanic research in a contract setting, leading the industry in innovation, analysis, and interpretation of the past. Our goals are to maintain excellence in extraction, identification, and analysis of the materials we work with, to promote excellence in the interpretation of those materials and in reports, and to promote development and use of state-of-the-art techniques for the analysis and interpretation of archaeobotanic records. Work conducted in a contract setting is particularly subject to time and budget constraints, so the above must be accomplished in a timely manner.
Further, PaleoResearch Institute desires to promote a healthy and fulfilling work environment. We provide the opportunity for each employee to use his/her unique signature strengths to be productive and successful, and promote the concepts of both responsibility and accountability.
For PRI research locations and information press the globe and click on the desired location. This page is still under construction (first segment includes work through 1997). We are in the process of plotting location information. Thank you for your patience.
We concentrate on research
- Developing and refining extraction techniques
- Developing and refining research designs & sampling designs
- Asking new questions of data sets
- Pioneering new techniques
These include analysis of:
- Modern pollen transects
- Pollen samples (archaeological and paleoenvironmental)
- Phytolith samples (archaeological and paleoenvironmental)
- Archaeoclimatic modeling
- Macrofloral remains
- AMS radiocarbon dating
- Microcharcoal extraction for AMS dating
- Charcoal (including identification prior to C14 dating)
- Paleofeces (coprolites)
- Parasite eggs
- Protein residue
- Ceramic analysis
- Mineral analysis (to detect pigments such as red ochre, and for other applications)
Jared Diamond (1999:25) in Guns, Germs, and Steel sums up his book in a single sentence: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” (Emphasis added). At Paleo Research Institute, we work to identify people's environments – and interpret people's behaviors, particularly regarding the plant portion of subsistence, within that environment.
In our business model, we generate our own overhead to purchase equipment and supplies and all expenses associated with operating a business. We’ve minimized bureaucracy!
We’ve created an office culture of curiosity, innovation, attention to detail, communication, team work, fun, sharing, participation, responsibility, and accountability. We strive to make use of everyone’s unique talents.
We accept interns who meet certain requirements.
Paleoenvironmental and paleosubsistence reconstruction, including paleonutrition, are emphasized. Reconstruction of historic landscapes and examination of site formation processes are also areas of intense interest. Large reference collections of pollen, seeds, phytoliths, wood and charcoal are maintained at the laboratory to facilitate the accurate identification of archaeological and modern materials. We use PC computers for the quantification and comparison of data, as well as report production. A computer program is used to generate stratigraphic pollen and phytolith profiles, as well as other pollen, phytolith, and occasionally macrofloral graphics. We are using a Mac to measure maize cob phytoliths, which gives us a signature of both size and shape of a population of phytoliths recovered either from individual cobs or from ceramic vessels. Shape should reflect genetics or race of maize, while size should be an indicator of the environmental conditions under which the maize grew. We are currently building a data base for maize cob phytoliths from archaeological proveniences throughout the Americas that will ultimately allow us to examine movement of people and their domesticated races of maize across the landscape and through time.
We examine material from a variety of sites ranging from Paleo-Indian to Historic in age, as well as acultural contexts. Geographic distribution of our work includes the continental United States, Alaska, Meso-America, Chile, Peru, the Circum-Mediterranean and various parts of Africa, and Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific. We also work on projects designed to identify land use or age of land and/or emerging island in legal cases. Our work includes preparation, analysis, and reporting of pollen, phytolith, starches, macrofloral remains, diatoms, mollusc, ostracod, foraminifera, and protein residue data in an integrated format. Digital copies of reports and diagrams are provided via email. When we feel it will benefit the report, we take digital images with a Nikon Coolpix 4800, or our Motic ccd imaging system, and include a CD with the image or images, if they are used in the report.
Our goal is the study of man-plant relationships, an understanding of prehistoric subsistence and economy, and a definition of both prehistoric and historic environments. We seek to make constant improvements in archaeobotanic techniques and introduce new technology into the field. We are prepared to work with archaeologists and cultural resource managers in the development of research designs to include paleoethnobotanical and paleoenvironmental questions. Further communication with archaeologists following the interpretation of ethnobotanic data will facilitate a full integration of this material with the archaeological data. Field consultation and training in sampling techniques are also offered. The final product of each project is a complete report, including pollen and/or phytolith diagram, macrofloral tables and/or diagrams, protein residue results tables, and an interpretation of the results. It is our collaboration with other researchers, most prominently Drs. Reid A. Bryson and Thomas W. Stafford, that provides the synergy necessary to continue to develop new directions.
Linda Scott Cummings, Ph.D., director-palynologist-phytolith-starch analyst, has been working with pollen since 1971. Her work includes paleoenvironmental, as well as subsistence and paleonutrition interpretations. In addition to analysis of archaeological pollen and phytoliths, her experience also includes the use of a Scanning Electron Microscope. The best diet studies involve paleofeces (coprolites). Linda examines pollen, starches, phytoliths, and parasite eggs contained in these paleofeces for evidence of diet, nutrition, and health. She has worked with remains from the American Southwest, the northern Great Basin, the west coast of South America, as well as from Nubia (Africa).
Follow Linda's Travels Here:
Kathryn Puseman, charcoal and macrofloral analyst, examines macrofloral remains, emphasizing seeds and charcoal, and is responsible for analysis, interpretation, and reporting of these remains. Kathy heads the team that retrieves and identifies charcoal prior to radiocarbon dating.
R.A. Varney, palynologist and paleoecologist, examines pollen samples and analyzes archaeoclimatic models. R.A. also contributes geological expertise and works comfortably with pre-Pleistocene through Holocene samples. He also processes the AMS radiocarbon samples, and develops new methodologies. His interests lie primarily with the intrepretation of stratigraphic paleoenvironmental records.
Chad Yost, plant opal phytolith analyst and protein residue specialist, has experience examining a wide variety of cultural artifacts, soil, and lake sediment samples. He has an extensive background in biology, ecology, field botany, biogeography, and GIS. His background contributes to his expertise in extracting phytoliths from difficult contexts, and providing accurate phytolith-based paleoenvironmental and subsistence information for clients. Chad also excels at extracting protein residue from artifacts and applying cross over immunoelectrophoresis to identify plant and animal remains, thus providing valuable tool-function and resource utilization information for clients.
Melissa Logan, Organic Residue Specialist, examines organic residues that are trapped in artifacts made from ceramics, are embedded in fire-cracked or fire-affected rock, or are resident in sediments from features or floors. She uses the FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer) to acquire a signature of the bonds between molecules in these organic residues, then compares this signature with our reference library of foods and other compounds. She also examines peaks identified within the spectra of each signature to understand the chemical compounds represented, which fall within broad categories such as fats/lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and polysaccharides (for foods). Her particular interests include Paleonutrition, Mesoamerican Archaeology, Gender and Power, Development of Complex Societies, Political Systems, and Art and Material Culture. The staff at PRI would like to congratulate Melissa on the new addition to her family.
Peter Kovacik participates as a Research Assistant by supporting Kathy Puseman on the Macrofloral Team, sorting samples and identifying charcoal and seeds from a wide variety of locations. He also assists Chad Yost with protein residue and phytolith extractions and R.A. Varney with AMS dating. He is also expanding our photographic reference collection of charcoal images. Peter comes to PaleoResearch Institute from Slovakia, where he first learned macrofloral analysis from Dr. Maria Hajnalova.
Thomas Lux, Registered Professional Archaeologist and GIS Specialist, applies GIS to archaeoclimatic modeling. He also employs his graphic design experience to develop publications and presentations for conferences, serves as editor of The PaleoTimes, and maintains the PRI website. His graduate thesis research predicted, identified, and documented prehistoric trail systems in the Southern Rocky Mountains.
Elizabeth Northart, Office Manager at PaleoResearch Institute and our newest addition to the team. She provides administrative support to the entire office. From file management to web design, she is responsible for keeping all of our ducks in a row and all of our gears oiled. Without her, we would have unmeshed gears and oily ducks, and nobody wants that.
Wendy White, Office Assistant at PaleoResearch Institute claims to live by Hunter S. Thompson's dictum that "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
Paleoresearch Fellowship Members Past and Present
Reid Bryson, Ph.D., D.Sc., D. Engr. (7 June 1920 – 11 June 2008), archaeoclimatologist, Reid was a fellow at PaleoResearch Institute. He was essential to the archaeoclimatic program at PRI, collaborating with us on both modeling and applications for the models. Reid provided inspiration and "hands-on" work on the models. We co-authored many publications.
Thomas W. Stafford, Ph.D. , Geochronologist, Tom is a fellow at PaleoResearch Institute. Tom is the mentor in our AMS radiocarbon dating facility. Among Tom's many accomplishments have been revolutionizing dating of bone and bone constituents, the re-evaluation of the span of the Clovis Culture in North America and dating many of the skeletal remains of the earliest known humans in the New World. In addition to mentoring at Paleoresearch, Tom is frequently working in our labs on his own projects. Tom has been crucial to the high quality of our AMS facility, and we are pleased to continue to have his guidance.