University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum has always been one of the world’s great archaeology and anthropology research museums, and the largest university museum in the United States. With roughly one million objects in our care, the Penn Museum encapsulates and illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from.


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Now showing 1 - 10 of 55
  • Publication
    An Archaeobotanical Perspective on Environment, Plant Use, Agriculture, and Interregional Contact in South and Western Iran
    (2011-01-01) Miller, Naomi F
    Plant remains from archaeological sites reflect many aspects of the relationship between people, plants, and the environment in which they lived. Plant macroremains—seeds and wood that are visible without a microscope—can address a wide range of questions. The most basic include what crops were grown? What was used for fuel? Do any of the plants come from distant lands? Examples from fourth and third millennium deposits at Farukhabad, Sharafabad, Godin, and Malyan show that within the basic agricultural assemblage of wheat and barley shared by all sites, Sharafabad and Godin have stronger evidence of irrigation, lentil and flax, and Farukhabad appears to be more oriented toward pastoral production than the other sites. This article provides an introduction to archaeobotany using examples drawn from several fourth and third millennium sites in southern and western Iran. Human impact on the vegetation in Khuzestan and Fars appears to have been minimal at this time. A few unexpected finds (a date pit from cold-country/Sardsir Malyan suggests trade and rice at Parthian Susa may be evidence of a new crop that had long been cultivated in the Indus valley.
  • Publication
    Sign and Image: Representations of Plants on the Warka Vase of Early Mesopotamia
    (2016-01-01) Miller, Naomi F; Pittman, Holly; Jones, Philip
    The Warka Vase is an iconic artifact of Mesopotamia. In the absence of rigorous botanical study, the plants depicted on the lowest register are usually thought to be flax and grain. This analysis of the image identified as grain argues that its botanical characteristics, iconographical context and similarity to an archaic sign found in proto-writing demonstrates that it should be identified as a date palm sapling. It confirms the identification of flax. The correct identification of the plants furthers our understanding of possible symbolic continuities spanning the centuries that saw the codification of text as a representation of natural language.
  • Publication
    What Mean These Seeds: A Comparative Approach to Archaeological Seed Analysis
    (1989) Miller, Naomi F
    Since uncharred seeds recovered from archaeological deposits may be modern intrusions, researchers must evaluate each uncharred seed assemblage before assigning archaeological significance to it. When depositional circumstances are established, seed remains can yield primary data about diet, farming practices, and the spread of imported cultigens. Three uncharred seed assemblages are evaluated—one from Morven (Princeton, New Jersey) and two from the Calvert site (Annapolis, Maryland). The Morven seeds are modern. Seeds from a dry crawl space at the Calvert site probably date to the late 18th century, but rodent disturbance could have introduced more recent materials. Waterlogged seeds from a sealed 18th century well most securely reflect 18th century debris.
  • Publication
    Intentional Burning of Dung as Fuel: A Mechanism for the Incorporstion of Charred Seeds Into the Archaeological Record
    (1984-05-01) Miller, Naomi F; Smart, Tristine L
    An important concern of paleoethnobotanists is accounting for the presence and charring of seeds recovered archeologically. The possibility that seeds can be brought to a site incorporated in animal dung and charred when that dung is burned as fuel is considered. Researchers have shown that animal dung can contain seeds. Ethnoarcheological data from the rural village of Malyan, Iran demonstrate that seeds can be charred when dung is burned as fuel and can be recovered from deposits analogous to those commonly encountered archeologically. A description of the residue from burning dung, based on an examination of modern samples from Black Mesa, Arizona, is provided. Four conditions for determining whether the use of dung fuel might account for the presence of a charred seed assemblage are presented. Finally, two specific archeological examples are discussed in which this interpretation seems plausible for some portions of the charred seed assemblage: the archeological site of Malyan, a third millennium B.C. urban center in southern Iran, and the Tierra Blanca site, a Late Prehistoric habitation site in the Texas panhandle.
  • Publication
    Virtual Desktop Tutorial for Archaeologists
    (2017-01-01) Cobb, Peter
    The goal of this open online tutorial is to show the individual steps required to setup a cloud-based virtual desktop server. This tutorial was put together for the archaeological community, but can serve as a beginner guide for anyone. Please click on the link to be forwarded to the actual online tutorial.
  • Publication
    Differential Global Navigation Satellite Systems Configuration for Archaeology
    (2019-01-01) Cobb, Peter
    The goal of this open online tutorial is to demonstrate how to configure differential global navigation satellite systems (dGNSS) equipment for use during field archaeology. This tutorial was put together for the archaeological community, but could serve as a beginner guide for anyone. Please click on the link to be forwarded to the actual online tutorial.
  • Publication
    Paleoethnobotanical Evidence for Deforestation in Ancient Iran: A Case Study of Urban Malyan
    (1985-05-01) Miller, Naomi F
    Plant remains from archaeological sites can provide information about the ancient environment. However, these remains should be considered archaeological artifacts, "filtered" through human culture. Adequate interpretation is only possible, and is indeed enriched, by taking the cultural practices of human populations into account. This approach is applied to archaeobotanical materials from Malyan, a fourth to second millennium B.C. site in Fars province, Iran, where there is archaeological evidence for population increase, growing complexity of settlement organization, and technological changes. Clearance of the ancient woodland in the vicinity of Maly an, and concomitant changes in the choice of fuel woods, can account for the observed changes in the proportions of woody taxa found during excavation. In particular, it appears that as the local poplar and juniper were removed, wood of the more distant oak forest was used. Deforestation was a result of a growing population's fuel demands for domestic and technological-especially metallurgical-purposes.
  • Publication
    The "Crisis" of the Late Third Millennium B.C: Ecofactual and Artificial Evidence From Umm el-Marra and the Jabbul Plain
    (2007-01-01) Schwartz, Glenn M; Miller, Naomi F
    This article presents a reading of the data of Umm el-Marra (plain Jabbul, western Syria), relating to the transition from the Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age may contribute to the identification of a crisis during this period. Results of analyzes archaeobotanical, published for the first time, are also discussed. In Umm el-Marra, social, economic and cultural changes coincide with a change in material culture during the transition BA - BM; in some cases, it seems plausible to associate these changes to a crisis by crossing the complex local companies, but other interpretations are also possible. Among these, it is possible that around 2000 BC. AD Umm el Marra was abandoned temporarily and V that the earliest occupation of Middle Bronze is relatively small extension. The ideological and political change is illustrated by the abandonment of mortuary complex Bronze final of the Acropolis ancient site, for an elite, and by changes in mortuary practices between the Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age. Economic innovations are evident in the Middle Bronze Age in the significant increase in the hunting of wild animals, especially horses, a practice that can be interpreted as a response to a natural or social environment experiencing high stress. Alongside this development, archaeobotanical data indicate a change in feed-related practices. The decline in occupancy in the semi-arid part of the Eastern Jabbul during the transition BA - BM could be interpreted as indicative of a crisis; this, however, like the other mentioned here needs to be deepened by further research.
  • Publication
    Plant Remains From Neolithic Gritille: Food and Fuel in the Context of Animal Domestication
    (1999) Miller, Naomi F
    The Neolithic excavation of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)-related site of Gritille (7500–6500 cal. BC) was directed by Mary M. Voigt under the general direction of Richard Ellis, Bryn Mawr College. This report was completed in 1999, but the sample data have never been published. Although much more PPNB archaeobotanical information has become available in the intervening years, along with new approaches and interpretations. I have not updated this report, as the Gritille data themselves have not changed. The analysis (and the published version, Miller 2002) takes the depositional contexts of the Gritille archaeobotanical samples into account, distinguishing trash from food remains. It also demonstrates that plant remains reflect the development of the entire ancient agropastoral system. That is, changes in plant use and in the archaeobotanical assemblage have a direct relationship with the increasing dependence on domesticated animals during the Neolithic occupation. Perhaps obvious in 2013, when this version was set up, the Gritille example was an early demonstration that the integration of the ancient plant and animal economy is reflected in the actualistic, archaeobiological remains of that economy.
  • Publication
    Archaeologically Defining the Earlier Garden Landscapes at Morven: Preliminary Results
    (1987) Yentsch, Anne E; Miller, Naomi F; Paca, Barbara; Piperno, Dolores
    The first phase of archaeology at Morven was designed to test the potential for further study of the early garden landscape at a ca. 1758 house in Princeton, New jersey. The research included intensive botanical analysis using a variety of archaeobotanical techniques integrated within a broader ethnobotanical framework. A study was also made of the garden's topography using map analysis combined with subsurface testing. Information on garden features related to the design of earlier garden surfaces suggests the ways in which the Stockton family manipulated their estate to convey a social image of the family to the local Princeton community. This, in turn, provides information that, when combined with collateral ethnographic information obtained from documents, suggests the symbolic content of the garden.