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Mixtec Foodways During the Early Colonial Period: Analysis of food residues and interpretation of practices

Éloi Bérubé is studying shifts in foodways between the Postclassic period (900–1521 AD) and the Early Colonial period (1521–1600) at the site of San Miguel de Achiutla, Oaxaca.  He is assessing to what extent the Mixtecs resisted, accepted or negotiated Spanish cultural elements in their own daily and ritual lifeways. In the MPERF, he is drawing macrobotanical residues from bulk flotation samples, and phytolith and starch grain residues from artifacts. He is comparing the foods consumed during the Early Colonial period at Achiutla to those which were consumed before Spanish Contact. 

Achiutla project director: Jamie Forde.

Foodways and Ceramic Craft in the Late Formative Titicaca Basin

Sophie Reilly is researching foodways in the Late Formative period (200 BC-300 AD) of the Lake Titicaca basin of highland Bolivia. She is working to develop a more complete understanding of food in the past by studying both the plant remains of food as well as the ceramic vessels in which food was prepared, stored, and consumed. In another McMaster lab, the Lab for Interdisciplinary Research on Archaeological Ceramics (LIRAC), Reilly is studying ceramic attributes to learn about the technological choices that potters made while producing these vessels. In the MPERF, Reilly is studying the microbotanical residues recovered from these ceramic sherds to identify the plants that were present in the ceramic vessels. In studying both ceramics and food remains, Reilly hopes to understand the daily practices that went into preparing meals in the Late Formative Period.

Project director: Andrew P. Roddick.

Pleistocene and Early Holocene Social Landscapes in the South-Central Andes: A Paleoethnobotanical Contribution

Brett Furlotte is investigating past landscape engagements as they relate to subsistence practices and social organization at the Cuncaicha rockshelter, a multi-component archaeological site with Pleistocene and early Holocene dated cultural deposits in the Pucuncho Basin of southern Peru.  In the MPERF, he is looking for plant-related activities, including fuel, medicine, craft, and food and consumption. He is basing his analyses in macrobotanical evidence of charred unidentified woody shrubs and grasses, parenchymous tissues indicative of starchy roots and tubers, and starch grain and phytolith analysis of residues recovered from sediments.

Quebrada Jaguay project director: Kurt Rademaker.

Ethnoecology of the Sierra del Lacandon National Park: Dynamics of Three Millennia of Maya Land Use in Guatemala

Shanti Morell-Hart’s microbotanical and macrobotanical research with the Proyecto Paisaje Piedras Negras-Yaxchilán (PPPNY)  addresses: 1) What were the impacts of human activity on local ecologies, including the effects of different kinds of clearing practices and crop production on forests and fields? 2) What were the impacts of broad climate shifts, including El Nino cycles, on ethnobotanical practices such as crop production and forest management? 3) How do differences in foodways-- including cultivation, collection, processing, consumption, trade, and disposal of foods—relate to differences in spatial contexts, including environmental and political conditions?, and 4) How do shifts in foodways relate to changes over time in climate and sociopolitical contexts?

PPPNY project directors: Andrew K. Scherer, Charles W. Golden, Griselda Pérez Robles.

Human-Plant Relationships in Ancient Mesoamerican Societies: International Collaboration to Collect and Curate Accessible Paleoethnobotanical Reference Libraries

In this project, Shanti Morell-Hart, Éloi Bérubé, and Víctor E. Salazar are completing work on a plant reference library of economic species for use by graduate students, post-docs, archaeologists, and other scholars addressing foodways and ethnoecology in ancient Mesoamerica. These activities represent an interdisciplinary partnership between archaeologists and botanists, in order to answer questions related to subsistence and landscape management.  Ongoing reference material work in Oaxaca and at the MPERF will document key characteristics of the collections, through morphological and spectrometric analysis using a NanoRam portable specrometer.

Project director: Shanti Morell-Hart.

Ethnoecology, Resilience, and Cuisine at the Crossroads: Proyecto Arqueológico Río Amarillo-Copán (PARAC), Copan, Honduras

Shanti Morell-Hart is addressing changes in human-environmental transformations over time, and comparing cuisines from several ancient communities within and near the Copán area.  She is investigating a rich archaeobotanical data set that includes both microbotanical and macrobotanical residues, from bulk flotation samples and artifact extractions.  She is looking for evidence of human resilience during times of social and climatological stress, as well as exploring the dynamic overlap between northern and southern societies, where Northwestern Honduras served as a sort of regional crossroads. 

PARAC project directors: Cameron McNeil and Edy Barrios.

Storage and Pilgrimage at the Cerro del Convento Rock Shelter: Proyecto Arqueologico Nejapa Tavela (PANT), Oaxaca, Mexico

In this project, Shanti Morell-Hart and Éloi Bérubé are investigating macrobotanical remains associated with a specialized feature in the rock shelter of the Cerro del Convento, in the highlands of Oaxaca. Examining the well-preserved macrobotanical remains will help to identify whether the rock shelter served as functional storage spaces for agricultural goods, temporary dry shelters and sleeping spaces for farmers working in their fields, or sacred spaces that were destinations for pilgrimage and making petitions. 

PANT project director: Stacie M. King.

Experiments in Obsidian Blade Use and Taphonomic Processes for Recovery of Microbotanical Residues

Shanti Morell-Hart, Éloi Bérubé, and Sophie Reilly have three general goals in this study:  1) understand deposition on prismatic blades (formation processes from the paleoethnobotanist's perspective) , 2) understand transformations to prismatic blades from different sorts of plant taxa (formation processes and usewear from the lithicist's perspective), and 3) describe the ways that we attempt to use the obsidian blades to get at sensory experiences and embodied practices.  We are observing at the placement of starch grains and phytoliths on the prismatic blades, the recovery of different taxa, and the usewear that resulted from different sorts of plant-based activities.    

Project director: Shanti Morell-Hart