Linda Perry spoke on “Archaeobotany: What Used to be for Dinner” beginning at the ECWG’s April 20 dinner at the Cosmos Club in Washington.
Archaeobotany is the study of remains of plants from the distant past. The science is the source of what we know about ancient environments and how humans in the distant past acquired food.
The science allows us to understand topics as diverse as the diet of Neanderthals, the first beer brewery, and the large-scale modification of landscapes to create fields to feed cities.
Perry discussed the basic tenets of archaeobotanical methods using examples of ancient human interactions with the plant world ranging from the origins of agriculture in the Cradle of Western and Middle Eastern Civilization in Mesopotamia to the development of complex states and empires in the Americas.
She is a Fulbright Senior Specialist in archaeobotany and a former Smithsonian Fellow. She holds degrees in biology, botany, and anthropology, and is best known for her groundbreaking work on the identification of archaeological chile peppers in the Neotropics with her discovery of a diagnostic microfossil.
Perry’s work has taken her to six of the seven continents, and the sites she has studied date from more than 14,000 years ago to the late 19th century. Her current projects include work in the Brazilian Amazon, the north plain of China, and the coastal plain of Texas.