Paleoethnobotany Laboratory

Located on the shores of the Pacific ocean, the Paleoethnobotany Laboratory at UCSD contains state of the art facilities for the extraction, identification and interpretation of archaeobotanical remains. The Paleoethnobotany Laboratory features new Olympus microscopes and imaging systems for the analysis and documentation of a variety of archaeological and comparative materials. In addition to our microscopy laboratory, we share a separate, code-compliant wet lab with a fume hood for chemical preparation of botanical microremains (pollen, phytoliths, starch grains) from archaeological materials and sediments with the Geoarchaeology laboratory.

In the lab, we host botanical comparative collections of seeds, wood, phytoliths, starch, and pollen, as well as and herbarium voucher specimens. Our collection has strengths in East Asia, South East Asia, the Near East and the American Southwest. We are in the process of imaging these collections. Once imaged these will be uploaded to We also host a library of wood and seed atlases.

Research conducted in the paleoethnobotany laboratory includes the analysis of macrobotanical remains, paleoenvironmental cores, dental calculus, prehistoric ceramic residues (starch and phytoliths). The lab is currently in the process of also setting up experimental trials on different cultivars.

Archaeobotanical research methods covering macro
botanical remains, starch, phytoliths and pollen are taught in SIO275/ANTH275 “Introduction to Paleoethnobotany”, a graduate level laboratory course designed to introduce students to the study of the relationship between people and plants in the past.

Current research themes focused on by the lab are the study of agricultural sustainability in the past, the origins and spread of agricultural systems in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Africa, identifying human impact on the environment, ancient foodways in the Northwest coast and Plains of the Americas and the relationship between changing climate and changes in subsistence systems.

Undergraduate volunteer opportunities

We welcome students from a range of backgrounds and with varying interests into the Paleoethnobotany Laboratory. We are currently looking for volunteers to help us organize and digitize our reference collections and to help sorting and identifying archaeological samples. We accept new volunteers on an ongoing basis. Please email Prof. D’Alpoim Guedes  to get started.

Undergraduate research internships

Students with at least one semester of experience volunteering in the laboratory may work with Prof. D’Alpoim Guedes to develop a directed research project in the laboratory. Such projects may be completn of plant remains from archaeological sites for course credit or in select circumstances for funding. Please contact Prof. d’Alpoim Guedes directly to discuss possible projects.