Home > Areas of Specialisation > Palynology

Palynology

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 14 Aug 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Palynology Palynomorphs Pollen

Palynology is an independent science that studies palynomorphs such as pollen acritarchs, spores, dinoflagellate cysts, scolecodonts and chitinozoans, along with POM (Particulate Organic Matter) and kerogen found in sediment and sedimentary rock.

Of the above named types, pollen is probably the most commonly recognised by non-experts. However, it should be appreciated that the word pollen is a collective noun and should be understood in the same manner as the word flour. Neither use a plural alternative unlike the word spore / spores.

Pollen are defined as the multinucleate reproductive micro-gametophyte of seed vegetation. They are enclosed in a microspore wall. Archaeologists find fossilised pollen, generally identified by its shape and apertures.

Archaeological Application

Palynology has its application in archaeology in the analysis of spores, pollen, and other palynomorphs from archaeological sites in an attempt to reconstruct ancient diets, funeral practices, the function and use of discovered artefacts, the source of raw materials for tools or food consumption, the use of natural topography and artificial landscape changes, the domestication and cultivation of food plants, and the study of human impact on the ancient environment.

Hyde and Williams

The word palynology is said to have been introduced to academia in 1944, by Hyde and Williams, subsequent to correspondence in the magazine “Pollen Analysis Circular’ where the pair of researchers chose the Greek word ‘pale’, meaning fine dust, to convey the similar Latin thought of ‘pollen’ for fine flour or dust. So the word for the analytical study of fine pollens entered the English vocabulary.

A Branch of Earth Science

Palynology is an interdisciplinary branch science of the major earth sciences of geology, biology, and in particular, botany. Palynology deals with both contemporary and fossilised forms of palynomorphs but only the ancient forms are particular to archaeological investigation.

Methods of Studying Microfossils

The palynomorphs under consideration by archaeology are broadly defined as microfossils, organic-walled, and between only five and 500 micrometres in size. They are never usually found free from an enclosed matrix and the extraction process to obtain items for study may involve physical hand-sieving aided by ultrasonic treatments or more hazardous processes using acid digestion methods that literally eat away the surrounding non-organic rock.

Recovered samples are mounted onto glass slides and examined using scanning electron microscopy for very fine particles or less sophisticated microscopes for larger particles. Pollen grains are then identified and compared to pollen diagram charts before interpretation. The study of pollen palynomorphs is particularly useful in evidencing anthropogenic activity, and the history of climate change and vegetation.

Quaternary Palynology

This type of archaeological palynology studies the influence of climate change and vegetation on human behaviour and the resulting demographic patterning.

Archaeopalynology

This branch of archaeological investigation focuses on the human impact on the environment through palynological study. Although dealing with the environment, archaeopalynology should not be confused with environmental archaeology.

Environmental Archaeology

This term is used in reference to the study of the sedimentary strata of archaeological sites and tends to focus on soils and soil type.

Archaeological Palynology

This is primarily a North American term, as they have tended to combine all of the above topics under one common title.

The analysis of artefacts, coprolites, soil, and rock on archaeological sites, in search of microfossils of pollen and other palynomorphs, is helping archaeologists to investigate the intimate inter-relationship between humans and their ancient environments that may be helpful for modern societies that are rapidly outgrowing their own environments.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I want to read more on palynology can you help with some articles
NN - 14-Aug-15 @ 2:29 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Foxy
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Always wanted to go on a dig.. ever since I was young and heard of the king tut find I was hooked on ancient sites and what those…
    19 March 2019
  • shiva
    Re: Archaeological Excavation
    i'm studying for competative exam. so i need to learn more about Archaelological Excavation. please help me.
    14 March 2019
  • arun
    Re: Origins of the Alphabet
    can share my articles. a.k.khanna FORMER ARCHAEOLOGICAL OFFICER ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA INSTITUTE ARCHAEOLOGY RED FORT …
    11 March 2019
  • Barbara
    Re: The Early Bronze Age
    Hello - I would like to find out if there is someone in the Tampa Bay area that is familiar with Bronze age artifacts. While in Orlando…
    8 March 2019
  • Glitchpm
    Re: Archaeology Myth: Excavating Troy
    Hey, I need to know if this is a trustworthy source, (no intention of diregarding the credibility) and I also need to know…
    24 February 2019
  • AxR
    Re: Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?
    I have recently come into possession of something that I was told is a turtle shell with a rather primitive…
    14 February 2019
  • Charlotte
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi I am currently studying for A levels and am looking for a dig I can join in the summer break in the UK. Are you able to…
    3 February 2019
  • Jonathan
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    Hello my name is Jackson from Tanzania I persuade History at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) undergraduate level but Archaeology is among of…
    31 January 2019
  • The Stratman
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hello, I'm a man, 63 years long and looking for some digging in the UK. I'v some experiences in this, did some digging at my…
    31 January 2019
  • Kat
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I found a piece of pottery on the beach in Nova Scotia. I was wondering if I could email you a picture and tell me if it means anything or just a…
    24 January 2019