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
  • Usha
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I completed my post graduation from ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology from India. Would you please give me any…
    23 August 2019
  • geoff
    Re: Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?
    Hello I have found a large debris field of rocks in my forest and some of the rocks look like they have had some…
    21 August 2019
  • Kritter
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    I would like to see your response to Babs comment please
    19 August 2019
  • Rol
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    Hello there, I did general archaeology in my undergraduate degree at UDSM and i think that gave me an idea of what type of an archaeologist…
    19 August 2019
  • Fox
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Greetings, I am an archaeologist and it is a very though career, I must say. While I am not able to continue my career as an…
    14 August 2019
  • Ganesh
    Re: Being Aware of Fake Archaeological Artefacts
    Very much informative post in India there r many sites where you get lots of artifact a genuine one at…
    10 August 2019
  • Minku
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    I am 25 years old And I can't decide what types of archaeologist I want to be
    31 July 2019
  • Noah
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi I am 17 and a student living in Cornwall. I am hoping to study archaeology or ancient history at university and would love the…
    30 July 2019
  • prof
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    hey am Malvin am from Zimbabwe, am an archaeology graduate. Archaeology is very much interesting, there are so many types of archaeology cox…
    26 July 2019
  • Babs36
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    Hi, I live fairly close to known Indian mounds in the Midwest. they have artifacts that date back to 800bc. They have also found the skeleton…
    24 July 2019