Welcome to Environmental Archaeology

EAlogo.pngEnvironmental archaeology is the interdisciplinary study of past human interactions with the natural world - a world that encompasses plants, animals, and landscapes. We seek to reconstruct ancient environments associated with archaeological sites and the use of plants, animals, and landscapes by the people who once inhabited these sites. We are interested in the impact people had on the world around them, and the way ancient peoples perceived and were affected by their surroundings and the plants and animals on which they relied.

News and Announcements

First Colony Outreach Events

As the Florida Museum of Natural History commences its new First Colony exhibit in celebration of St. Augustine's 450th anniversary, this is an excellent time to consider how much this clash of civilizations -- both Old and New Worlds on either side of the Atlantic -- had a lasting influence on our modern lifestyle today.

She's a Scientist - Bone SortStaff, students and volunteers of the Environmental Archaeology Program (EAP) have been participating in the First Colony and She's a Scientist events hosted at Powell Hall this fall, and the Archaeologists for Autism event on the Space Coast, helping visitors explore the outcomes of this 16th-century cultural fusion through the eyes of an environmental archaeologist. After all, it wasn't just people that traveled the Atlantic - so too did many of the animals and plants we're familiar with today.

At the First Colony event, museum visitors were invited to examine animal remains -- including actual bones excavated from St. Augustine! -- in order to learn which animals were native to North America and which were brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Girl Scouts participating in the She's a Scientist event also examined animal bones and shells, and tested their knowledge of the origin of domesticated plants and animals on a table-top map. At the AFA event, visitors got all that and more! A lesson on chocolate recipes a lá Maya, based on evidence from residue research.

For young scientists interested in learning where plants and animals originated, we have two worksheets (designed by graduate student Nicole Cannarozzi) for grade levels 1-3 and 4-6 available in PDF format:

First Colony Animals - Grades 1-3.pdf

First Colony Animales - Grades 4-6.pdf

First Colony/She's a Scientist Event Photo Gallery

Click the thumbnails for a larger image and caption!

Meet Our Newest EAP Affiliate!

Michelle J. LeFebvre
Ph.D., 2015, University of Florida 

Michelle LeFebvre Caribbean Zooarchaeology

Left: Dr. LeFebvre examining remains in the EAP Zooarchaeology Laboratory. Right: Primary locations of Dr. LeFebvre’s research, including the island of Hispanola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic, circled in blue) and the small island of Saba (red star).

I am an anthropological and environmental archaeologist with a focus in zooarchaeology. My research draws on a combination of traditional zooarchaeological analysis, chemical and genetic analyses of bone, as well as patterns of past settlement and site configurations to better understand the myriad ways past people interacted with animal populations and the environment. Of particular interest to me are the ways in which people negotiated and managed the inherent link between environmental parameters and social conditions through animal procurement, access, consumption, and use. Geographically and temporally, my primary foci include the pre-Columbian Ceramic Age of the Caribbean islands and the Woodland period in the Southeastern United States.

Currently, I am a post-doctoral researcher with the ERC-Synergy Project NEXUS 1492, directed by Corinne Hofman at the Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden, The Netherlands. In collaboration with the Caribbean Archaeology and Environment Archaeology Programs, I conduct my research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, where I am a Courtesy Research Scientist with the Anthropology Division. As a part of NEXUS 1492, my research addresses how indigenous groups of the later Caribbean Ceramic Age (AD 500-European Contact ca. 1500) incorporated and used animals within multi-scalar networks of interaction and variable forms of social complexity. My goal is to gain a better understanding of the social and environmental landscape of the Caribbean islands and people on the proverbial eve of European colonization, ultimately contributing to a more holistic and contextualized understanding of Caribbean history and cultural heritage through time. Specifically, I am conducting intra-site zooarchaeological analyses of faunal materials from El Cabo, a large village site located in the Dominican Republic, the Kelbey’s Ridge 2 site, a small village located on Saba, and the historic component (ca. 1492) of En Bas Saline located in Haiti. The results of zooarchaeological analysis will provide a basis for assessing degrees of variability in faunal deposition, taphonomy, site layout/use, and environmental exploitation within and between the different sites; revealing how social interactions and shared cultural links did or did not manifest in terms of local foodways and traditions of animal procurement, use, and consumption among people within and between socially and environmentally diverse sites and islands.

Publication Announcements

tapirteeth.jpgDifferential Animal Use within Three Late Classic Maya States: Implications for Politics and Trade

A new publication on research conducted by Ashley Sharpe (Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology) and Dr. Kitty Emery (Curator, FLMNH Environmental Archaeology Program) is now available from the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (check out the Science Direct link HERE). The study compares and contrasts how different social classes and states in ancient Maya society used animal resources as food, decorations, and trade items, in order to gain a better understanding of Classic Maya social complexity. The study was also the focus of a recent UF News report: Beyond the Temples, Ancient Bones Reveal the Lives of the Mayan Working Class

envarch_turkey.jpgThe Uncertain Origins of Mesoamerican Turkey Domestication

Environmental Archaeology Program curator Dr. Kitty Emery and Dr. Erin Thornton (University of Florida graduate, 2011) have published an article assessing what is known about the origin of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Mesoamerica region, comparing this scant but growing amount of evidence to how turkeys were domesticated in the southwest US. The article, published in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, can be found HERE.



Pits for the Ancestors

Ph.D. Candidate Meggan Blessing has recently pubished a chapter in the book, The Archaeology of Events Cultural Change and Continuity in the Pre-Columbian Southeast (available on Amazon.com HERE). Her chapter takes a theoretical view on how the use of pit features at Stallings Island, Georgia, helped establish and maintain the community and local identity over time.






Artistic reconstruction of Structure MRS15-M5 (Illustration by Lamoureux-St-Hilaire, 2016)

The Last Groups Standing: Living Abandonment at the Ancient Maya Center of Minanha, Belize

Ph.D Candidate Scott Macrae and co-authors Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire, Carmen A. McCane, Evan A. Parker, and Gyles Iannone have published a new article in the Journal of Latin American Antiquity, focusing on the last remaining termination rituals at a mostly-abandoned Maya center after the Late Classic Collapse.