Chapter 11: People, Plants, and Animals in the Past What Students Should Learn From Chapter 11 1. The reconstruction of past environments and diets are aided by the study of plant and animal remains. Without environmental contexts dietary reconstructions are limited in utility. 2. The study of animal remains from archaeological sites (called faunal analysis) can give direct evidence of the species used for food, how they were harvested, and what methods were used to butcher the animals. In addition, by using animal birthing and tooth eruption schedules, faunal remains may help to establish the season of the year when the site was occupied. 3. The remains of plants are excellent sources of data, and are usually recovered from archaeological sites by a process called flotation. 4. The study of pollen (termed Palynology) is most useful in studying past regional environments. Using pollen diagrams, palynologists can document how local and regional vegetation has changed through time. 5. The nests of wood rats (pack rats) can preserve records of local environmental change that are millennia-long. 6. Intact plant parts (called macrofossils) can provide direct evidence of which plants were exploited, plant processing technology, and the season of site occupation. These are also important to the reconstruction of paleoenvironments. 7. Small grains of silica (called phytoliths) that form inside plant stems can give indications of which plant species were present at the site. 8. Desiccated feces, or coprolites, provide evidence of what people ate. They can be especially useful indicators of plant and small animal consumption, and may aid in interpreting food storage practices. 9. Information about plant and meat use and cooking methods can be gained from new analytic techniques, including the analysis of lipids preserved on the interior of ceramic vessels. 10. The economic basis of people’s interactions with the environment may be frequently overlain with multiple layers of symbolic meaning.