Learning about botany (not the archaeo- kind)

I am updating this post retrospectively, as I have been away on a NERC field training course in Belize, literally in the middle of a jungle, and have had zero internet or phone contact. The course was on field skills in botany, including identification of plants using vegetative characteristics, setting up vegetation surveys, and preparing herbarium specimens. What has this got to do with archaeology you may be wondering? I am very interesting in developing better methods for phytolith analysis, and part of this will involve working with modern reference materials. The skills I learned will be invaluable in my future research, and I’ve already been in discussions about possible collaborations. Something else that was fascinating was seeing the similarities and differences between archaeology and botany. Doing a vegetation survey is very similar to doing a soil or archaeological survey in many ways. It was also reassuring to see that other subjects also have a degree of subjectivity, which is something that is always nagging at the back of my mind in archaeology. You may not think of plant identification as being subjective, but may of the characteristics (e.g. smell!) that are relied on are definitely subjective.

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