Archaeobotany is a subfield of archaeology that attempts to further our understanding of humanity’s ancient past through the identification and analysis of botanical materials recovered from archaeological sites.
The research in Dr Dafna Langgut’s Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Ancient Environments at Tel Aviv University, engages with the identification of plants recovered primarily from archaeological sites. These findings shed light on many aspects of ancient human life, such as diet, agricultural habits, species migration, royal gardens, and so on; as well as contributing to our understanding of ancient vegetation and climate. Plant species are usually identified by comparing the archaeological materials with reference collections of known plants. The extensively documented, living collection of plants in the Botanical Garden offers an ideal source for vegetation sampling and as a reference collection. The latest sampling took place in mid-July, during which samples were taken from several trees and bushes: eastern strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne), a Mediterranean tree and the sole representative of the Ericaceae family in Israel, and which was recently identified as part of the construction material of a ca. 7,700-year-old well from the Neolithic period; and white broom (Retama raetam), a desert bush and member of the Leguminosae family, which was recently identified as one of the plants used as fuel for smelting copper during the Iron Age (11th – 9th centuries BCE) at the copper mines in Timna. Other species collected include inhabitants of the arid and semi-arid zones, such as Zygophyllum dumosum (bushy bean-caper), Calligonum comosum (fringed calligonum ), Moringa peregrina (ben tree), and Populus euphratica (euphrates poplar), as well as several Acacia species that are believed may have been used as fuel for smelting copper in Timna.