Paleoethnobotany and Ancient Agriculture Lab

The Paleoethnobotany and Ancient Agriculture Laboratory (PaAL), directed by Alan Farahani, is a recently established (2018) collaborative research space dedicated to the analysis of archaeological plant remains as well as the anthropological investigation of agricultural communities in the past world-wide. Members of the laboratory use all methods pertinent to the investigation of ancient agriculture or human-environment interactions in the past, including the analysis of animal bones (through close collaboration with the Zooarchaeology laboratory), soils, water, and beyond. In addition, projects that utilize computational methods in archaeology more broadly, such as photogrammetry, spatial analyses (ArcMap / QGIS) and data analysis and visualization (R / Python), are all part of the laboratory’s overarching investigative goals. Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to utilize the space and consult with Farahani on any and all facets of research that touch on these research directions or methods.



Dr. Alan Farahani
Phone: 702-895-5712
Office: WRI-A 116

Current Research Projects

Ancient Agriculture in Late Holocene Jordan

A group of researchers are pictured working on a dig site.
A stone monument is in the background. A group of hikers start making their way towards it.

The laboratory is home to a wide range of organic (botanical / faunal) and inorganic archaeological remains derived from excavations in central Jordan on sites dating to the historic period within the late Holocene (ca. 1000 BCE – 1500 CE). The sites include Tell Dhiban, Tell Hisban, and Khirbet al-Mudayna al-‘Aliya. Research on these materials has focused on the ways in which shifts in socio-political organization through time affected local agricultural practices as reconstructed through the analysis of archaeological plant remains, but also through the evidence of animal bones, pottery, glass, metal, and marine shell.

Early Farming Lifeways in the South Caucasus (and Beyond)

How and why people engaged in farming as a distinctive way of making food and organizing social life are questions of ongoing interest for many anthropological archaeologists. The archaeological site of Masis Blur, south and west of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, contains evidence for one community’s early adoption of a farming life-way in the south Caucasus ca. 6500 BCE. The laboratory will house some of the research materials associated with this site, in particular the archaeological plant remains collected during recent excavations.

A group of researchers begin inspecting an ancient farming site.

Agroecosystems beyond Domestication

The Kani Shaie, an Iraqi Kurdistan, is pictured.
The Zita, an area populated around 500 BCE to 500 CE, is shown,

Although much attention has been given to the process of plant domestication, many questions remain about the trajectories of agriculture over the past ten thousand years. The laboratory contains material from several different projects from around the world whose primary question is to understand how agriculture was maintained as both a biophysical and social process. Sites include Kani Shaie, a small mound in Iraqi Kurdistan inhabited from at least 4000 BCE until the 19th century CE, and Zita, a large site in coastal Tunisia inhabited from roughly 500 BCE to 500 CE. Those with material from other areas of the world interested in addressing these research questions are encouraged to contact the laboratory PI.

Data Analysis and Computational Methods in Archaeology

Archaeologists generate a large amount of data in the course of fieldwork, whether survey or excavation. These data are often unstructured, noisy, and require significant cleaning and standardization. Thanks to advances in computational methods and the accessibility of programming platforms, it has now become possible to establish more efficient and organized analytical routines. The laboratory focuses on creating relational and flat back-end databases, effective visualizations, appropriate statistical analyses, and front end tools to dynamically interact with data. Moreover, reproducibility of analyses is a major goal of the laboratory. Finally, a number of different computational methods are utilized including morphometrics, photogrammetry, and other similar methods.

Various charts containing data are shown. This data is then used by archaeologists in their research.

Research Opportunities and Collaborations

Numerous research opportunities are available for interested students and community members on several of the projects listed here. Those who are interested should contact the laboratory PI to identify which projects are available. Laboratory participants are also encouraged to collaborate with other Anthropology faculty as well as faculty in other departments on campus and with off campus institutions.

Individuals currently associated with the Lab

Apply today by contacting Alan Farahani!

Graduate Students

Melina Luu

Graduate Year: 2025
Major: Ph.D. in Anthropology
Project in Laboratory: Morphometrics, Phytolith / Starch Collections
Research Interests: Ancient diet/dietary transitions, dental calculus, bioarchaeology, environment and human interactions

A man smiling
Jonathan Roldan

Graduate Year: 2025
Major: Ph.D. in Anthropology
Project in Laboratory: Analysis of Ceramics from Dhiban, Jordan
Research Interests: Market place economy, resource distribution, and political interactions among ancient Maya.

Undergraduate Students

A man with a glasses
Carlos Romo-Caballero

Graduation Year: Junior - 3rd year
Major(s): Anthropology & Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
Research Project: Medieval Agriculture and Dietary practice at Tell Hisban, Jordan
Research Interests: Functional Quantitative Methods in Anthropology, Philosophy of Science, Cultural Evolution, Functional Genetics and the Evolution of Human specific traits, and more broadly Human Evolution

A man with glasses smiling
Nestor Flores

Graduation Year: 2021
Major: Anthropology
Project: High-resolution microscope imaging of artifacts and archaeological plant remains
Research Interests: Bioarchaeology, Evolution, Paleoanthropology

A man in a suit smiling
Angelo Robledo

Graduation Year: 2020
Major(s): Anthropology and Philosophy
Project in Laboratory: Analysis of a lithic assemblage excavated in Jordan
Research Interests: Experimental archaeology, public archaeology

A girl with glasses smiling
Lydia Wolfe

Graduation Year: 2021
Major: Anthropology
Project in Laboratory: Shivwits Plateau Macrobotanical Analysis
Research Interests: Macrobotany, Physical anthropology, Complex societies, Southwestern United States, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Subsistance methods