Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Kelly Dixon

Committee Co-chair

C. Riley Augé

Commitee Members

Kelly Dixon, C. Riley Augé, Lila Fishman, Giles Thelen


phytoarchaeology, surface vegetation, archaeology, archaeological documentation, anthropogenic vegetation, reflexivity


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology | Continental Philosophy | Epistemology | Nature and Society Relations | Philosophy of Science | Physical and Environmental Geography | Place and Environment | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Theory and Criticism | Theory, Knowledge and Science


Surface vegetation at archaeological sites is a resource overlooked in cultural resource management. Drawing upon comparative documentary surveys of site forms and human surveys of 161 archaeologists in 12 U.S. states, this thesis explores why surface vegetation offers archaeological data potential; how archaeological documentation is an artifact of archaeologists, shaped by various subjectivities; and how improvements can be made for vegetal description in cultural inventory site forms. The surveys offer a critique on how the site form records are a product of disciplinary training oversights, differing work background experience, cultural bias, limitations in botanical knowledge, regional differences in U.S. archaeological practice, ocularcentrism, a lack of thorough discussion of the nature of what constitutes vegetal anthropogenism, and thus what constitutes relevance to archaeological study. By presenting the reader with an introduction to phytoarchaeology, solutions to documenting site vegetation, and an awareness of the need to understand documentary subjectivities, this study takes steps toward improving what the archaeologist can learn about the human past through anthropogenic surface vegetation and the implications of how archaeological documentation as an artifact of archaeologists.



© Copyright 2018 John S. Harris