Archaeologist Naomi Miller, who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at U-M in 1982, analyzes plant remains from archaeological sites to explore changing human-land relations and political transformations in the ancient Middle East. In 1978, while conducting doctoral research at Tall-I Malyan, a 3rd-millennium BC city in Iran, Miller built a comparative collection of more than 2000 wild and domestic plant species growing in the region around the site. The vials shown here contain seeds of Hordeum distichum, or two-rowed barley, a hardy variety of barley whose high starch content made it suitable for brewing fermented beverages. Comparative specimens such as these allow scholars to document contemporary biodiversity in the areas they study and compare it to archaeological data; they also provide reference materials for the identification of fragmentary and/or charred archaeological specimens.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.