Environmental archeology includes all geological and biological studies undertaken to investigate the environments in which past human societies lived and to trace ecological changes through the period of human history. As archeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of physical remains. Environmental archeology finds its focus in the impact of the environment on past cultures as well as how the environment served to influence and shape the social and economic aspects of past cultures.
The main issues in environmental archeology concern ecological, social and economic reconstruction. These themes can be examined in relation to changes through time, evidence of specific activities or events, and interaction with the contemporaneous landscape.
Archaeological sites are created by human behavior involving material remains (acquisition, manufacture, use, deposition). Archaeological sites are altered by a combination of natural and cultural processes. Natural processes include geological and biological activity, such as erosion, sedimentation, frost heave, reworking by plants and animals, plant growth, deposition of dead plants and animals, and degradation by many living organisms. Cultural processes include subsistence activities, building, discard or loss of material, manufacture and manufacture waste, recycling, deliberate destruction and resource utilization.
Common types of evidence for environmental archeology include: Animal bones,human remains, eggshell, insects, ostracods, foraminifera, molluscs, Parasite eggs and cysts, plant macrofossils (other than wood/ charcoal,), wood, charcoal, pollen and spores, phytoliths, diatoms, biomolecules, geoarchaeology (stratigraphic and landscape studies, chemical and physical analyses, soil micromorphology, mineralogy, and particle size analysis).
The main issues in environmental archeology concern ecological, social and economic reconstruction. These themes can be examined by studying changes over time, changes in activities across sites, evidence of specific activities or events, and interaction with the contemporaneous landscape. Sampling is part of the process of recovering archaeological materials and information from a site. The excavation is itself a sample, often a relatively small one, of the whole archaeological site. Achieving effective environmental sampling of the excavation sample requires a well constructed sampling strategy. This is one of the most difficult, but fundamental, areas of environmental archeology.
Within environmental archeology the archaeological excavation itself may comprise the sample and consideration must be made regarding the relative sample size in comparison to the total size of the site as well as the landscape surrounding it.
After the process of sampling has been completed the material is then assessed and analyzed and a report compiled in disseminated throughout the academic community and to other stakeholders.