The Kelsey Bioarchaeology Lab was born with the support of LSA Facilities during the summer of 2018 out of the renovation of an old seminar room in the Kelsey basement and became fully operational in January 2019. Dr. Richard Redding and Dr. Laura Motta quickly established the lab as a functioning addition to the Kelsey Museum.
The lab offers infrastructure and equipment for the study of zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical material. Importantly, it presents students and researchers with a dynamic space for thinking about big research questions, theoretical approaches, and methodological innovation with an interdisciplinary perspective, crossing the boundary between animal and plant remains.
At the heart of the lab are the comparative collections that not only provide researchers with a valuable tool for identifying archaeological remains of plants and animals but also provide students with means to learn the importance of the comparative method in archaeobiology. The faunal comparative material focuses on animals that lived in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The lab houses an extensive sample of domestic mammals and most of the medium to large wild mammals of the ancient world. Bird and reptile comparative specimens are also available. The botanical collection contains major Mediterranean staple crops and the most common weeds of the arable fields, including several disappeared traditional cultivars of cereals and pulses from the mountains of Central Italy. Samples of the rose family, herbs, and sedges complement the collection.
The lab is well equipped with seven stereo-zoom microscopes for sorting and identifying specimens, various metrical tools, and essential publications and guides. An important addition is the double-head 100X teaching microscope that allows teachers and students to view specimens and samples simultaneously. The lab also supplies basic equipment and disposables for sample preparation for isotope analysis done in collaboration with other units on campus.
Ongoing projects include updating the identifications and descriptions of Karanis materials in the collections database, adding pictures, and contextualizing the plant material within the excavated structures. Another major research project, involving plant macros, investigates the political economy of food supply and changes in agricultural systems in relation to the process of urban formation in pre-Roman and Roman Italy during the first millennium BCE. Morphometric and isotopic analyses are ongoing on material from Gabii, Tarquinia, and Rome. In addition, the lab worked in collaboration with La Sapienza University–Rome on wood and pollen data from Rome, extracted from core sediments dated 4000–6000 BP.