The results of botanical (plant), palynological (pollen), and zoological (animal) analyses provide important clues about food and other cultural uses of plants and animals. They also help archaeologists reconstruct ancient environments.
Although some plant and animal remains at archaeological sites are large enough to be seen and collected during routine excavation, many tiny specimens—for example, pollen grains and small fragments of plants and animal bones—are found only in sediment samples subjected to special processing. A chemical-separation process is used to extract ancient pollen spores from sediment; a water-separation process (called flotation) is used to retrieve small plant and animal remains.
Human osteology, or the study of human bones, can reveal important information about diet, health, disease, injury, inherited traits, sex (of individuals), lifespan, and a variety of cultural practices (for example, infant craddleboarding) in ancient populations.