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Lee Newsom

Lee Newsom

Associate Professor of Anthropology

316 Carpenter Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 865-4346


  1. 1982, B.A., University of Florida
  2. 1986, M.A., University of Florida
  3. 1993, Ph.D., University of Florida



I am an archaeologist, paleoethnobotanist, and wood anatomist. My research involves work with preserved plant remains from archaeological and paleontological sites, and is generally directed toward trying to unravel some of the deep history and inter-complexities of the human- environmental relationship. I work primarily with plant macroremains, including wood, seeds, and other organs, and in a variety of preservation states (carbonized, waterlogged, desiccated). I employ these data sets to explore details of ancient environments and past biodiversity, and use that as a basis on which to focus on human use of biotic resources, emphasizing subsistence systems, resource selection and sustainability, and the domestication of plant species, as a general approach to understanding the environmental, demographic, and social impacts of prehistoric and historic subsistence economies, the emergence of an agricultural way of life, and more. I work primarily in Florida and the Caribbean islands where in collaboration with other archaeologists I have identified the presence of ancient cultivars, plants used in ritual or for medicinal purposes, fuel and fiber resources, and more, along with evidence bearing on the sustainability of biotic resource use and economic practices. Cultural and island biogeographic factors have considerable relevance and inform much of my research.

Currently, the primary projects with which I am involved include a series of Florida and Caribbean Indian sites, in collaboration with archaeologists at the University of Alabama, the University of Miami; and with the Departmento Centro Oriental de Arqueología, CISAT, Holguín, Cuba; Leiden University, Netherlands; and University College London.



Dr. Newsom is involved with several interdisciplinary projects focused on the emergence of social complexity and political-economic dynamics in the Caribbean, especially on Cuba and Puerto Rico, on the one hand, and on the other, Paleoindian and Early Archaic human ecology in the Southeastern, US, especially Florida. These are or have been variously supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, The Heinz Family Foundation, and the Consejo para la Protección del Patrimonio Arqueológico Terrestre de Puerto Rico



  • ANTH 002 - Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 083S - Freshman Seminar
  • ANTH 152 - Hunter and Gatherers
  • ANTH 423 - Evolution of American Indian Culture
  • ANTH/GEOSC 297B - Prehistory of Florida: Multidisciplinary Research Experience
  • ANTH 429 - Paleoethnobotany
  • ANTH 433 - Archaeological Ethics and Law
  • ANTH 545 - Domestication and its Consequences
  • ANTH 588 - Method and Theory in Archaeology (Syllabus)
  • Wood Anatomy and Variation in Archaeology and Paleobotany



(in press)


and R. Brown, and W. Natt. From the forests: wood and fiber industries at Pineland, Florida. In The Archaeology of Pineland: a Coastal Southwest Florida Village Complex, A.D. 100-1600, K. Walker and W.H. Marquardt (eds.). Inst. of Archaeology & Paleoenvironmental Studies, Monograph 3 (FlaMNH) (submitted 2003; remains in production).

and C.M. Scarry. Homegardens and Mangrove Swamps: Archaeobotanical Research at the Pineland Site Complex, Lee County, Florida. In The Archaeology of Pineland: a Coastal Southwest Florida Village Complex, A.D. 100-1600, K. Walker/W. Marquardt (eds.). Inst. of Archaeology & Paleoenvironmental Studies Monograph 3 (FlaMNH) (submitted 2002; remains in production).

and D.A. Trieu, New crops and fusion gardens: the Columbian Exchange and Native North America Chapter 23 in North American Indian Economies, B. Smith (ed.) Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Tibes Paleoethnobotany. In At the Center of the Cosmos: People, Power, and Sacred Place at the Ceremonial Center of Tibes, Puerto Rico (A. Curet, ed.). The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.


and R.B. Miller, Wood Species Analysis of Ship Timbers and Wooden Items Recovered from Shipwreck 31CR314, Queen Anne’s Revenge Site.  Research Report and Bulletin Series QAR-R-09-01, the State of North Carolina, Department of Cultural Resources, Office of State Archaeology, Underwater Archaeology Branch.  On-line version:


Caribbean paleoethnobotany: Present Status and New Horizons (Understanding the Evolution of an Indigenous Ethnobotany). Pp. 173-194 in Crossing the Borders: New Methods and Techniques in the Study of Material Culture in the Caribbean (C. Hofman, ed.). The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.


Reitz, E.J., L.A. Newsom, S.J. Scudder, and C.M. Scarry, Introduction to Environmental Archaeology. Pp. 3-19 in Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology, Second Edition (E. J. Reitz, C.M. Scarry, and S.J. Scudder (editors). Plenum Press, New York.


Tubers, Fruits, and Fuel: Paleoethnobotanical Investigations of the Dynamics between Culture and the Forested Environment on Nevis, Lesser Antilles.  Pp. 103-144 in The Prehistory of Nevis: a Small Island in the Lesser Antilles, Samuel M. Wilson (ed.).  Peabody Museum of Natural History Publications, Yale University Press, New Haven.


and D.H. Trieu. Introduction and Adoption of Crops from Europe.  Pp. 471-484 in The Handbook of North American Indians, Volume3 (D.H. Ubelaker and B.D. Smith, eds.).  Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


The paleoecological implications of macrophytic data from the Page-Ladson site. Pp.181-211 in First Floridians and Last Mastodons: The Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River (S.D. Webb., ed.). Plenum Press, New York.


and M.H. Mihlbachler. Mastodon (Mammut americanum) diet and foraging patterns based on paleofecal material from Page/Ladson (8JE581), Jefferson County, Florida. Pp. 263-331 in First Floridians and Last Mastodons: The Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River(S.D. Webb ed.). Plenum Press, New York.


Caribbean maize. Pp. 325-335 in Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize ( J. Staller, R. Tykot, and B. Benz, eds.). Elsevier, San Diego, CA.


L.A. Curet, L.A. Newsom, and S. deFrance. Prehispanic social and cultural changes at Tibes, Puerto Rico. Journal of Field Archaeology31(1):23-39.


S. DeFrance, and L.A. Newsom. The status of paleoethnobiological research on Puerto Rico and adjacent islands. Pp. 122-184 inAncient Borinquen: Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Native Puerto Rico (P. E. Siegel, ed.). University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa


Törnqvist, T.E., J.L. González, L.A. Newsom, K. Van der Borg, A.F.M. De Jong, and C. Kurnik. Reconciling Holocene Sea-level History on the US Gulf Coast: Is the Mississippi Delta the Rosetta Stone? Geological Society of America Bulletin 116(7/8):1026-1039.


Baas, P., N. Blokhina, T. Fujii, P. Gasson, D. Grosser, I. Heinz, J. Ilic, J. Xiaomei, R. Miller, L.A. Newsom, S. Noshiro, H.G. Richter, M. Suzuki, T. Terrazas, E. Wheeler, A. Wiedenhoeft. IAWA List of Microscopic Features for Softwood Identification, edited by H.G. Richter, D. Grosser, I. Heinz, and P.E. Gasson. IAWA Journal 25(1):1-70.


and D. Pearsall. Temporal and spatial trends indicated by a survey of Archaic- and Ceramic-Age archaeobotanical data from the Caribbean islands. Pp. 347-412 in People and Plants in Ancient Eastern North America (P. Minnis, ed.). Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.


The paleoethnobotany of the Archaic mortuary pond. Pp. 191-210 in Windover: Multidisciplinary Investigations of an Early Archaic Florida Cemetery (G. Doran, ed.). University Presses of Florida, Gainesville.


S.R. Teixeira, J. B. Dixon, G. N. White, and L.A. Newsom. Charcoal in soils: a preliminary view. Pp. 819-830 in Environmental Soil Mineralogy

(J.B. Dixon, ed.). Soil Science Society of America, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin.


Concerning North America (invited editorial). Antiquity 76(292):287-310.


Zayac, T., F.J. Rich, and L. Newsom. The paleoecology and depositional environments of the McClelland Sandpit Site, Douglas, Georgia. Southeastern Geology 40(4):1-14.


F.J. Rich, A. Semratedu, J. Elzea, and L. Newsom. Palynology and paleoecology of a wood-bearing clay deposit from Deepstep, Georgia. Southeastern Geology 39 (2):71-80.



On Land and Sea

Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology (Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology)

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