Prehistoric ethnobotany is the study of how plants and people interacted before there was writing. It is a multi-disciplianry approach to understanding human nature and the development of culture and the earliest forms of language. When we are trying to undestand a group of people, we can learn a lot by knowing which plants were available to them, how they were used, what they were called, and how the plants have travelled through time and space.
This approach to history can be used to decipher early texts as well as tell the stories of conquered people, forced migrations and destroyed ancient communities. Plants can often keep their names and their essential purposes over milennia and across continents. And people have always done their best to take their most important plants with them when they move, or are forced to move, from their homelands.
We can see a perfect example in the story of the Bronze Age Aegean islands. Although this civilization is often called “Minoan’, it is still unclear how they referred to themselves. Some of their writings have been deciphered but we are still far from a complete translation. They are known as Linear A, Linear B and Cretan hieroglyphics, Let’s see what we can discover about these people by looking at their plants…
We are currently collecting stories and information related to the role of Crocus during the bronze age, as well as other plants whose stories may help us understand more about the herbal practices and the culture in general of people whose story is still so much a mystery.
If you would like to participate in our research project, please contact us for more information. Research assistants will choose a plant from our ancient Aegean plant list and follow its story and linguistic path.
See more ancient botanicals