Research Paper- Archaeology of Food

Archaeology of Food
Research Paper:

  • There will be a series of due dates throughout the semester for different paper components.
  • The final paper should be 10-12 pages (note that title page and works cited do not count towards page totals).
  • Failure to adhere to these specifications will cost you!
  • Failure to turn in each paper component on time will also cost you ! If you fail to turn in more than one piece of this assignment, you will FAIL the entire research paper.

Here is your assignment. You are to research a single crop and describe and highlight its origins and its importance in past and recent societies.

  • Choose a crop that has had a significant history on human history.
    • Must be domesticated.
    • Can include plants or animals (but not minerals, such as salt).
    • Can include staples (e.g., corn or wheat), vegetables (e.g., tomato), fruit (e.g., banana or apple) or other (e.g. cacao, coca, sugar, coffee).
    • It needs to be archaeologically identifiable (e.g., lettuce leaves no trace in the archaeological record and, therefore, would not be an appropriate topic).
    • You will need to do preliminary research to ensure that there is enough information about the crop.
    • Should be globally important (e.g., corn, potatoes, cows or chickens), but does NOT necessarily need to be something that Americans eat frequently (e.g. millet and llamas are extremely important, but not a main crop eaten by Euro-Americans).

Parts of the final paper

  • Introduction
    • Introduces the rest of your paper (NOT background!)
  • What is the food?
    • A description of the crop, including what it is you are talking about including species name and physical features (type of plant, color of flowers, etc.).
    • This description should include both wild and domesticated versions (noting the differences between the two).
  • What are naturally wild populations like and where (now or in the past)?
  • How, when and why was the crop domesticated.
  • How, when and why did it spread?
  • How was the crop used prehistorically (e.g., ground as a flour, brewed as alcohol, etc.) and by what cultures (archaeologically or otherwise).
  • Modern Usage- How is it used today? Where is it grown? How is it grown?
  • What role does this crop play in the cultures that eat/use it? What social, political and ritual uses and/or meanings did it have?
  • What does the future look like for this crop?
  • Conclusion


    • You will turn in parts of this paper throughout the semester. Each component is worth a different proportion of the assignment:
      • Paper topic- 5%
      • Preliminary Bibliography- 5%
      • Annotated Bibliography- 10%
      • Paper Outline- 10%
      • Rough draft- 25%
      • Final Draft- 25%
      • Presentation- 20%


Paper Topic Requirements:

This must be approximately 1 paragraph typed. Your “Topic” paragraph must include the following information:

  • What crop you have chosen?
  • Why is it important, prehistorically and today?
  • Any further justification as to the relevance of this crop (requires preliminary research).

Preliminary Bibliography Requirements:

You must have at least 10 sources, but you can provide more.

  • You must provide the full typed bibliographic reference for each source, including author’s name, title of article, title of journal/book, date, and page numbers.
  • Try to focus on articles/books published in the last 20 years.
  • You must use the Author/ Date version of the Chicago style guide.
  • These sources must come from scholarly journals or books found in the library (or via interlibrary loan).
  • Web sources are NOT acceptable unless approved BEFOREHAND by the instructor.
  • These sources MUST be relevant to the crop you have chosen.


Annotation Requirements:

After choosing your sources, you must read, digest, and annotate them.

  • By annotation, I mean that you must provide a typed summary paragraph (100-250 words) for each source.
  • This summary is much like a short book report, but focus on the information that is most relevant to your research topic.
  • If, in reading your sources, you find that one of them is not particularly relevant to your chosen research topic, you must find another that is relevant.
  • To get full credit for this requirement, you must provide 10 annotated sources!
  • Again, you are allowed as many as you deem necessary. The more, the better.

Sample Annotation:

Heizer, R. F.

1960     Agriculture and the Theocratic State in Lowland Southeastern Mexico. American Antiquity 26:215-222.

Heizer considers Mexican Gulf lowland agricultural practices in order to assess if they would have provided sufficient support for the development of a theocratic or religious state. In so doing, he uses the site of La Venta as an example. Heizer assumes corn agriculture during Olmec times based on the presence of manos and metates, and professes to a lack of evidence in the form of plant material. He proposes that maize was preceded by manioc in this region (again, no plant evidence). Agricultural cultivation in this area is referred to as a “milpa” system, which involves slash-and-burn shifting cultivation (here, agriculture is possible without irrigation). Heizer demonstrates that such an agricultural system would produce a surplus beyond dietary requirements. In terms of La Venta, Heizer assumes it to be a ceremonial center in which only a small number of people lived, mainly priests and attendants supported by a distant population.

Outline Requirements:

Before you write your paper, it is important that you structure your text in a way that makes sense. This is the purpose of your 2-3 page typed outline. You can structure your outline in a traditional hierarchical format (I, A, 1, a) or can use a bulleted hierarchical format.

Rough Draft Requirements:

Your rough draft should follow the margin and font specifications set above.

  • I do not expect it to be absolutely perfect in terms of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. These are important to the extent that your argument is understandable. The better it is at this point, the better it will be as a final draft. Work hard on this and your final draft will be relatively easy.
  • Rather, the purpose of turning in the rough draft is so I can evaluate the way in which you develop your research question and the arguments you make in addressing your research question.
  • So although your paper need not look elegant at this point, the meat & bones of your argument MUST be there!
  • You must also cite all your sources and page numbers throughout your text.

Final Draft Requirements:

The Final Draft should follow the margin and font specifications set above.

  • Since this is your final draft, I DO EXPECT it to be perfect in terms of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.
  • I also expect that you will have addressed my comments and incorporated my suggestions from your rough draft.
  • I expect a logical flow, well-developed arguments, and relevant supporting materials.
  • I expect detailed citations throughout the text (author, date, page #- e.g., Carter 2015, 23) and a complete bibliography to follow your text.

 Presentation Requirements:

Your presentation should take approximately 10 minutes and should highlight the major arguments of your paper.

  • You will be graded based on overall clarity; knowledge and coverage of the subject matter; effective use of visual aids; and elocution and form (e.g., fidgeting and eye contact).
  • Please dress as if you are giving a professional presentation to an employer.