I recently helped organise the Integrated Microscopy Approaches in Archaeobotany workshop at the University of Reading, aiming to bring together researchers studying plant macrofossils, palynology, charcoal, waterlogged wood, phytoliths and anything else planty. Something that came out of the discussion at the end of the day was the need for a database of seed reference collections available for use. Whilst a Historic England funded zooarchaeological reference collection database is currently in the pipeline, with the potential for future archaeobotanical spin offs, it seemed sensible to quickly pull together a list of available reference collections in Britain and beyond. Other than Historic England, I’m afraid I don’t know how accessible these collections are.
Some other useful resources are the minutes of a 2010 AWG meeting and a very detailed article by Mark Nesbitt in Circaea 1991 discussing how to build a reference collection.
Historic England, Fort Cumberland
Reference collection of 4500 seeds and fruits, mainly British specimens. Also wood, charcoal, mosses and fibres.
“Researchers can visit the collections by prior arrangement with Ruth Pelling. We also lend out most of our accessions. Please note that students require prior approval from their supervisor(s) prior to using the collection and close supervision is rarely possible.”
A catalogue is available to download here.
Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Archaeobotanical and archaeological reference collection from Britain, Europe and SW Asia.
Sheffield Centre for Archaeobotany and ancient Land-usE, University of Sheffield
Seed reference collection covering the Near East and Europe. Also modern charred wood, pollen, phytolith and starch reference collections.
Department of Archaeology, University of Leicester
Reference collection of c. 1500 seeds, fruits and cereals.
The George Pitt-Rivers Laboratory for Bioarchaeology, University of Cambridge
Extensive plant reference collection containing over 4000 items from Europe, India, Africa and Asia. Also wood, charcoal and phytolith reference collections.
I’m sure there are more reference collections out there. Please comment below if you know of any.