Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Neal Ferris

2nd Supervisor

Dr. El Molto

Joint Supervisor


Plant remains are an integral part of any archaeological investigation given the large role they play in ancient subsistence economies, medicinal practices, technologies and folklore. However, despite new developments in ancient genetics, research in plant ancient DNA (aDNA) is a relatively young and untouched discipline accounting for less than 7% of all aDNA analyses published in academic literature. As a result, paleoethnobotanists, archaeologists and geneticists have not understood the feasibility and limitations of each other’s field. Few are aware that DNA extraction from charred plant remains is rare and without any kind of standard or working protocol. The possibilities of retrieving aDNA from charred Zea mays L. is considered in this study using modern maize for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) optimization and combining purification methods on ancient samples (1150-1250 AD), resolving the question of whether or not archaeologically charred plants are a viable source for genetic material.

The confirmed positive results generate questions about the added-value of maize and how knowledge of genetic attributes can contribute to the growing field of archaeology and ethnobiology while demonstrating the value of these findings as they pertain to the treatment of charred floral remains by archaeologists and First Nation communities.