Midwest Ethnohorticulture is a small, woman-owned business founded in 2007, dedicated to research related to: Ecology of Native American horticulture, Archaeological site ecology, and the use of phytoliths and humic acids in interpreting landscape and past plant communities and climate.

We work in the Midwest and Great Plains. Midwest Ethnohorticulture uses a multidisciplinary approach with collective backgrounds in Archaeology, Anthropology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Geography, Natural History and the arts.

Services provided:

• Phytolith extraction and analysis from soils

• Phytolith and starch extraction from lithics

• Phytolith and starch extraction from ceramic residue

• Humic acid analysis (improves accuracy of phytolith analysis results)

What can we do for you:

Phytolith analysis is well-suited for investigating climate and plant cover and changes over time, and for interpreting soil-moving by people. It can provide additional information about visible differences between two soils. If food plants or crop plants are the target species for your research, there may yet be an interesting story in the rest of the phytolith assemblage. Choosing good samples is critical – please e-mail or call before sampling.

Humic acid analysis provides information about a different component of soil – the organic part. It is complimentary to phytolith analysis. It characterizes the conditions in which organic matter decomposed (aerobic vs. anaerobic, temperature, and pH). This analysis may helpful for storage features, earthworks, or for differentiating between soils or soil-sources.


Our approach to phytolith analysis is based in Ecology and Biogeography. Soil is a Cultural Resource, containing a great deal of information in its organic and inorganic components. We interpret assemblages of phytoliths extracted from soil samples as representing information about the landscape, climate, local plant cover, and soil moving (natural or cultural). Phytoliths only occasionally indicate an individual species in the way pollen analysis does. Phytolith data are particularly informative when interpreted as assemblages. Phytolith data are interpreted in a context-dependent way, therefore we need to know as much as possible about a site. Photographs can be invaluable, as well as detailed maps.