Applications used in Palynology

Archaeological Palynology is the science of applying botanical and paleo-botanical techniques to archaeological investigations. Basically, microscopic pollen, spores, and Particulate Organic Matter, or palynomorphs, are removed from sedimentary rock and are examined to determine the history of everything from climate change and the impact of man on the environment, to gathering forensics at crime scenes. Both fossilized samples and contemporary samples are used in palynology.

Pollen carries only the male gametes of blossoming plants. Spores are asexual reproductive bodies found in ferns, fungi and moss.

A brief history of Palynology will show that pollen began being investigated microscopically about 1640 in England. The term for this science was coined in 1944 by Hyde and Williams. Palynology is an Earth Science that combines the sub-disciplines of geology, biology and majorly, botany. 

A common modern application of Archaeological Palynology is called quarternary palynology, which is used to study the impact of climate changes on human behavior and development.  One other important theme for this application is the impact of humans on the environment.

Through palynology, much of the history of human uses of plants has been discovered.  Archaeologists have been able to study climate change, determine drought and humid periods in the past, and study the effects of these periods on the history of agriculture. 

Palynology can be used in exploration for oil and gas.  Through studying stratigraphic correlation, it is possible to narrow down the search when drilling for prospective oil fields.

Forensic data can be obtained by studying palynomorphs at crime scenes.  This is useful in determining the time and place of evidence, such as a weapon or a body.  Palynomorphs aren’t necessarily fossilized for this application, but pollen and plant matter are taken as samples and identified to determine the region of origin.

In the study of allergies, or aeroallergy, which is a branch of medicine, palynology is used to discover the geographical distribution of seasonal pollens.  Honey is also sampled and studied, and is sometimes used as a natural remedy for seasonal allergies in the regions that the pollens it contains originated from. The scientific term for this is mellissopalynology.

When determining climate change, it is thought that through studying past occurrences, what to expect in the future will be revealed.  However, since pollen can be widely distributed by wind and rain, it can be difficult to determine a major change in the future climate using this method.