American University of Beirut

Archaeobotany Project


This year, Dr. Claire Malleson, of the Archaeology program, along with Dr. Beata Dreksler and Mr. Wissam Melhem of the Landscape Architecture program joined efforts to build an outdoor archaeobotanical flotation unit that is used to extract ancient seeds and archaeological remains from soil samples. This flotation unit will be used to support the research of Dr. Malleson who is currently studying soil samples from the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve which houses an archaeological site. Showcased as an outdoor facility it will also explain the process of extraction to the AUB community.  

Landscape architecture students were tasked to design a site as per what Dr. Malleson requested; to be able to safely store the flotation unit used by the Archaeology department processing soil samples, while also providing an adequate amount of shade and an enclosed space to dry them after extraction. 

Landscape architecture students were tasked to recycle materials from AUB campus’s junkyard, and were given the liberty to pick up any material and ask for it to be cut or fitted to their specifications. The Physical Plant’s workshop staff assisted in completing these specifications. The end result was a drying and storage room, and a platform with which to place the flotation unit when in operation.

The flotation unit is composed of several tanks attached in such a way that water may flow through them all continuously. Water is then circulated between them via a pump. The soil samples are then placed in the first tank, where remains are expected to float and be separated from heavier clay and inorganic substances. The floating matter is then transferred to the second tank, where it first passes through a specialized sieve. This process is repeated several times until the unit is finished separating the soil sample into clay sludge (which sinks to the very bottom of the tanks) and any potential archaeological remains. The remains are then collected and dried.

where on AUB campus is the archaeobotany unit?​​

The  flotation unit can be accessed from the concrete staircase right of the tennis court, and leading up to the observatory. One can see the yellow room structure that will be used to store the flotation unit as well as the dried archaeology samples. AUBotanic will coordinate with Dr. Malleson to announce when the flotation unit will be used so that visitors may come to learn more about the process. Please stay updated on our latest upcoming events via our website  or social media. 

​​Is it open to the public?

​We are certainly thinking of providing archaeobotanical knowledge in the form of planned activities for whoever is interested in signing up. Please stay tuned to our Instagram and this website if you'd be interested in learning more about this wonderful process.​

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