MacArthur Fellows Program

Lee Ann Newsom

Paleoethnobotanist | Class of 2002

Gleaning new insights into prehistoric societies through analyses of fossilized plant remains.

Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
45 at time of award

Lee Ann Newsom is a paleoethnobotanist who investigates ancient plant life in Southeastern North America and the Caribbean. One of a handful of paleoethnobotanists worldwide, Newsom is expert in analyzing fossilized plant and wood remains (fragmentary water-logged or charred remains excavated from archeological sites) and gleaning valuable new insights into subsistence strategies and the use of natural resources by prehistoric populations. She is widely credited with identifying and analyzing ancient gourds (some dating as far back as 12,500 years), developing new interpretations of human cultivation of the earliest domesticated plant in North America. Newsom's investigations have resulted in new methods for identifying and cataloguing early plant and wood species, as well as an important database of information for future research. Her work expands the range of prehistoric Caribbean archaeology; it is valuable to environmentalists, historians, and others outside the field of archaeology.

Lee Ann Newsom received a B.A. (1982), an M.A. (1986), and a Ph.D. (1993) from the University of Florida. She served as curator of collections (1993–2001) at the Southern Illinois University Center for Archaeological Investigations in Carbondale, and she is currently an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University. Articles by Newsom have appeared in the Journal of Ethnobiology, American Antiquity, and Southeastern Geology. Newsom currently pursues paleoethnobotanical fieldwork in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and South America.


Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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