Deborah M. Pearsall

Professor Emerita
112 Swallow Hall

Dr. Pearsall is an American archaeologist, specializing in paleoethnobotany. She maintains an online Phytolith database. She is a professor emerita in the Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, where she where first began working in 1978. She is no longer accepting students. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979, her dissertation being The Application of Ethnobotanical Techniques to the Problem of Subsistence in the Ecuadorian Formative.

Pearsall was awarded the 2002 Fryxell Award for Exceptional Interdisciplinary Research, by the Society for American Archaeology.

Select Publications


2015 Paleoethnobotany. A Handbook of Procedures. Third Edition (1989, 2000). Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

2011 Anderson, E., D. M. Pearsall, E. Hunn, N. Turner (editors). Ethnobiology. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken NJ.

2008 (General Editor). Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Academic Press, San Diego and Oxford, UK. Three volumes, 2382 pages.

2004 Plants and People in Ancient Ecuador:  The Ethnobotany of the Jama River Valley. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, Case Studies in Archaeology Series, Belmont, CA

1998 Piperno, D. R. and D. M. Pearsall. The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics. Academic Press, San Diego.

Recent Journal articles:

2016 Athens, J. S., J. V. Ward, D. M. Pearsall, K. Chandler-Ezell, D. W. Blinn, and A. E. Morrison. Early prehistoric maize in northern highland Ecuador. Latin American Antiquity, in press.

2016 Berman, M. J., A. Middleton, D. M. Pearsall. Crop dispersal and Lucayan tool use in the Central Bahamas: Evidence from starch grain, phytolith, macrobotanical, and artifact studies. Journal for Field Archaeology, in press.

2015 Pearsall, D. M. The Phytoliths in the Flora of Ecuador project: Perspectives on phytolith classification, identification, and establishing regional phytolith databases. Submitted to Journal of Archaeological Science

2015 Ball, T., K. Chandler-Ezell, N. Duncan, R. Dickau, T. C. Hart, J. Iriarte, C. Lentfer, A. Logan, H. Ju, M. Madella, D. M. Pearsall, D. Piperno, A. M. Rosen, L. Vrydaghs, A. Weisskopf, and J. Zhang. Phytoliths as a tool for investigations of agricultural origins and dispersals around the world. Journal of Archaeological Science

2015 Siegel, P. E., J. G. Jones, D. M. Pearsall, N. P. Dunning, P. Farrell, N. A. Duncan, J. H. Curtis, S. K. Singh. Paleoenvironmental evidence for first human colonization of the eastern Caribbean. Quaternary Science Reviews 129:275-295.

2014 Rosenswig, R. M., D. M. Pearsall, M. A. Masson, B. J. Culleton, and D. J. Kennett. Archaeic period settlement and subsistence in the Maya lowlands: New starch grain and lithic data from Freshwater Creek, Belize. Journal of Archaeological Science 41:308-321.

2012 Gu, Y., Zhao, Z, and D. M. Pearsall. Phytolith morphology research on wild and domesticated rice species in Southeast Asia. Quaternary International 287: 141-148

2012 Logan, A., C. A. Hastorf, D. M. Pearsall. “Let’s drink together:” Early ceremonial use of maize in the Titicaca Basin. Ms. Latin American Antiquity 23(3)

2010 Elliott, M., C. T. Fisher, B. A. Nelson, R. S. Molina Garza, S. K. Collins, and D. M. Pearsall. Climate, agriculture, and cycles of human occupation over the last 4000 yr in southern Zacatecas, Mexico. Quaternary Research 74:26-35

Recent book chapters:

2015 Early agriculture in the Americas. Pp. 514-538 in The Cambridge World History, Volume II, A World with Agriculture, 12,000 BCE-500 CE. Edited by Graeme Barker and Candice Goucher. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.

2015 Paleoethnobotany. Pp. 456-461 in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Second Edition, Volume 17. Edited by James D. Wright. Elsevier, Oxford.Description of paleoethnobotany, in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

2014 Curating paleoethnobotanical specimens and botanical reference collections. Pp. 67-83 in Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook. Edited by Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, and Mark Nesbitt. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in association with Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

2014 Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) and Leren (Calathea latifolia), Marantaceae. Pp. 204-235 in New Lives for Ancient and Extinct Crops, edited by Paul Minnis. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

2012 People, plants, and culinary traditions. Pp. 73-85 In Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, edited by T. R. Pauketat. Oxford University Press. 

2012 Pearsall, D. M. and P. W. Stahl. The origins and spread of early agriculture and domestication: Environmental and cultural considerations. Pp. 328-354 In Handbook of Environmental Change, Volume 2, Human Impacts and Responses, edited by J. A. Matthews, P. J. Bartlein, K. R. Briffa, A. G. Dawson, A. de Vernal, T. Denham, S. C. Fritz, F. Oldfield. Sage, London.

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