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Lee Newsom

Professor of Anthropology


Research, Professional and Creative Activity

I am an archaeologist, paleoethnobotanist, and wood anatomist. My research involves work with preserved plant remains from archaeological and paleontological sites, and is generally directed toward trying to unravel some of the deep history and inter-complexities of the human- environmental relationship. I work primarily with plant macroremains, including wood, seeds, and other organs, and in a variety of preservation states (carbonized, waterlogged, desiccated). I employ these data sets to explore details of ancient environments and past biodiversity, and use that as a basis on which to focus on human use of biotic resources, emphasizing subsistence systems, resource selection and sustainability, and the domestication of plant species, as a general approach to understanding the environmental, demographic, and social impacts of prehistoric and historic subsistence economies, the emergence of an agricultural way of life, and more. I work primarily in Florida and the Caribbean islands where in collaboration with other archaeologists I have identified the presence of ancient cultivars, plants used in ritual or for medicinal purposes, fuel and fiber resources, and more, along with evidence bearing on the sustainability of biotic resource use and economic practices. Cultural and island biogeographic factors have considerable relevance and inform much of my research.

Currently, the primary projects with which I am involved include a series of Florida and Caribbean Indian sites, in collaboration with archaeologists at the University of Alabama, the University of Miami; and with the Departmento Centro Oriental de Arqueología, CISAT, Holguín, Cuba; Leiden University, Netherlands; and University College London.

Dr. Newsom is involved with several interdisciplinary projects focused on the emergence of social complexity and political-economic dynamics in the Caribbean, especially on Cuba and Puerto Rico, on the one hand, and on the other, Paleoindian and Early Archaic human ecology in the Southeastern, US, especially Florida. These are or have been variously supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, The Heinz Family Foundation, and the Consejo para la Protección del Patrimonio Arqueológico Terrestre de Puerto Rico.

Caribbean and lowland South America, eastern North America, environmental archaeology, paleoethnobotany.

Professional Profile


Recent Publications:

Ostapkowicz, J., R. Schulting, R. Wheeler, L. Newsom, F. Brock, I. Bull, and C. Snoeck (2017). East-central Florida pre-Columbian wood sculpture: radiocarbon dating, wood identification and strontium isotope studies. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 13:595-608. 

Peña, C., E. Córdova, L. Newsom, N. Navarro, S. Sigarreta, and G. Vegué (2017). Distribution and abundance of Tyrannus cubensis (giant kingbird) in eastern Cuba. BirdsCaribbean, the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology special issue Status of Caribbean Forest Endemics, 30(1):10-23.

Wang, Y., P. D. Heintzman, L. Newsom, N. H. Bigelow, M. J. Wooller, B. Shapiro, J. W. Williams (2017). The southern coastal Beringian land bridge: cryptic refugium or pseudorefugium for woody plants during the Last Glacial Maximum? Journal of Biogeography 44(7):1559-1571.

Beck, R.A., L.A. Newsom, C.B. Rodning, and D.G. Moore (2017). Spaces of entanglement: labor and construction practice at Fort San Juan de Joara. Historical Archaeology 15(2), published on line 21 April 2017, DOI 10.1007/s41636-017-0022-6.

Gifford, J.A., S.H. Koski, L. Newsom, L. Milideo, and E. Reinhardt (2017). Little Salt Spring: Excavations on the 27-Meter Ledge, 2008-2011. Chapter 4 in The Archaeology of Underwater Caves, P.B. Campbell, ed. Highfield Press Southampton, Chandlers Ford, UK.

Graham, R.W., S. Belmecheri, K. Choy, B. Cullerton, L. Davies, D. Froese, P.D. Heintzman, C. Hritz, J.D. Kapp, L. Newsom, R. Rawcliffe, É. Saulnier-Talbot, B. Shapiro, Y. Wang, J.W. Williams, M.J. Wooller (2016). Timing and causes of mid-Holocene mammoth extinction on St. Paul Island, Alaska. PNAS 113(33): 9310–9314. Awarded the 2016 Cozzarelli Prize in Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Thompson, V.D., W.H. Marquardt, A. Cherkinsky, A. Roberts Thompson, K. Walker, and L. Newsom (2016). From Shell Midden to Shell Mound: The Geochronology of Mound Key, an Anthropogenic Island in Southwest Florida, USA. PLOS ONE 11(4): e0154611. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0154611 

Hutchinson, D.L., L. Norr, T. Schober, W.H. Marquardt, K.J. Walker, L.A. Newsom, and C.M. Scarry (2016). The Calusa and Prehistoric Subsistence in Central and South Gulf Coast Florida, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 41:55–73.

Wang, Y., P.D. Heintzman, S. Belmecheri, B.J. Culleton, L. Newsom, W. Porter, B. Shapiro, J.W. Williams, M.J. Wooller, and R.W. Graham (2016) Timing and drivers of woolly mammoth extinction on St. Paul Island during the Holocene, Ecol. Soc. of America, ann. meeting, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Aug.

Heintzman, P.D., J.D. Kapp, B. Shapiro, R.W. Graham, S. Belmecheri, K. Choy, B.J. Cullerton, L.J. Davies, D.G. Froese, C. Hritz, L. Newsom, R. Rawcliffe, É. Saulnier-Talbot, Y. Wang, J.W. Williams, M.J. Wooller (2016) Determining the timing of extinction for a late-surviving island mammoth population, Ecological Society of America, annual meeting, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Aug.

Kistler, L., L.A. Newsom, T.M. Ryan, A.C. Clarke, B.D. Smith, G.H. Perry (2015). Gourds and squashes (Cucurbita spp.) adapted to megafaunal extinction and ecological anachronism through domestication. PNAS 1112(49):15107-15112, doi: 10.1073/pnas.

Newsom, L.A. (2015) Wood Selection and Technology in Structures 1 and 5, pp. 150-232 in The Limits of Empire: Colonialism and Household Practice at the Berry Site, 1567-1568, edited by R. Beck, D. Moore, and C. Rodning. University Presses of Florida.

Ostapkowicz, J., and L. Newsom (2015). Dioses...decorados con la aguja del bordador: los materiales, la confección y el significado de un relicario Taíno de algodón. Spanish translation of original publication in Latin American Antiquity 23(3): 300-326 (2012); chapter 7 in El Zemí Taíno de Algodón, Bernardo Vega, ed., pp. 131-172, Academia Dominicana de la Historia, Santo Domingo.

Vetter, L., K.M. Schreiner, B.E. Rosenheim, B. Kohl, B.M. Steinmetz, L. Newsom, and T.E. Törnqvist (2015) Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of coastal marsh successions during early Holocene sea-level rise, Goldschmidt geochemistry conference, Geochemical Society and the European Assn. Geochemistry (

Newsom L.A. (2014) Environmental Archaeology. Pp. 143-150 in Encyclopedia of Caribbean Archaeology, edited by B. Reid and G. Gilmore. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Rich F.J., L. Newsom, B. Myer, and R.K. Vance (2014) Radiocarbon Dates and the Genesis of Phytogenic Near-shore Sediments on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. Environmental Earth Sciences (published online 22 March, DOI 10.1007/s12665-014-3203-z).

Wang Y., L. Newsom, S. Belmecheri, B. Culleton, and J.W. Williams (2014). Vegetation and Mammuthus primigenius extinction history on St Paul Island, Alaska. American Geophysical Union (AGU), Fall meeting abstracts.

Kistler L., A. Montenegro, B.D. Smith, J.A. Gifford, L.A. Newsom, and B. Shapiro (2014). African origins and multi-regional domestication of bottle gourds in the Americas, PNAS 111(8):2937-2941 (

Kennett D.J., I. Hajdas, B.J. Culleton, S. Belmecheri, S. Martin, H. Neff, J. Awe, H.V. Graham, K.H. Freeman, L. Newsom, D.L. Lentz, F.S. Anselmetti, M. Robinson, N. Marwan, J. Southton, D.A. Hodell, and G.H. Haug (2013). Correlating the ancient Maya and modern European calendars with high-precision AMS 14C dating. Nature Scientific Reports 3:1597/DOI:10.1038/srep01597

Newsom L.A., and C.M. Scarry (2013). Homegardens and Mangrove Swamps: Pineland Archaeobotanical Research.  Pp. 253-304 in The Archaeology of Pineland: a Coastal Southwest Florida Village Complex, A.D. 100-1600, K. Walker and W. Marquardt (eds.). Inst. of Archaeology & Paleoenvironmental Studies Monograph 3, FlaMNH.

Newsom L.A., R. Brown, and W. Natt (2013). Pineland Cordage and Modified Wood: Material-Technological Aspects of Plant use.  Pp. 585-620 in The Archaeology of Pineland: a Coastal Southwest Florida Village Complex, A.D. 100-1600, K. Walker and W.H. Marquardt (eds.).  Inst. of Archaeology & Paleoenvironmental Studies, Monograph 3. FlaMNH.

Ostapkowicz J., and L.A. Newsom (2012). ‘Gods… adorned with the embroiderer’s needle’: a cotton reliquary from Hispaniola. Latin American Antiquity 23(3):300-326.

Kistler L., J.M. Haney, and L.A. Newsom (2012). Experimental investigation of pathogenic stress on phytolith formation in wild-type gourds (Cucurbita pepo var. texana), Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, published on line 29 May (DOI 10.1007/s00334-012-0363-1), print: 22:265-170 (2013).

Winsborough B., I. Shimada, L.A. Newsom, J. Jones, and R. Sequra (2012). Paleoenvironmental catastrophies on the Peruvian coast revealed by lagoon sediment cores from Pachacamac. Journal of Archaeological Science 39:602-614.

Newsom L.A., and D.A. Trieu (2011). Fusion gardens: Native North America and the Columbian Exchange.  Pp. 557-576 in Subsistence Economies of Indigenous North American Societies: A Handbook, B.D. Smith (ed.). Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Lanham, MD.

Wallis N.J., A.S. Cordell, and L.A. Newsom (2011). Using Hearths for Temper: Petrographic Analysis of Middle Woodland Charcoal-Tempered Pottery in Northeast Florida. Journal of Archaeological Science 38:2914-2924.

Newsom L.A. (2010). Paleoethnobotanical Research at Tibes. Pp. 80-114 in Tibes: People, Power, and Ritual at the Center of the Cosmos (A. Curet, ed.). The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Newsom L.A. (2010). Caribbean Maize: First Farmers to Columbus. Chapter 10 in Histories of Maize in Mesoamerica: Multidisciplinary Approaches. (J. Staller, R. Tykot, and B. Benz, eds.; selections reprinted from the volume Histories of Maize, 2006).  Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

Newsom L.A. (2008). Caribbean paleoethnobotany: Present Status and New Horizons (Evolution of an Indigenous Ethnobotany). Pp. 173-194 in Crossing the Borders: New Methods and Techniques in the Study of Material Culture in the Caribbean (C. Hofman, ed.). Univ. of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Reitz E.J., L.A. Newsom, S.J. Scudder, and C.M. Scarry (2007). Introduction to Environmental Archaeology. Pp. 3-19 in Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology, Second Edition (E. J. Reitz, C.M. Scarry, and S.J. Scudder (editors). Plenum Press, New York.

Newsom L.A., and D.H. Trieu (2006). Introduction and Adoption of Crops from Europe.  Pp. 471-484 in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 3 (D.H. Ubelaker and B.D. Smith, eds.). Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Newsom L.A. (2006). Tubers, Fruits, and Fuel: Paleoethnobotanical Investigations of the Dynamics between Culture and the Forested Environment on Nevis, Lesser Antilles.  Pp. 103-144 in The Prehistory of Nevis: a Small Island in the Lesser Antilles, Samuel M. Wilson (ed.).  Peabody Museum of Natural History Publications, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Newsom L.A. (2006). Caribbean maize: First Farmers to Columbus.  Pp. 325-335 in Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize (J. Staller, R. Tykot, and B. Benz, eds.). Elsevier, San Diego, CA.

Newsom L.A., and M.H. Mihlbachler (2006).  Mastodons (Mammut americanum) diet foraging patterns based on Analysis of dung deposits.  Pp. 263-331 in First Floridians and Last Mastodons: The Page-Ladson Site in the Aucilla River (S.D. Webb ed.). Plenum Press, New York.

Newsom L.A. (2006). Paleoenvironmental aspects of the macrophytic plant assemblage from Page-Ladson.  Pp. 181-211 in First Floridians and Last Mastodons: The Page-Ladson Site in the Aucilla River (S.D. Webb., ed.). Plenum Press, New York.

Curet L.A., L.A. Newsom, and S. deFrance (2006). Prehispanic social and cultural changes at Tibes, Puerto Rico. Journal of Field Archaeology 31(1):23-39.

deFrance S., and L.A. Newsom (2005). The status of paleoethnobiological research on Puerto Rico and adjacent islands.  Pp. 122-184 in Ancient Borinquen: Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Native Puerto Rico (P. E. Siegel, ed.). University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Newsom L.A., and E.S. Wing (2004). On Land and Sea: Native American Uses of Biological Resources in the West Indies.  The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Baas P., N. Blokhina, T. Fujii, P. Gasson, D. Grosser, I. Heinz, J. Ilic, J. Xiaomei, R. Miller, L.A. Newsom, S. Noshiro, H.G. Richter, M. Suzuki, T. Terrazas, E. Wheeler, and A. Wiedenhoeft (2004). IAWA List of Microscopic Features for Softwood Identification, edited by H.G. Richter, D. Grosser, I. Heinz, and P.E. Gasson. IAWA Journal 25(1):1-70.

Törnqvist T.E., J.L. González, L.A. Newsom, K. Van der Borg, A.F.M. De Jong, and C. Kurnik (2004). Reconciling Holocene Sea-level History on the US Gulf Coast: Is the Mississippi Delta the Rosetta Stone? Geological Society of America Bulletin 116(7/8):1026-1039.

Research Interests

Human ecology, Paleoethnobotany, Paleoecology, Environmental Archaeology, Wood Anatomy


2002 MacArthur Fellow

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Office Hours (On Campus):

  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM