Our Research

The Birney Lab is a collaborative center for research at the nexus of chemistry, archaeology, philology and environmental science. Current research, supported through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is focused on the reconstruction of ancient Mediterranean environments, and the botanical commodities – agricultural, medicinal, aromatic – that were produced within them. Our work provides insight into ancient economies, cultivation methods and cultural practices, and considers their implications for sustainable ecological practices in the present.

Birney Lab is also working to improve methodologies for the interpretation of archaeological organic residues. Archaeological residues often document plant species that are otherwise largely absent from the archaeological record, and thus are an important data source for environmental reconstructions.

Birney Lab research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Yale Planetary Solutions Fund, and grants from Wesleyan University. All projects make use of Wesleyan’s robust research infrastructure through partnership with Chemistry’s Advanced Integrated Lab, and incorporates student researchers from Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry, College of the Environment, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Classical Studies.