Hunter-gatherer archeology, cooking technology
Current Research Projects:
I study hunter-gatherer land-use intensification, especially the evolution of plant-food cooking technology, under the rubric of “Ancient Pre-Agricultural Carbohydrate Revolutions.” Most of my field work has been in the Pacific Northwest and south-central North America—Texas and vicinity—along with stints directing and reporting upon archaeological investigation in the Great Plains, Southeast, and Southwest.Currently, my students and I are investigating earth-oven cookery, a subset of cook-stone technology, at sites in Texas. We study other hot-rock cooking methods as well (e.g., stone-boiling, steaming, griddle cooking) along with related site-formation processes. We conduct laboratory and actualistic experiments on: (a) thermo-chemical weathering patterns of heating-element rocks; and (b) identification/analysis of microscopic plant-food remains (e.g., starch granules, phytoliths, calcium-oxalate crystals, and tissue) and chemical residue, via spectrometry, on cooking stones. My approach to these topics is ecologically oriented and processual. Avenues of research include ascertaining: (1) productivity potentials of key root-foods (i.e., geophytes); (2) manners in which they were used by native peoples; and (3) nature/distribution of archaeological records attesting to exploitation of those resources, including site-formation issues. I also have a decidedly humanistic research perspective that began during my graduate-student days when learned about ancient cooking techniques from Indian women in the Pacific Northwest. I continue to collaborate with Indian people who trace their heritage to Texas. Toward that end, as well as to gather data and integrate the public, I initiated an annual Hot-Rock Cook Off, co-sponsored by the US Army-Fort Hood, the City of College Station, the Department of Anthropology.
ANTH 202- Introduction to Archaeology
ANTH 301- Indians of North America
ANTH 419 – Indians of Texas
ANTH 602 – Archaeological Methods and Theory
ANTH 619 – Indians of Texas
ANTH 620- Prehistory of Texas
ANTH 645 – Cultural Resources Management
ANTH 653 – Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology
ANTH 689 – Ancient Food and Cooking Technology
Current Graduate Students:
Chris Crews (co-chair), Crystal Dozier, Laura Short
Selected and Recent Publications:
2015 Thoms, Alston V., Andrew R. Laurence, Laura Short, and Masahiro Kamiya. Baking Geophytes and Tracking Microfossils: Taphonomic Implications for Earth-Oven and Paleodietary Research. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22(4):1038-1070
2014 Thoms, Alston V., Andrew R. Laurence, Laura Short, and Masahiro Kamiya. Baking Geophytes and Tracking Microfossils: Taphonomic Implications for Earth-Oven and Paleodietary Research. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory; presently available on line as DOI 10.1007/s10816-014-9216-9.
2014 Black, Stephen L. and Alston V. Thoms. Hunter-Gatherer Earth Ovens in the Archaeological Record: Fundamental Concepts. American Antiquity 79(2):203-226.
2014 Short. Laura, Alston V. Thoms, Bin Cao, Alexander M. Sinyukov, Amitabh Joshi, Rob Scully, Virgil Sanders, and Dmitri V. Voronine. Facile Residue Analysis of Recent and Prehistoric Cook-Stones Using Handheld Raman Spectrometry. Journal of Raman Spectrometry; presently available on line as DOI 10.1002/jrs.4593
2013 Lundelius, Ernest, Rolfe D. Mandel, Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., Kenneth Thies, and Alston V. Thoms. The first Occurrence of a Toxodont (Mammalia: Notoungulata) in the United States. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33(1):229-232.
2011 Laurence, Andrew R., Alston V. Thoms, Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr., and Casandra McDonough. Airborne Starch Granules as a Potential Contamination at Archaeological Sites. Journal of Ethnobiology 31(2):213-232.
2009 Thoms, Alston V. Rocks of Ages: Propagation of Hot-Rock Cookery in Western North America. Journal of Archaeological Science 36(3):573-591.
2008 Thoms, Alston V. The Fire Stones Carry: Ethnographic Records and Archaeological Expectations for Hot-Rock Cookery in Western North America. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 27:443-460.