Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Phil Geib

Second Advisor

Karl Reinhard

Third Advisor

Bill Belcher

Date of this Version

Spring 4-29-2022


Hertzel, W.D. (2022). A Fusion of Microscopy Technique in Human Coprolite Analysis: the Dyck Cliff Dwelling and the Arid West Cave. Master's Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillments of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor Phil Geib. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2022

Copyright © 2022 William Darwin Hertzel


In the two papers that comprise this thesis, I will discuss the dietary complexes of two separate Southwestern archaeological sites excavated in the 20th century through the medium of coprolite analysis. The fusion of microscopy techniques in this project expands the capability of observation and identification of microremains and their use in reconstructing the dietary habits of past peoples. I intend to highlight the value of integrating three separate methods of microscopy for the identification of diet and any practices for using that information to narrow down a coprologically unstudied site location for samples of lost provenience. Additionally, this project aims to construct dietary habits from both sites to continue the discussion of Southwestern paleonutrition and cultivation methods. Chapter three discusses the Dyck Cliff Dwelling (DCD), occupied between A.D. 1000-1300. This site was the focus of a decade-long field excavation, but this is the first dietary reconstruction based on microscopic and macroscopic remains in coprolites. This evidence revealed a broad nutritional diet of agricultural produce augmented by wild food resources. Consumption and horticultural practices are indicated through these pieces of information. In the fourth chapter, I examine the Arid West Cave (AWC), a site discussed by Wibowo, et al. (2021) in an article about the human gut and ancient microbial genomes. A place of origin for this cave is never given; two potential areas are mentioned as candidates, but true identification of origin is never researched. Therefore, the second paper in this thesis aims to identify the origin for these samples, at least in general terms, in addition to the analysis of the dietary remains. Historical literature and comparative dietary material with other Southwestern sites narrowed down the potential location of these unidentified samples. In addition to illustrating technical methods, this thesis expands upon the discussion of paleonutrition in the Southwest and the variety of cultivation practices and recipes that develop through the chronological history of Puebloan peoples.

Advisor: Phil Geib