The Foods of Grande Ronde: Digital Documentation of Unidentified Seeds

sample seed – Unidentified spieces of wheat

Identifying seeds recovered from archaeology sites give us better understandings of the type of food that was available during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The seeds in my project are from a late nineteenth and early twentieth century settlement site on the Grand Ronde Reservation, which was the first habitation site on the reservation since removal. My project focuses on photographing unidentified seeds that were collected at the Grand Ronde reservation. I am using a Scalar digital microscope to capture photographs at 50x-100x magnification. The samples are placed into a petri dish filled with sugar. The sugar not only keeps the sample still but it also creates a white background. Tweezers and a paintbrush allow me to gently move the sample into different positions.

Several photographs are required because the microscopes cannot capture depth of field easily. Once the photos are taken they go through a stacking process in Adobe Photoshop to create a clear image with depth. Depth of field as described by Gray (2018) is, “…the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp.” There is a gradual change in sharpness as adjustments are made to the lens of the microscope. This can be seen in the photographs below. Different parts of the seed are clearer than others because the lens of the microscope has been moved closer or farther away from the object.


Unidentified Species of Wheat: Creating an Archive 

When I started this project, I thought the photography process would be the most interesting aspect of my research. But instead I found myself excited to see the unique differences between the seeds and their varying characteristics. For example, the wheat sample you see pictured in this post. It has a wrinkled texture with small indentations filled with silt and a small dark bump towards the right tip. I would have never thought these physical attributes existed had I not used the Scalar microscope to photograph several angles of the sample. These varied characteristics are very important for the identification process. Experts will examine these characteristics to properly identify the family, genus, and species of that sample. There are so many options when it comes to plant identification that it is very important to capture clear images that accurately display these physical attributes. Identifying these samples will give us a better understanding of reservation diets and locally available resources. As well as identify plants that may have been indigenous or imported to the area.

Works Cited
Gray, Elizabeth
2018 Understanding Depth of Field – A Beginner’s Guide. Photography Life. Electronic document,, accessed March 2018.


By: Paloma Sanchez

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