Palaeoecology, Environmental Archaeology and Timescales Laboratory

logoThe Palaeoecology, Environmental Archaeology and Timescales (PEAT) Laboratory (in QC 1000) is equipped with a variety of resources for both teaching and research involving the analysis of insect and plant remains associated with archaeological sites (archaeoentomology, archaeobotany and palynology). The laboratory’s main research focus is in examining long-term interactions between circumpolar foraging, fishing and farming communities through the analysis of ecofacts preserved in peat and archaeological deposits. 

The PEAT Laboratory is located within the space originally dedicated to the Palaeoethnobotany Laboratory. The latter was managed by Dr. Mike Deal until his retirement in 2018, after which new Faculty Dr. Véronique Forbes took on this role. We have recently expanded the research, equipment and other resources of the laboratory to include the study of insects subfossils, in addition to plant remains.

Dr. Deal continues to work with us through student supervisions and has generously donated a collection of seeds and other remains of plants from Newfoundland, Labrador and the Maritime Provinces to the PEAT lab. We are also in the process of building a reference collection of Coleoptera (beetles) from Newfoundland, to expand upon our small collection of insects from Iceland and Alaska. 

Photograph showing sampling being undertaken at L'Anse aux Meadows with landscape and tourists in the the background


Dr. Véronique Forbes: archaeo/palaeoentomology, environmental archaeology

Email: vforbes[@]

You can also follow our research and adventures on the PEAT Lab YouTube channel.

Equipments and Facilities 

The PEAT lab offers ample bench space, a large stainless steel sink equipped with a sediment trap as well as severeal low and high-powered microscopes for palynological, archaeoentomological and archaeobotanical analyses. We also host a small reference collection of insects from Newfoundland, Alaska and Iceland, in addition to a seeds and plant remains collection from this province and other Maritime provinces of Canada. Left: Picture of the PEAT lab, right: beetles remains as seen under the microscope

Current projects

Dr. Véronique Forbes
  • Photograph showing a pit excavated in the peat bog at Ferryland's head and V. Forbes holding a shovelAn Archaeoentomological Approach to Long-Term Human-Environment Interactions in Newfoundland: This project aims to undertake the groundwork for a long-term research program that seeks to document five thousand years of human-environment interactions in Newfoundland. This will involve (a) undertaking a synthetic review of the island’s occupational history and archaeology, (b) initiating a survey of its modern insect fauna and (c) identifying key archaeological sites where paleoenvironmental and preliminary archaeoentomological analyses will be conducted.
  • New Horizons and Novel Approaches at L’Anse aux Meadows: This project aims to undertake environmental archaeological analyses of sediments recovered from the UNESCO World Heritage site of L’Anse aux Meadows, the only known Norse settlement in North America. Palaeoenvironmental sampling of the peat bog east of the Norse ruins in August 2018 revealed an apparently cultural deposit rich in exceptionally well-preserved plant and insect remains. The objectives of this project are (a) to establish the cultural affinity of this deposit through environmental archaeological analyses and C14 dating and (b) to delineate its extent through further archaeological prospection (funded through a Smallwood Research grant and an SSHRC Explore grant with Dr. P. Ledger).
  • Analysis of insect remains and plant microfossils (pollen and associated proxies) as part of the NABO international cross-disciplinary collaborative project Co-production of scientific knowledge and the building of local archaeological capacity in Greenland. This project is funded through a US National Science Foundation grant to Tom H. McGovern (CUNY), Ian A. Simpson (Stirling), Jette Arneborg (National Museum of Denmark), Konrad Smiarsowski (CUNY) and Christian K. Madsen (National Museum of Denmark). 
  • Analysis of insect remains as part of the Nunalleq Archaeological Project. My involvement in this project begun as an AHRC postdoctoral fellowship (2013-2016) at the University of Aberdeen, followed by a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Université de Bordeaux (2016-2017). I am still collaborating with colleagues from the University of Aberdeen and Qanirtuuq inc., as well as Dr. Jean-Bernard Huchet, in ongoing analysis of insect remains from this unique, permafrost-preserved site. 

Posdoctoral Fellow

  • Dr. Paul Ledger, Pollen analyses and chronology-modelling based on materials from L'Anse aux Meadows, Revisiting the Environmental and Chronological Context of Norse Settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows 

Graduate Students

View of Ferryland

Honours Students

  • Juliet Lanphear, Archaeoentomology at L'Anse aux Meadows
  • Jared Hogan, Funerary Archaeoentomology at Nunalleq

Research Partners & Collaborators

Recent Publications

Ledger, P.M., Girdland-Flink, L. & Forbes, V. (2019) New Horizons at L'Anse aux Meadows. PNAS

Forbes, V., Ledger, P.M., Cretu, D. & Elias, S. (in press) A Sub-centennial, Little Ice Age Climate Reconstruction Using Beetle Subfossil Data from Nunalleq, Southwestern AlaskaQuaternary International. 

Forbes, V. & Sikes, D. (2018) A survey of beetles (Coleoptera) from the tundra surrounding the Nunalleq archaeological site, Quinhagak, southwestern Alaska. Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e22788.

Ledger P.M. (2018) Are Circumpolar Hunter-Gatherers Visible in the Palaeoenvironmental Record? Pollen-analytical Evidence from Nunalleq, Southwestern Alaska. The Holocene 28 (3): 415-426.

Ledger, P.M., Forbes, V., Masson-MaClean, E., Hillerdal, C., Hamilton, W.D., McManus-Fry, E., Jorge, A., Britton, K., Knecht, R. (2018) Three Generations Under One Roof? Bayesian Modelling of Radiocarbon Data from Nunalleq, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. American Antiquity 83 (3): 505-524.

Forbes, V., Dussault, F., Lalonde, O. & Bain, A. (2017) Coléoptères, poux et puces subfossiles provenant d’habitats de chasseurs-cueilleurs: l’apport des recherches archéoentomologiques dans le nord circumpolaire. Recherches amérindiennes au Québec XLVII (2-3): 11-21.


Department of Archaeology

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000