The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.
The Groningen Institute of Archaeology was founded in 1995 by a merger between the Biological-Archaeological Institute (BAI), the Department of Classical Archaeology and the Arctic Centre. The study of plant remains was initially based only on pollen. In the l960s, the study of plant macro remains gained serious attention and W.A. Casparie started a reference collection for the study of wood fragments. In the same period W. van Zeist, extraordinary professor of Palaeobotany of the Quaternary from 1973-1989, founded a reference collection for the study of seeds and fruit. The study on seed remains quite quickly focused on the emergence and spread of the early agricultural development explaining the fair share of seeds of plants from North Western Europe and the Near East in the collection. The desirability to extend the reference collection to other regions came from research into early commercial crops. For this purpose, the collection is greatly expanded since 1995 by R.T.J. Cappers.
For this extension of the reference collection, much plant material was bought at markets and shops. To document the variation in supply and morphology, as well as to enable checks on identification, we often collected in Eurasia and North Africa, especially in Turkey, Syria and Egypt. From several dealers with a wide range of herbal supplies the entire range of plant products was sampled. In 2007 we visited India and Morocco to complement the basic collection of medicinal plants. Plants used in the Chinese Materia Medica were purchased at the firm Medboom in Amsterdam. Furthermore, we had many species specially collected at some pharmacies in China.
An important addition to the reference collection of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology was the incorporation of the seeds and fruit collection of the former Botanical Laboratory of the University of Groningen. This collection had been composed for teaching Botany during the period 1871-1940 and was initiated by P. de Boer, professor of Botany from 1871-1890. It includes an extensive collection of economic plants from the former Dutch colonies. Especially between 1899-1940 many accessions were added to the collection by J.W. Moll, professor of Botany from 1890-1921. The collection was used extensively in the period 1945-1965 for teaching and research. Thereafter the utilization of the collection diminished and it was infrequently used until the middle of the l980s. In 1984 this collection, still largely stored in the original display cabinets from the period 1890-1925, was housed in the basement of the Biological Centre in Haren. Here the collection was only occasionally accessible. When the collection, due to reconstruction plans, was bound to be stored in depot the university museum decided to integrate the collection with the reference collection of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology. Although the monumental display of the collection could not be maintained, its content became accessible again for teaching and research.
Recently, the pharmaceutical collection of the Pharmacy Department of the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) was also added to the reference collection of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology. Until the 1970s, teaching with dried plant material was
still part of the curriculum of the pharmacologists. A collection of about 500 artefacts were available for this subject. When this collection was recently abandoned by the pharmacology department, the university museum again decided to integrate this collection with the reference collection of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology ensuring its availability for education and research.
The Community and Conservation Ecology Group has an extensive collection of dispersal units of wild plant species of Northwest Europe. In contrast to the previous collections, this one consists of living seeds that are stored in a climatised room. This collection, built up during the period of 1975-2005, is used for the experimental research on nature management, restoration of plant species and vegetation management, studies on the survival of seeds in the soil and the identification of constraints and possibilities of (re-)introduction of plant populations in natural habitats.
The current reference collection of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology comprises over 40,000 accessions of recent plant material. In addition, a representative subset of subfossil plant remains is added to the reference collection including both wet and dry preserved material as well as charred plant material.