IMAA 2019 Abstracts

Paper Abstracts


How faithfully do climate manipulation experiments simulate real periods of climate change?

Andrews, L 1, Payne, R. 2, Rowson, J 3, Dise, N 4, Gehrels, M 5, Caporn, S 6

1 University of York. 2 University of York 3 Edge Hill University 4 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology 5 University of York. 6 Manchester Metropolitan University.

Peatlands are important long-term stores of carbon, containing a global estimate of 600Gt C despite covering only 3% of total land cover. Despite acting as sources of atmospheric CO2 and CH4, pristine peatlands are currently net sinks of atmospheric CO2, and thus represent a negative feedback mechanism against anthropogenic climate change. However, most peatlands (75-80%) are located within the northern hemisphere, where the effects of future climate change are predicted to be the most severe. How these vast sinks and repositories of carbon will respond to the environmental pressures of climate change is currently unclear and the subject of much debate. Understanding the future direction of this feedback mechanism under higher temperatures and reduced precipitation has important ramifications for modelling future climate change. Currently, this uncertainty is such that peatlands are rarely included in global climate models. Contemporary net ecosystem carbon budgets derived from in-situ climate manipulation experiments fundamentally contradict the findings of carbon accumulation studies from peat cores, with palaeoecological studies suggesting that carbon accumulation increases during warming periods, whereas warming experiments observe greater carbon loss. The aim of this project is to attempt to link both modern experimental and palaeoecological approaches to explain this discrepancy. This will be achieved by comparing the effects of 10 years of passive warming and drought simulation at an experimental climate manipulation site on Cors Fochno, Ceredigion, North Wales upon greenhouse gas fluxes, and comparing this with palaeoenvironmental proxy records from recent peat covering the duration of the experiment from each treatment, as well as with the palaeoecological history of the site.

Differential preservation of plant remains and organic materials within the buried archaeology at medieval castle sites across Europe

Rowena Banerjea ¹, Hans Huisman 2,3, Cristiano Nicosia 4, Quentin Borderie 5, Irène Béguier 6, Jesper Colenberg 7

1 University of Reading, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science

2 Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

3 Groningen University, Institute for Archaeology (GIA), the Netherlands

4 Dipartimento dei Beni Culturali, Università di Padova, Italy

5 Département d’Eure-et-Loir, CNRS – UMR 7041 ArScAn “Archéologies Environnementales”, France

6 Park of Morbihan Gulf, Brittain, France

7 Independent, the Netherlands

The buried archaeology at castle sites can often be overlooked in conservation and management strategies in favour of standing remains. Geoarchaeology, and more specifically micromorphology, is an important research strand for identifying potential threats to the buried archaeology by understanding the different burial environments and, the effects that conservation and renovation work have on the preservation of buried sediments and materials.

In this context, this paper examines the factors driving the differential preservation of plant remains and the identification of organic materials in a variety of forms at medieval castle sites across Europe in Estonia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain. In particular, the paper examines the modification of a range of plant-derived components as a result of post-depositional processes.

Reconstructing the Vegetation History of Greater London

Rob Batchelor1, Ralph Fyfe2, Florin Fletcher1

¹ School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading. ² School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth

Greater London contains the greatest density of Holocene pollen records, than possibly any other major global city in the world, This is a consequence of both research and developer-funded investigations that have taken place over the last >50 years. A recent pilot study sought to synthesise over ten years-worth of palaeoenvironmental reconstructions undertaken by Quaternary Scientific (University of Reading). Following a rigorous collation and review process, eighty radiocarbon dated pollen records were extracted for age-depth modelling and cluster analysis. This resulted in the production of a series of quantitative maps displaying spatial and temporal changes in Holocene vegetation cover. This paper outlines the context and initial findings of this pilot project, and discusses potential future areas of research; specifically, how it might contribute to our understanding of the complex relationships between changes in wetland and dryland vegetation cover, landscape topography, relative sea level, climatic change and evidence for human modification of the natural environment.

Woodland as a window on the medieval cultural landscape: the example of the Forest of Sztum, Northern Poland

Alex Brown 1, Aleks Pluskowski 2, Monika Badura 3, Rowena Banerjea 2, Marc Jarzebowksi 4, Daniel Makowiecki 5, Zbigniew Sawicki ⁶, Krish Seetah ⁷,

1 Wessex Archaeology, 2 University of Reading, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, 3 University of Gdansk, ⁴ DMJ Research, ⁵ Nicolaus Copernicus University, ⁶ Torun, Malbork Castle, ⁷ Stanford University

Until only very recently wood was a vital raw material and source of fuel on which societies depended, carefully managed in an increasingly open agricultural landscape. Despite widespread landscape clearance across medieval Central Europe, large tracts of woodland remained in those areas sparsely settled, in areas with poor agricultural soils or where woodland had practical uses.

This paper presents data from the Forest of Sztum, an area of woodland in present day northern Poland that traces its history back to the medieval period. The results of palaeoenvironmental analysis, including new quantitative land-cover reconstructions, are presented alongside historical and archaeological data, to reconstruct the history of this woodland and its relationship to society and important cultural changes occurring in the region. At points in its history this woodland formed a formidable natural barrier in a frontier zone between opposing tribal societies, later becoming a critical managed resource at the heart of the Teutonic Order state in Prussia. The Forest of Sztum survived the collapse of the Order and remains to this day despite the often fraught history of the region over the past several centuries.

How do these various strands of evidence help us understand these complex environments and their importance in pre-industrial societies? How can this data be of wider use in efforts to conserve and restore woodlands in a landscape now almost entirely devoid of primary woodland?


Pollen analysis as an indicator of wetland site degradation: perspectives from 6o years of pollen analysis at Star Carr 

Petra Dark ¹

¹ Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

The early Mesolithic site of Star Carr has been the subject of collaboration between pollen analysts and archaeologists for over 60 years.  Recent major excavations at the site were prompted by concerns over the effects of drainage on archaeological remains surviving in situ, and associated pollen analyses suggested significant deterioration of the pollen record since the high-resolution studies of the 1990s.  Comparison with the original (1950) pollen sequence by Donald Walker has been hampered by publication of only partial data, but access to Walker’s original pollen counts has made it possible to produce a pollen diagram more directly comparable with later studies.  This allows tracking of changes in pollen preservation and peat thickness over time, but also highlights the challenges of comparing data collected at different times and with differing research objectives.

Plant remains in medieval burials. Taphonomic constrains and archaeobotanical potential.

Koen Deforce ¹

¹ Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, OD Earth and History of Life Vautierstraat 29 | B-1000 Brussel,

In contrast to to Roman Age cremation graves, there are only few studies of plant remains from medieval burials from NW-Europe. The major reason is that the latter are mostly inhumation graves in relatively dry, well drained soils, which are considered unfavorable for the conservation of plant remains. Despite these taphonomical constraints, plant remains are sometimes preserved in medieval graves and these do have an important potential for archaeobotanical studies. Even if preserved, these botanical remains are not always visible during excavation however, which often results in no or inadequate sampling. To illustrate the potential of medieval funerary contexts for archaeobotanical analysis and to show how these analyses can contribute to our understanding of past funerary rituals, an overview is presented of recent studies from Belgium. These include analyses of different categories of plant remains (pollen, wood, charcoal, leaves and plant resins) recovered from different types of medieval funerary contexts. In addition to standard microscopic analysis, also X-ray tomography and GC-MS analyses have been used to identify some of these plant remains.

Methodological concerns: the politics and ethics of ethnobiology research

Sarah E. Edwards ¹,²,

¹ UCL School of Pharmacy; & Institute of Human Sciences,

² University of Oxford

Archaeologists interested in the use of plant materials that have been recovered archaeologically may also undertake contemporary ethnographic and ethnobiology studies for use as comparative datasets and/or to facilitate interpretations of the past. In this presentation the development of the discipline of ethnobiology will be discussed: from an initial imperial political context that legitimised objectification of non-European peoples and was predominantly concerned with the economic utility of indigenous peoples’ plant or animal products from an etic perspective; to today’s context of rapid ecological decline and the concomitant loss of indigenous knowledge systems and concern with protecting the inextricable linkages between cultural, linguistic and biological diversity. Along with a shift in the focus of ethnobiology there has been an increasing awareness of the historic biological and cultural harms that have resulted from research undertaken in an exploitative or non-consensual manner. Certain methodologies can create or exacerbate a misalignment in power relationships between researchers and traditional knowledge holders, especially as science is often given dominance over local forms of knowledge or ontologies. Taking an ethical stance in ethnobiology research it is necessary to move to an emancipatory approach that includes participatory collaborative methods in which there are no ‘informants’ but participants who are treated equitably as co-researchers. The current legal frameworks, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol, as well as professional codes of ethics will also be highlighted.

Starch taphonomy, equifinality and the importance of context: some notes on the identification of food processing through starch grain analysis

Juan José García-Granero ¹

¹ School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 36 Beaumont Street, OX1 2PG Oxford, United Kingdom;

Starch grain analysis has gained enormous popularity as an archaeological subdiscipline in the last two decades. In particular, the analysis of starch grains from food-related archaeological artefacts (such as grinding stones and pottery vessels) has provided evidence for the consumption of plant resources worldwide. Recently, and based on experimental research, starch grain analysis has also been used as a proxy to reconstruct food transformation in the archaeological record through the analysis of the damage produced on starch grains by different food processing techniques such as soaking, grinding, boiling and brewing. The prospect of identifying food transformation through starch grain analysis opens exciting avenues for exploring the cultural factors underlying culinary practices. However, the structural integrity of starch grains may be affected by a variety of depositional and post-depositional processes, including but not limited to food processing, so that in order to identify damage produced by food processing one would first need to discard potential damage occurred at later stages (e.g. in the burial environment, during laboratory processing and analysis, etc.). The identification of food processing through the analysis of the damage produced on starch grains is further obscured by equifinality, since different depositional and post-depositional processes may lead to similar damage patterns, as exemplified by uncooked modern reference material showing damage patterns consistent with “boiling”, “spouting” and “fermenting”. Consequently, the identification of food transformation in the archaeological record through the analysis of the damage produced on starch grains needs to be supported by reliable contextual information, a representative number of samples, the analysis of control samples and the existence of alternative sources of evidence (i.e. a multi-proxy approach).

Micro-analysis of archaeological food products under binocular microscope and Scanning Electronic Microscope (SEM)

Lara Gonzalez Carretero ¹,²

UCL Institute of Archaeology ¹, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) ²

The proposed session will touch upon the analysis of archaeological remains of food preparations which are routinely recovered by flotation. Food remains, recognisable as seemingly amorphous charred fragments of plant material, have long been disregarded by archaeobotanists due to their undistinctive appearance. The aim of this session is to present a new methodology for the investigation of these charred fragments of food preparations which utilises binocular microscopy and Scanning Electronic Microscopy (SEM) to analyse their microstructures. We will concentrate on three aspects; (1) the composition of these charred fragments; (2) the characterisation and classification of their microstructure according to possible methods of processing, preparation and cooking and (3) their comparison with experimentally prepared charred reference material. These techniques were first applied to materials recovered from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey) and Jarmo (Iraqi Kurdistan), and later applied to other remains from other sites in Sudan, India and China.

Chemical analysis of pollen and spores: a new tool for reconstructing past vegetation and environmental change

Phillip Jardine ¹

¹ University of Münster

Due to their widespread and abundant (sub)fossil record, pollen and spores have become a mainstay of research into long-term vegetation change, and are widely used to infer past environments and date sedimentary sequences. While palynology has traditionally been morphology based – assigning pollen and spores to taxa based on morphological characters – a new approach to palynology has recently developed, which focuses on using the chemical signature of palynomorphs to extract previously inaccessible information. Vibrational spectroscopic techniques such as Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy provide efficient and non-destructive analytical approaches that can extract chemical information from individual pollen grains.

One key insight has been that pollen and spore chemistry contains a taxonomic signature, which can be used as a classification tool to greatly increase the amount of information on plant composition and diversity that can be recovered from palynological samples. This shows particular promise for improving the taxonomic resolution of plant groups that produce morphologically highly similar pollen, such as grasses. Another advance has been using pollen and spore chemistry to reconstruct past ultraviolet irradiance (UV) via concentrations of ‘sunscreen’ compounds in the sporopollenin wall. This proxy offers the potential to quantify changes in surface level UV-B flux, its relationship to variations in solar activity, and its role in driving ecological change. Future research needs to focus on how taphonomic processes interact with palynomorph chemistry, and whether this in turn can provide a new suite of tools to understand the decompositional and accumulation histories of archaeobotanical deposits.

Utilising archived archaeobotanical archives for isotopic investigations of past farming practice

Lisa Lodwick ¹

¹ University of Oxford

This paper will present some ongoing results of isotopic research on charred cereal remains from Iron Age and Roman sites in Britain and offer reflections on the future archiving of archaeobotanical assemblages. The broader project aims to evaluate the impact of the Roman empire on arable farming techniques in Britain. The measurement of δ13C and δ15N values in charred cereal grains provides insights on water status and the manuring of cereals, with the potential to address long-term shifts in crop cultivation practices. Besides presenting initial results from a series of studies in the East Midlands and Hampshire downlands in Britain, this paper will focus on the implications for the archiving of archaeobotanical assemblages, in light of the development of both isotopic and other methodologies.

For instance, antiquarian collections of plant remains such as Pitt River’s work on Cranborne Chase or excavations at Roman Malton provide high quality assemblages, although the verification of context and dating are key. In contrast, many archived assemblages from more recent excavations do not provide suitable material due to preservation quality or the quantity of plant remains. Beyond the archaeobotanical archives themselves, the availability of supporting information (assessment reports) can increase the reuse potential of an assemblage. On the basis of the success of accessing different archives, suggestions will be offered as to how to improve the research potential of archaeobotanical archives in the future.

Macro and micro-botanical diversity and taphonomy: New insights into built environment sustainability and health

Wendy Matthews ¹,  Aroa Garcia-Suarez ¹, Marta Portillo Ramirez ¹ and Georgia Allistone ¹, Ian Bull ², Jade Whitlam ³,  Michael Charles ³, Amy Bogaard ³, Sarah Elliot ⁴

¹ School of Archaeology Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, ² School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, ³ School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, ⁴ Department of Archaeology, Anthropology & Forensic Science, Bournemouth University

Our knowledge of the  diversity and sustainability of human utilisation of plants is increasingly enhanced by integrated analysis of macro- and micro-botanical remains from archaeological sites globally. The aim in this paper is to examine the diversity and taphonomy of plant materials and parts preserved in intact sequences of deposits in thin-section, in comparison to the charred plant remains recovered by routine water-flotation and spot samples of micro-botanical remains. The case-studies selected explore how this new information is contributing to investigation of built environment management, sustainability and health during the major transformation from hunter-gatherer to settled agricultural lifeways in the Zagros regions of Iraq and Iran, 10,000-6,000 BCE.

Examination of the diversity and taphonomy of macro- and micro-botanical plant remains in micromorphological thin-sections is informing on energy sources, waste management, living conditions and health. Of particular note is the abundance of coprolitic material within archaeological sites that is providing new high-resolution insights into human and animal diet and health through integrated light and confocal microscopy, and phytolith and GC-MS analysis. Integrated archaeobotanical analyses at the site of Bestansur, Iraq 7,660 BCE, has highlighted the biodiversity of early settled community diet and energy sources, as well as remarkably well-maintained living conditions and waste-disposal practices that would have aided management of disease reservoirs, carriers and pathways.

The taphonomy of plant and dung microfossils through ethnoarchaeological and experimental approaches

Marta Portillo¹

1 University of Reading, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science

This presentation reviews the contribution of integrated analytical techniques in archaeobotany, geoarchaeology and ethnoarchaeology to interdisciplinary approaches on the identification and taphonomy of livestock dung within agricultural built environments. Ethnographic and experimental approaches provide comparative datasets and models on factors affecting the formation, composition, preservation and decay of animal dung, and the ecological and anthropogenic pathways influencing these. The focus is on calcitic dung spherulites that originate in the digestive tracts of many animals, opal phytoliths, and thin-section micromorphology, from a range of materials including fresh dung pellets, sediments from pens and pasture grounds, as well as dung-products such as dung cakes, dung fuel remains, and building materials. These provide comparative datasets on certain taphonomic issues that are still understudied, such as the variation in the digestibility, durability and seasonality of plant and faecal microfossils that are excreted with dung, as well on the impact of burning at various temperatures. The outlined case-studies are primarily from core regions in the origins and spread of agriculture in the Near East, with comparative ethnoarchaeological reference to the western Mediterranean, including the Maghreb and island ecosystems from the Balearic Islands declared as Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. These case-studies illustrate the contribution of the much-needed ethnographic and experimental studies of dung for understanding taphonomic aspects which are fundamental for interpreting this still overlooked material in archaeology.

Sample or not to sample: archaeobotanical remains from funerary and ritual contexts

Kelly Reed ¹

¹ University of Oxford

Disentangling the complex taphonomic processes involved in ‘ritual’ deposits of plant remains is no easy task. In terms of inhumations it can be very difficult to show clear associations with the plant remains recovered and the body/burial itself. In some cases the plant remains simply come from the surrounding environment, so in these scenarios should we publish the results? Further, if we are not involved in the excavations is it worth the excavators taking samples? This presentation will explore these questions in the context of archaeobotanical finds from Roman and Medieval burial and ritual contexts.

Comparing phytolith analysis of bulk samples and soil thin sections. Preliminary results of a statistical analysis

L. Vrydaghs1, I. Esteban2,3, J.-L. Slachmuylder4, R.M. Albert3,5,6 and Y. Devos1, 7

¹ CReA-patrimoine, Univeristé Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels. Belgium,.² Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, ³ African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, ⁴ ROOTS asbl,  Brussels, Belgium, ⁵ ERAAUB, Dept. of History and Archaeology. Universitat de Barcelona, Montalegre, 6-8, 08001 Barcelona, Spain, ⁶ ICREA, Barcelona, Spain, ⁷ Vrije Univeristeit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.

Since 2001, phytolith analysis is part of an integrated research conducted on Dark Earth within the historical center of Brussels under the auspices of the Department of Archaeological Heritage for the Brussels Capital Region. Dark Earth is an expression used in European urban archaeology to designate thick, dark coloured, humic, homogeneous units covering large surfaces that are often rich in anthropogenic remains, regardless of their age or geographical location. Taken into account their complex formation histories, the taphonomical history of the components, including the phytoliths, needs to be considered. Therefore, phytolith studies were conducted on soil and sediment thin sections. It enables not only to observe all of the soil components at a microscopic scale, but also to detail their relation and distribution (see for example Devos et al. 2013; 2017; Vrydaghs et al. 2016).

Phytolith analysis of soil and sediment thin sections does not involve any concentration. Nevertheless it allows the observation of a sufficient number of phytoliths for statistical confidence. Can such analysis also provide statistically valid data for archaeoenvironmental reconstruction? Present contribution intends to address this issue by comparing the results gained by the analysis of bulk samples to those gained from the study of the corresponding soil and sediment thin sections.

The Early Lateglacial Interstadial Environment in Britain: Evidence of Alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.) in the Vale of Mowbray, North Yorkshire, UK

Dan Young ¹, Chris Green ², Rob Batchelor ¹, Phil Austin ³, Scott Elias  and John Athersuch ⁴

1 University of Reading, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, ² University of Oxford, ³ Museum of London Archaeology, ⁴ StrataData

Wood macrofossil remains of alder and willow/poplar recovered from a sediment sequence in the valley of the Turker Beck in the Vale of Mowbray, North Yorkshire have yielded radiocarbon dates in the early part of the Devensian Lateglacial (14-14.7k cal a BP), equivalent to the early part of the Greenland Interstadial (Gl-1e) of the GRIP ice-core record. Associated biological remains have provided a palaeoenvironmental record for this early part of the Greenland Interstadial, for which relatively few records exist in Britain. In general, this new palaeoenvironmental record is indicative of open environments dominated by herbaceous taxa on both the wetland and dryland surfaces, with stands of alder, birch and willow woodland. Whilst no alder pollen or seeds are recorded, the waterlogged wood assemblage is indicative of the presence of alder on the floodplain, representing the earliest recorded presence of this species during the Lateglacial in the UK. The absence of alder pollen at Turker Beck, in a sequence in which its macrofossil remains are relatively abundant, lends support to the notion that alder pollen can be a poor indicator of its presence in Late Glacial sequences in Britain.

Poster Abstracts

Assessing the visibility of dung tempering in archaeological pottery: a multidisciplinary experiment

Amicone1, S. Gur-Arieh2, L. Morandi1

1University of Tübingen

2Pompeu Fabra University

Widespread ethnographic evidence exists for the addition of animal dung to clay during the process of ceramic production. The use of this material was probably very common in antiquity, given its large availability and the advantages resulting from the mixing. Organic-tempered pottery acquires enhanced plasticity, as well as a lighter weight. However, due to the high temperatures necessary to fire pottery, the dung component within the ceramic body is virtually archaeologically invisible. To this end, two series of clay briquettes were produced and tempered in equal amounts with sheep and goat fresh dung (1st series) and sheep and goat ashed dung (2nd series). Every briquette was then separately fired at different temperatures, every 100° from 300° to 800°C. Potential visibility of the dung addition is being assessed by analysing remains of phytoliths, spherulites, ash pseudomorphs and fungal spores, as well as by means of thin section petrography.

Food or fuel: using archives to provide new perspectives on archaeobotanical remains

Kate Dudgeon1

1University of Reading

This study uses archival material to provide new perspectives on human responses to environmental change during the shift to agriculture on the banks of the Euphrates River. Epi-Palaeolithic Abu Hureyra (c. 13,000-11,700BP) in Syria has some of the earliest evidence for cultivation, and later, one of the largest and earliest Neolithic farming villages (c. 10,700-8000BP), with the potential to answer key questions about human choices and the development of agriculture. Excavated as part of a rescue mission in the 70s, the site is now flooded and inaccessible, however, a wealth of archival material facilitates continued research into unresolved issues and debates in Archaeobotany.

Phytoliths, preserved under different conditions to charred plant macro-fossils, were extracted from soil samples, providing new insights into plant-use as agriculture developed at Abu Hureyra. Calcitic spherulites, which often indicate ruminant dung, were identified in contexts spanning the life of the site. The presence of dung, if conclusively identified by further GC-MS analysis, suggests another potential depositional pathway for plant remains, previously interpreted as weeds of cultivation (Hillman et al. 2001) or a broadening of the diet (Colledge and Conolly 2010) in response to the Younger Dryas climatic event. This case study highlights the potential of archival material to address key debates in archaeology.

Colledge, S. and Conolly, J., 2010. Reassessing the evidence for the cultivation of wild crops during the Younger Dryas at Tell Abu Hureyra, Syria. Environmental Archaeology. 15 (2): 124-138.

Hillman, G., Hedges, R., Moore, A., Colledge, S. and Pettitt, P., 2001. New evidence of Late glacial cereal cultivation at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates. The Holocene, 11(4), pp.383-393.


Burning practices in the Neolithic: insights through a micromorphological analysis of ash deposits in open-air contexts (northern Greece)

Georgia Koromila1

1University of Reading

Fuel remains comprise a major component of the archaeological evidence on fire-related practices. Therefore, fuel-centred research is key to further our understanding of processes and technologies of fire, and has the potential to elucidate a range of associated social practices, roles, and relationships.

In this study, I examine fuel remains from two Neolithic open-air settlements in northern Greece. Thin section analysis of intact sediment sequences enabled the identification of a range of fuel deposits and investigation of their formation processes, including origins, pathways of deposition, location and burning conditions, taphonomic histories, and preservation factors. The identified fuel components indicate a range of sources that included herbivore dung, wood, and grasses in different combinations. Fuel was preserved both in situ and as redeposited material with shorter and longer histories of transportation and dispersal. Of particular note is the preservation of in-situ firespots as minimally disturbed ash accumulated in open areas, without association to formally constructed fire installations.

This evidence enables further consideration of a range of questions: the preferences, resource strategies, practices, and mobilities involved in fuel selection and procurement; the knowledge and technologies of open fires; the social and experiential implications of managing such fires; (micro)-histories of burning practices; fuel maintenance and discard; taphonomy and preservation potential of ash remains.

Micromorphology provides us here with contextual evidence on fuel composition and firing conditions that complements studies of plant macroremains, and provides insights into formation processes of fuel deposits that serve to highlight preservation biases.

Floors as the source of ethnograpthical information – case study from Romania

Lenka Lisá, Petr Kočár, Petr Netolický, Romana Kočárová, Pavel Lisý, Monika Martinisková, Aleš Bajer

Earth floors may be understood as witnesses of everyday life as, in the past, they were integral parts of houses in most villages of Central Europe. The “earth floor” is quite a complex term. An array of different situations exists, including a beaten floor, a trampled floor, or a constructed floor.

The area along the Prut River (eastern Romania) is passing the kind of cultural changes during the last tens of years. As the old people from villages are passing, also their old houses composed of earth bricks are used to be abandoned and starts to disappear from the landscape quickly. During the 2017 expedition a set of houses with well developed earth floors along the Prut River was architectonically evaluated and then sampled for micromorphology. The macroremain analyses were done from the thin sections.

The results reflects the maintenance strategy, which may be linked to the way the locals care about house. To study earth floors might be quite important, because of the lack of ethnographical sources dealing with the floor maintenance in this area. Also once the house is abandoned it takes just few seasons to the house to totally disappear from the landscape.

‘All washed up: palaeoenvironmental investigations of the Tankerton Beach tudor shipwreck, Whitstable, Kent’

Inés López-Dóriga1 and Alex Brown1

1Wessex Archaeology, Portway House, Old Sarum Park, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP4 6EB

Following the survey and assessment of the recently scheduled monument of Tankerton Beach Wreck, located in the intertidal zone of Tankerton Bay (Isle of Sheppey, Kent), Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Historic England to carry out excavations to gather more information about the date and use of the ship. In addition to finds such as leather shoes, pulleys, a wooden spoon, needles and bricks from the galley, a range of environmental samples was taken for multiproxy analysis (plant macrofossils, pollen, foraminifera, dinoflagellates) and radiocarbon dating. Preliminary results have been obtained from this first round of investigation that offer some insights into the possible use of the ship and the depositional processes affecting the wreck.

Excavations at the Westgate: An Archaeobotanical Investigation of the Oxford Greyfriars

Julia Meen1

1Oxford Archaeology

The Oxford Westgate excavation, carried out by Oxford Archaeology in 2015, is one of the largest archaeological projects ever carried out in the city. The excavations centred on the well-preserved remains of the Greyfriars, one of the earliest Franciscan friaries to be founded in England. Exceptional preservation of charred, mineralised and particularly waterlogged organic remains, and an extensive programme of sampling, have produced a rich archaeobotanical resource which is now in the process of being explored. This poster discusses some of the preliminary findings. Franciscan Friars were sworn to poverty, living without material possessions and reliant on gifts and what they could beg. Friars lived amongst the poor and tended to the sick. The archaeobotanical remains from the Westgate suggest that despite their poverty, a diverse range of food plants formed part of the Friars’ diets, with staples such as cereals and legumes supplemented by plants of the orchard and kitchen garden, likely to have been grown within the Friary precinct itself. They also included exotic food plants usually associated with high status diets, such as fig, stone pine and almond. A number of plants with medicinal properties that may have been grown in a physic garden at the site have also been identified.

Seeing starch: Integrated archaeobotanical approach to identify the origins of Japanese historical papers

Ayako Shibutani1

1National Museum of Japanese History, Japan

In Japanese archaeology, many techniques for analysing archaeobotanical remains have been developed. In just the last decade, the study of starch-grain assemblages in archaeological contexts has become more common as an archaeobotanical tool. Starch grains can be used to determine the functions of stone and wooden tools, using starch morphology as an indicator of plant foods cooked in pottery and examining past plant food consumption reconstructed by human dental calculus. These archaeobotanical methods are now being applied to analysing historical paper materials, focusing on paper compositions. The paper material surveys are essentially non-destructive; paper surfaces are observed with the transmitted and reflected lights of microscopes. In this study, Japanese historical papers have been examined through detailed microscopic observations and experimental analysis using DNA primers of modern papers and plant samples. The results showed differences in the conditions of surfaces, and fibre arrangements showed different paper materials: contents such as soft plant tissues, starch grains, and minerals may be created by papermaking techniques or historical conservation processes. The taxonomic identification of paper components enables the reconstruction of the origins of papers, which enables inferences about the historical and environmental backgrounds of documents, such as economic changes and social transitions. Biomarkers of kozo (paper mulberry) were extracted from the modern samples; their sex markers indicate the areas where they were possibly produced (i.e. inside or outside of Japan). This paper mainly discusses the application of microscopic analysis to historical documents using the archaeobotanical methodologies.