IMAA 2020 Abstracts

The abstracts for oral presentations are listed in the order that they ran during the workshop. The abstracts for the poster presentations are listed in alphabetical order.

Oral presentations

Tropical wetland agriculture and the emergence of the earliest rectilinear ditch networks at Kuk Swamp, Papua New Guinea

Elaine Lin1

1 Australian National University

This paper will present results from an integrated archaeobotanical and geoarchaeological investigation of the earliest rectilinear drainage networks at Kuk Swamp, highland Papua New Guinea. Deposits from within drainage features from 4400 to 4000 cal BP were analysed using soil micromorphology, complementing previous analyses including x-radiography, and phytolith, charcoal, pollen, diatom, macrobotanical, and entomological analyses. Feature fills with high frequencies of domesticated plant remains were found within some of the channels and ditches in the rectilinear network.

This study represents the first multi-scalar investigation of its kind in a tropical agricultural wetland environment. A main objective was to determine whether primary deposits could still be accessed for meaningful interpretations about human-environmental interactions, or whether secondary soil formation processes predominate the matrix. This pilot study modified methods to help overcome the difficulties of working in tropical wetland sediments and soils, gaining insights into past plant cultivation practices despite intensive bioturbation, chemical weathering, and intensive hydrological transformations in a complicated and highly obscured clay-rich matrix.

These methods helped to build a suite of potential markers of agricultural and plant cultivation practices specific to the environment. The evidence for the manipulation of edaphic conditions for both wetland and dryland plant exploitation on the wetland margin will be presented. Results from this study suggest that by 4000 cal BP at Kuk Swamp, an early centre of agriculture may have developed independently in the tropical Pacific, signalling the start of a broader and more uniform agricultural ideology across the region.


Agricultural developments in the face of climatic change in the Peruvian Andes

Josie Handley1, Nick Branch1

1 Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

The cultural history of the Peruvian Andes suggests that great populations, from the Early Intermediate Period through to the Late Horizon (200BC – 1533AD), were once supported through the development of highly innovative agricultural systems. The construction of terraces, canals, reservoirs, corrals and raised fields, transformed the morphology of the Andean landscape and significantly increased food production. The archaeological record indicates that these systems were remarkably resilient to societal and climatic changes; however, the relationship between known periods of climatic variability and the sustainability and development of these past agricultural systems is still relatively poorly understood.

Despite the growing number of high-resolution records for past climate change in Peru from lakes, caves, ice, and marine records, there remains a paucity of palaeoenvironmental data documenting changing land-use patterns, especially from small lakes and mires proximal to zones of intensive human activity. Palaeoenvironmental information recorded in these wetland archives provides an important insight into the sensitivity of the agricultural landscape and human environment to past climate change. We, therefore, aim to present an improved understanding of the relationship between the past agro-pastoral economy and climate change in the Peruvian Andes through the use of radiocarbon-dated sediment geochemistry, pollen, non-pollen palynomorph and phytolith records from two wetlands within the key agricultural zone (Huarca, Ancash Region and Cantamarca, Lima Region). We believe this has great implications for our understanding of the issues that govern sustainable food production in Peru at present day, especially among rural communities’ reliant on traditional agricultural practices.


Ancient hydrotechnical structures of MSU Zvenigorod Biological Station and their influence on the surrounding wetland vegetation

 Ivan Krivokorin1

1 Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

Ancient hydrotechnical structures (ponds, ditches, wells, dams etc.), hillforts and mounds are visually distinguishable elements of the anthropogenic landscape. The latter receive constant attention from Russian archaeology and paleobotany. However, hydrotechnical structures are practically not investigated, despite the significant number of European publications on this subject.

We applied pollen, moisture capacity, ash content, plant macrofossils, coprophilous fungi analysis and radiocarbon dating to investigate two ancient ponds on different sides of the Volkov bog (Moscow region, Russia), to determine the date of their creation and economic purpose, and to evaluate their impact on the surrounding wetland vegetation.

The results showed that:

  1. The ponds were dug in the 11th-13th century for economic purposes related to agriculture and cattle breeding.
  2. There were three periods of human economic off-site activity near the bog: 1) forest burning and plowing on the banks of the bog during the Early Iron Age (about 2000 BP); 2) burning of the forest for agriculture / grazing and the creation of ponds (about 800 bp); 3) drainage of the bog with drainage trenches and peat mining (18/19 century?).
  3. The creation of pond №1 and the drainage trench facilitated the temporary drainage of the eastern edge of the bog. The creation of pond № 2 contributed to the flooding of the northern part of the bog. After the termination of their economic use, both ponds began to accumulate peat.

Our research demonstrates the potential for applying multidisciplinary analysis in the study of ancient ponds is extensive.


Diagnostic features of bog pastures: case study from Southern Estonia

Elena Ponomarenko1 , Pille Tomson2

1 University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

2 Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia

Animal husbandry in the forest zone utilized all available sources of forage, including bogs and swamps. In study area in Southern Estonia, 57% of pastures were on peat soils at the end of 19th century. Pastures were marked on maps along with other types of land use, such as hay meadows, swidden sites, and permanent fields. Most of bog pastures became forest swamps in 20th century. Knowing the signature that grazing leaves in bogs would enable reconstruction of past phases/episodes of bog pastures in other areas.

Conversion of bog into a grazing ground could involve burning that promoted the grass growth. In many pastures are visible old ditches. As the bog pastures were located in depressional areas of relief, addition of mineral fractions, to peat due to transfer on hooves and with run off could be expected. An experiment was conducted to confirm lateral transfer of sand fraction by hooves of domestic ungulates.

In the sites marked as bog pastures, organic soils were composed of peat layers, divided by charred layers. While some charred layers had horizontal bedding, the others were destratified for depth up to 12cm, and had an undulated lower boundary; they contained sand grains and fragments of twigs oriented at different angles to the surface. Destratified layers corresponded to our hypothetic model of bog pasture: bog burning—trampling–sand transfer on hooves. Samples from destratified layers were further submitted for palynological, phytolith, carpological, and entomological analyses to obtain additional evidence of livestock grazing.


An experimental approach to recognising Sitophilis granarius (granary weevil) damage in charred cereals

Ruth Pelling1

1Historic England, Fort Cumberland, PO4 9LD, UK.

The positive identification of insect grain pests, particularly the distinctive Sitophilis granarius (L.), the granary or wheat weevil, relies on fragments of the beetle itself being recovered from waterlogged, or occasionally charred deposits. In the British Isles no examples of insect grain pests have yet been recovered prior to the Roman period, despite increased contact with mainland Europe and likely imported foodstuffs in the Iron Age. Archaeoentomological samples from Iron Age deposits have, however, tended to derive from waterlogged features in rural contexts, such as field boundaries, therefore raising the possibility that the absence of cereal pests is related to taphonomy (wrong site/sample) rather than an absence of grain pests which by their very nature will be restricted to grain storage structures or associated waste deposits within settlement sites. The development of criteria to enable archaeobotanists to recognise evidence for infestations from the charred grain itself would both aid the interpretation of charred grain assemblages, and assist entomologists to plot the history of insect grain pests. Charring experiments were conducted on modern grain infested with Sitophilis granarius to establish a set of criteria with which to identify likely insect damage. The results of the experiments will be presented with examples of likely archaeobotanical weevil damaged grain.


Graves Under the Microscope

Sabina Ghislandi1

1 Independent

The present research applied micromorphological analysis, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) and image analysis on sediments of seventeen graves spanning from 4th C BC – 15th C AD and three experimental piglet burials. The grave types comprised wooden coffin, absence of coffin and chamber tombs. The sediments were sandy clay soils, variably affected by water-logged conditions, from temperate oceanic climates; sandy loam soil and limestone deposits in Mediterranean climates. The results showed that corpse decomposition within soil produced characteristic microstructures and features according to the type of soil and climate. The organic matter within burial sediments did not easily preserve and it derived from coffin, grave goods, corpse and biological activity naturally occurring in soil and attracted by the decomposition, such as fungi. The importance of the organic components was highlighted by their influence in the formation of amorphous phosphates, redoximorphic pedofeatures and neoformed minerals within the graves. They offered complementary information regarding the environment within the burial, the presence/absence of coffin in case of no macro indicators and the post-depositional processes occurred in situ.


Archaeological micromorphology thin-sections as reference material: compiling, archiving and curating collections

Rowena Banerjea1

1 Department of Archaeology, Whiteknights, University of Reading, RG6 6AB, UK

This paper outlines how and why archaeological soil and sediment micromorphology thin-sections are used as reference materials. Specialists in micromorphology regularly use their colleagues’ thin-sections as comparative examples of geogenic and anthropogenic inclusions, formation processes on settlements and in the wider landscape such as accumulation, discard (dumping), trampling and pedogenesis, and post-depositional alterations. Both trampling processes and pedogenesis are examples where both the environment and substrate can influence these complex processes. Pedogenesis occurs in both on site and off site contexts and can be an ongoing process making the sequence of events difficult to disentangle. Post-depositional alterations such as clay translocation, mineral weathering, mineral neoformations, organic decay and micro-artefact degradation are again complex processes to identify and to interpret. These identification issues will be discussed in relation to the different types and states of preservation of plant materials in thin-section. Key texts, such as Nicosia, Stoops (2017) and Stoops et al (2018), publish photomicrographs of a wide range of inclusions, but as most textbooks, they present ‘textbook’ examples of inclusions and processes for identification. Access and awareness to collections of thin-sections is crucial for micromorphology researchers at every level to facilitate interpretations of their slides.

This paper will also explore the current ways that access to thin sections is shared, the problems in the curation of these collections, and compiling open access digital archiving of thin-sections.


Integrated plant and dung microfossil evidence from modern reference materials from Mediterranean island ecosystems: Menorca, Balearic Islands

Marta Portillo1,2,3, Yolanda Llergo2, Kate Dudgeon3, Montserrat Anglada4, Damià Ramis5, Antoni Ferrer4

1 Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Archaeology of Social Dynamics (2017SGR 995), Institució Milà i Fontanals, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain

2 Department of Prehistory, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193, Spain

3 Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, United Kingdom

4 Museu de Menorca, Av. Dr. Guàrdia, s/n, 07701 Maó, Menorca, Spain

5 Museu d’Història de Manacor, Plaça des Convent s/n 07500, Manacor, Mallorca, Spain

This presentation showcases the contribution of integrated analytical methods in archaeobotany to interdisciplinary approaches on the identification, taphonomy and seasonality of livestock dung modern reference materials. The focus is on phytoliths, calcitic dung spherulites, pollen non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP) embedded within faecal pellets collected from pens and pasture grounds from different animals, including cattle, sheep and pigs from different seasons of the year and locations in Menorca, Balearic Islands, declared as Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Modern dung reference materials provide comparative datasets on factors affecting the formation, composition, preservation and decay of animal faeces, as well as on the range of environmental and anthropogenic pathways influencing these. These provide fundamental information on taphonomic issues that are understudied, such as the variation in the digestibility among different species (including little investigated animals such as pigs), as well on seasonality of plant and faecal microfossils that are excreted with dung as an important material which is commonly overlook in many archaeological research programs.


‘Standards, Controlled Vocabularies and Reference Collections – all the fun at the fair!’

Dan Miles1

1 Historic England, Fort Cumberland, PO4 9LD, UK.


A Short Introduction to the Percival Wheat Collection

Alistair Culham1

1 School of Biological Sciences. University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, United Kingdom


Pollen analysis of sediment and textile from an Iron Age grave

Renée Enevold1

1 Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus, Denmark

Prehistoric textile has in this study been identified as a productive context for pollen analysis. An Iron Age grave from Hammerum, Denmark, was block excavated and revealed very well-preserved textile and hair from a young woman in her twenties. Pollen samples were extracted by direct sampling from the grave. This providing a unique opportunity to collect samples while minimizing the risk of contamination and maximizing representativity which moreover allowed comparison of pollen assemblages from different components within the grave and an assessment of the method itself. The effort involved was rewarded with a set of results which permitted detailed interpretation. Large amounts of cereal pollen and other associated anthropogenic plants in the textile sample suggest that agricultural work was the primary source of the pollen embedded in the clothing. In contrast, the pollen assemblages from the sediment samples very clearly reflected the surrounding local vegetation.


Ungluing the phytoliths: an experimental and archaeological case study from harvesting tools

Niccolò Mazzucco1, Marta Portillo1,2,3, Juan F. Gibaja1, Mario Mineo4

1 Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Archaeology of Social Dynamics (2017SGR 995), Institució Milà i Fontanals, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain

2 Department of Prehistory, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193, Spain

3 Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, UK

4 Museo delle Civiltà / Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico ‘L. Pigorini’, Piazza G. Marconi 14, 00144, Roma, Italy

Since the earliest attempts of agriculture, prehistoric populations employed specific tools (e.g. sickle and harvesting knives) in order to harvest the cereals. Harvesting tools were relatively simple tools, made of a stone cutting-edge fixed on a bone or wooden handle. To fix the cutting edge, adhesive substances were used, such as pine pitch, birch bark tar, bitumen and hide glues. During the long hours of cereal harvesting adhesive substances tend to incorporate abundant plant macro and micro-remains, which adhere on the ‘glue’. To date, there have been few attempts to evaluate whether any plant remains can be recovered from archaeological adhesive substance and their preservation. In this talk we present first results from phytolith analysis from adhesive substances extracted from both archaeological and experimental sickles. Archaeological glues were extracted from different harvesting tools recovered at La Marmotta (Rome, Italy), a lakeshore early Neolithic site with an exceptional preservation of wooden artifacts. Experimental samples were taken from a sickle used to harvest Gentil Rosso, an old variety of common wheat (Triticum aestivum) cultivated in Tuscany, in order to contrast and compare the archaeological assemblages. Overall, the phytolith assemblages represent the remains of culms and leaves of cereals preserved within the glue resulting from the harvesting, as well as may relate to the nature of the adhesive itself, likely pine resin among other components including micro-charcoal and ashy remains noted also in the phytolith slides. Further work will contribute to interdisciplinary studies for early agricultural activity and tool use, including in techno-functional and experimental analyses, biochemical indicators and microfossil evidence.


Applications of MicroCT Imaging Archaeobotanical Investigations

Aleese Barron1

1 Australian National University

MicroCT imaging has the potential to extract new archaeological information from existing archaeobotanical collections as well as create new archaeobotanical assemblages within ancient ceramics and other artefact types. The technique could aid in answering archaeobotanical questions in regions with amongst the poorest rates of archaeobotanical preservation and where ancient plant exploitation remains poorly understood. This paper will review current and potential uses of microCT imaging in the investigation of archaeobotanical questions, including determining the domestication status of cereal remains preserved within pottery sherds and the identification of archaeological parenchyma. Issues to be discussed include analytical coverage, image resolution, sample preparation, data management, access to facilities, data hosting, as well as methodological limitations.


Archaeobotany of foodcrusts: methods for the identification of plant macroremains in hunter-gatherer early pottery vessels from North-East Europe

Lara Gonzalez Carretero1

1 Department of Scientific Research, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1b 3DG.

Charred organic surface deposits or ‘foodcrusts’ are a recurrent feature of hunter-gatherer pottery in North-Eastern Europe. The analysis of these deposits, often believed to represent the accumulation of food products during one or several cooking events, are essential for the understanding of prehistoric foodways. In this sense, macroscopic and microscopic analyses of foodcrusts have the potential for the identification of plant and animal resources used by past communities, as well as providing information about how these were combined and/or cooked. This paper presents a combined approach for the study of ‘foodcrusts’ using digital microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) developed as part of the INDUCE Project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). Preliminary results from the study of foodcrusts preserved inside hunter-gatherer vessels from sites located in Central and South Eastern Europe (e.g. Don River Region and Lithuania) are presented here. These show differential use of pottery vessels for the processing and preparation of plant and animal foods and shed light on culinary practices during the Early Neolithic in NE Europe.


Cryptic refugia at the ice front in Britain? Evidence of alder (Alnus glutinosa [L.] Gaertn.) in the Vale of Mowbray, North Yorkshire, UK

C.P. Green1, D.S. Young1*, C.R. Batchelor1, P. Austin2, S.A. Elias3 and J. Athersuch4

1 Quaternary Scientific (QUEST), School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AB, UK

2 81 Church Street, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 1BS, UK

3 Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK

4 17 The Bothy, Ottershaw Park, Chobham Road, Ottershaw, Surrey KT16 0QG, UK

In this paper we record the presence of wood macrofossil remains of black alder and willow/poplar recovered from a sediment sequence in the valley of the Turker Beck in the Vale of Mowbray, North Yorkshire. These remains 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 (GI-1e) of the GRIP ice-core record. These are the earliest dates recorded for the presence of black alder in the Late Glacial in the British Isles. 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. However, stands of black alder, birch and willow woodland were also present, and indicate the likelihood that such tree species survived in northern Britain as elsewhere in northern Europe in microrefugia close to the ice front during the Last Glacial Maximum. The absence of alder pollen at Turker Beck, in a sequence in which its macrofossil remains are relatively abundant, lends support to the view that pollen can be a poor indicator of the presence of a species in Late Glacial sequences in northern and western Europe.


Why can’t we reproduce vitrification in charcoal? Experimental work and observations.

Matthew Canti1, Gill Campbell1 and Zoe Hazell1

1 Historic England, Fort Cumberland, PO4 9LD, UK.

‘Vitrification’ of charcoal refers to an alteration process in which the structure of the charcoal appears fused, sometimes disrupted, and often strongly reflective. It is not a true vitrification in the sense of glass-formation, but the use of the word has roots in coal terminology, where ‘vitrain’ and ‘vitrinite’ are used to describe dense bright coal with a vitreous fracture.

Experiments have been carried out over the last few years to determine the origin of this phenomenon. The methods have explored a full range of temperatures and burn times in CO2 and N atmospheres. Green woods and charcoals have been burned with numerous different pretreatments or conditions, including different moisture contents, freeze/thaw cycles and tar deposition. The aim of this session is to summarise these approaches and to open up discussion of any avenues that participants think might be effective in solving this problem.


Left behind; monitoring the efficiency of the flotation method

Don O Meara1

1 Historic England, Fort Cumberland, PO4 9LD, UK.

Though bulk sediment sampling volumes and intensity have been persistent questions in archaeobotany the efficiency of the flotation method has not always been consistently addressed. A particular issue noted for sites located on clay, or persistently wet, soils has been the inability of some charred plant material to float when processed in a flotation tank. Over several years the author has experimented with undertaking a secondary bucket/decanting flotation of the dried and sorted residues in order to maximise the material recovered. This has been applied to a large number of commercial archaeology projects, and latterly on a larger scale for the Ribchester Revisited research project undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire.

This presentation will discuss:

  • the basis for concern that this may be a poorly appreciated recovery bias;
  • the reasoning behind undertaking a second flotation;
  • the effects the approach has on the numbers and types of material recovered;
  • Case studies on where this methodology has been applied, and the effect it has on numbers and types of charred plant material recovered;
  • project practicalities in terms of time;

The effects of differential flotation of material will be addressed for a number of classes of site, and for different regions of England. It is hoped this will lead to a greater consideration of how our own processing activities might be leading to biases in the record, and the ways in which we can counter this.


Do phytoliths become auto-fluorescent upon heating?

Martin J. Hodson1, Luc Vrydaghs2 & Yannick Devos2,3

1 Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom

2 Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium

3 MARI, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

Different methods have been applied to identify whether phytoliths have been fired and/or heated: morphological alterations, changes in colour and opacity, refractive index and Raman spectroscopy. Besides the fact that some of them are quite difficult to apply on soil and sediment thin sections, none provide satisfactory results for sufficient discrimination between burned and unburned phytoliths. Newly formed phytoliths are believed to show no auto-fluorescence. We surveyed phytoliths in thin sections taken from a variety of modern and archaeological contexts in Northern Europe. Unheated material shows no auto-fluorescent phytoliths while the surrounding organic material strongly fluoresces. Our observations of combustion features and burned material revealed that phytoliths typically appear to become auto-fluorescent upon heating. Based upon these observations experimental work is currently being undertaken to determine the temperatures and the environmental conditions under which phytoliths fluoresce. This signal may then become an important proxy complementing the previously developed techniques. As such, integration of various proxies can provide a systematic and straightforward method to track evidence of fire and heating of phytoliths within archaeological contexts.


International Code for Phytolith Nomenclature (ICPN) 2.0

International Committee for Phytolith Taxonomy (ICPT) (Katharina Neumann, Caroline A.E. Strömberg, Terry Ball, Rosa Maria Albert, Luc Vrydaghs and Linda Scott Cummings)

In 2000, the primary governing body for the discipline of phytolith analysis, now the International Phytolith Society (IPS), recognized the need for standardization of nomenclature and terminology in the discipline and subsequently commissioned a committee to draft an International Code for Phytolith Nomenclature. That code, known as ICPN 1.0, was published in the Annals of Botany in 2005 and has become a widely cited and utilized standard in phytolith analysis. More than a decade of use of the code has prompted the need to revise, update, expand, and improve it. The International Committee for Phytolith Taxonomy (ICPT) was appointed to make the revisions by IPS in 2014. The ICPT has drafted ICPN 2.0 which revises some of the principles recommended for naming and describing phytolith morphotypes, presents the revised names, diagnosis, images and drawings of the 18 morphotypes that were included in ICPN 1.0, plus three others, and includes an illustrated glossary of common terms for description. This presentation will introduce ICPN 2.0.


INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR PHYTOLITH TAXONOMY (ICPT) (Katharina Neumann, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Terry Ball, Rosa Maria Albert, Luc Vrydaghs and Linda Scott Cummings) 2019. International Code for Phytolith Nomenclature (ICPN) 2.0; Annals of Botany 124: 189–199; doi: 10.1093/aob/mcz064


Poster presentations

Archaeobotany of basketry: identification of Neolithic coiled baskets from the pile dwelling settlements, at the Lake Constance, Germany

Mila Andonova, PhD1, 2 , Sebastian Million3, Ingrid Stelzner4

1Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie gGmbH, Mannheim, Germany

2Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences),

3Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im RP Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,

4Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM), Mainz, Germany)

This study aims at introducing the preliminary results from the botanical identification of basketry products from several Neolithic pile dwelling settlements located at the Lake Constance (South-west Germany), where a huge amount of organic remains were preserved under waterlogged conditions. The combination of analytical techniques to-be-presented fall within the scope of the anthracology, phytolith analysis, analysis of epidermal tissues and conservation science. This multi-proxy approach has yielded promising results in terms of the botanical identification of the conserved raw plant material chosen to weave the coiled baskets and this way it enhances the visibility of this type of ‘unusual’ archaeobotanical material.

The study of the coiled baskets from Lake Constance was designed according to the technical elements of weaving a coiled basket: the coil and the stich. It was assumed that splitting the elements will aid not only the plant identification, but it will also provide understanding of the technical aspects of this type of basket-making. Indeed, the plant choices proved to be complex: in some cases, different species were bundled together forming the coil of a basket. Nevertheless, amongst the identified species, a general pattern could be drawn – the majority of the coils were formed with monocotyledonous species, while the stiches wrapped around these coils were often shaped from tree bast.

Summarising the botanical criteria for identification of these types of archaeobotanical remains, along with presenting the preliminary results of the actual identification, will demonstrate the potential of studying basketry remains from archaeological contexts.


The palynological potential of ancient adhesives: archaeological case studies and experimental works

D. Arobba1, R. Caramiello2, N, Mazzucco3, J. F. Gibaja4, M. Mineo5, L. Morandi6

1 Museo Archeologico del Finale, Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, Chiostri di Santa Caterina, 17024 Finale Ligure Borgo SV – Italy,

2 DBios Università di Torino, Viale P.A. Mattioli, 25, 10125 Torino – Italy,

3 Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – CSIC, Institución Milà i Fontanals – IMF, Archaeology of Social Dynamics research group – ASD, C/ Egipcíaques, 15,08001, Barcelona – Spain,

4 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – CSIC, Institución Milà i Fontanals – IMF, Archaeology of Social Dynamics research group – ASD, C/ Egipcíaques, 15,08001, Barcelona – Spain,

5 Museo delle Civiltà / Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico “L. Pigorini”, Piazza G. Marconi 14, 00144, Roma, Italy,

6 Institut Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany,

Several gluing agents, such as pine pitch, birch bark tar, bitumen and hide glues, were used in antiquity for a range of purposes, including artefact restoration, hafting tools, waterproofing and decoration, among others. These substances are particularly promising for palynological studies, as their chemistry often provides favourable microfossil preservation, and their adhesive properties can trap abundant particles even within scanty amounts of glue. Palynomorphs have been successfully extracted from three Early Neolithic sickles from the lakeshore site of La Marmotta (Rome, Italy), hafted with a dark sticky material (soon to be analysed through GC-MS). A specific in-vial laboratory protocol has been followed to ensure the recovery of the widest possible number of microfossils form only a few tenths of a gram. The results have provided data on the type of cereals cropped (Hordeum t. vs Triticum t.), on the species of ruderal and synantropic weeds invading the fields, on the surrounding vegetation, and have even allowed insights into the length of use of the tools. Our research aims to also apply experimental approaches: modern replicas of Neolithic sickles have been made and used to mow wheat, obtaining samples of glue that will be analysed as an aid to the interpretation of archaeological tools. Further experimental work has been carried out producing birch bark tar and observing the preservation of selected pollen grains added to the bark prior to firing.


Vegetation and agriculture history of Upper Dnieper region (Western Russia): Multiproxy archaeological and paleoenvironmental study

E. G. Ershova1, N. A Krenke2, P. Kittel3 and N. G Lavrenov1

1 Faculty of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991 Leninskie gory 1-12, Moscow, Russia

2 Institute of Archaeology RAS, 117292 Dmitry Ulyanov str. 19, Moscow, Russia

3 University of Łódź, 90-136 68 Narutowicz str., Lodz, Poland

Upper Dnieper region (Western Russia) region is wealthy in archaeological settlements, but its climate and vegetation history investigated poorly. Current study presents data obtained by multiproxy archaeological and paleoenvironmental research which allows to reconstruct vegetation history in the Katynka river basin for last 5 millennia. The results of our study confirm the earlier conclusions about the large-scale transformation of the landscapes of the Dnieper valley. In particular, the reduction of indigenous forests through multiple burning (slash-and-burn millet farming) in 1st Millenia AD (supposedly, 2-5 centuries). We found crop remains and features of agriculture in oxbow sediments and the soil buried under alluvium. These findings allow to suppose that agriculture in the Upper Dnieper region had existed before Smolensk (the major ancient Slavonian city) and Gnezdovo (one of the biggest settlements of Vikings) settled. Our data also allowed us to identify some traces of human activity of the Neolithic population in the floodplain of the Dnieper.


The use of monocots in basketryin the early Neolithic site of La Draga

M. Herrero-Otal1 , S. Romero1, R. Piqué1

1 Departament de Prehistòria, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Campus Universitari, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

Basketry use and production have been well documented since the last hunter-gatherers, but only some remains have been recovered. The scarce register of fibres have been determined as residues of ropes, cordage, mats, fishing nets and cloth fragments. Moreover, the evidence of basketry in the Iberian Peninsula prehistory is even rarer. This lack of archaeological elements has to  do  with  preservation  conditions  of  sites, that limit the  documenting  fibres  used in  the production of basketry.One of the few sites that have provided remains of fibre technology is the early Neolithic site of La  Draga, located  in  the north-eastern part  of  the  Iberian  Peninsula. The  site is  partially waterlogged and it has provided some well-preserved samples of cord and basket production dated to 5320-4980 cal BC. A first monograph of the site presents a short description of cordage and baskets and a more recent study provides information about cords and baskets function and manufacturing  processes.The  baskets were  mainly  produced  with  monocot fibres;however, due the complexity of its identification, our knowledge on fibres used is restricted.The goal of this presentation is to compare and discuss the effectiveness of different methods for identifying the monocots fibres used in the production of baskets at the site of La Draga.


Comparing phytolith assemblages of bulk and soil thin sections. The case of the Rue des Boîteux, Brussels (Belgium)

Rosalie Hermans1, Luc Vrydaghs2 , Yannick Devos2

1 Maritime Cultures Research Institute (MARI) – Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

2 Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium

In 2014 at Rue des Boîteux, Brussels (Belgium), an almost complete Holocene peat sequence, dated between the 9th millennium BC and 12th/13th centuries AD, was uncovered. This sequence is covered by two Dark Earth units dated between the 13th and 15th centuries AD. Based on the geoarchaeological, archaeobotanical, and zooarchaeological research these units were identified as medieval urban horticulture units (Speleers et al., in preparation). Phytolith analysis was integrated in the archaeobotanical research. Present contribution focuses on the results of the phytolith assemblages of the two Dark Earth units and the transition from the peat to the Dark Earth units.

The phytolith analysis was conducted within a complex methodological framework involving the analysis of phytoliths in bulk sample (processed along three different extraction methods) and soil thin sections. While the phytolith assemblages, documented by analyses of both methods, share similar features, the tendencies differs considerably (Hermans, 2019). A preliminary analysis of these results shows that the results of both methods complement each other by documenting different aspects of the phytolith signature. The purpose of this contribution is to explore the similarities and differences.


A case for reproducible science in phytolith morphometrics: an independent study of double-peaked glume cells of rice

Emma Karoune (nee Harvey)

The recent 2016 Nature survey (Baker 2016) concerning reproducibility found 90% of respondents think there is a ‘crisis of reproducibility’ in the scientific community and 70% of scientists surveyed had tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments. A manifesto for reproducible science (Munafo et al. 2017) suggests several ways to tackle this issue such as protecting against cognitive biases, improving methodological training, implementing independent methodological support and encouraging collaboration and team science. The recommendations for the standardisation of morphometric analysis of phytoliths (Ball et al. 2016) is a step forward towards more robust and reproducible methods. However, none of the current methods utilised in archaeological studies have been repeated by an independent researcher to check for reproducibility. This should be a concern in the phytolith community and must be addressed. Therefore, the author has undertaken an independent study on a new set of modern domestic and wild rice specimens from South Asia to determine the reproducibility of the current method (Pearsall et al. 1995, Zhao et al. 1998) and also its application to archaeological assemblages. Results show that there are large overlaps in measurements. In the original study correct classification was reported at >70% of test cases, however in our study this only occurred in 44% of cases. With comparison to macro-botanical data, there is also evidence of mis-identification of archaeological phytolith remains when used on Indian sites. This indicates that this method is unlikely to work in India, raising questions about what biogeographic contexts it would be useful in, if at all.


Chemotaxonomy of cereal pollen and their wild relatives: a new technique to study domestication.

Faidra Katsi1,2, Matthew Jones2,3, Wesley Fraser4, Phillip Jardine5, Warren Eastwood6, Barry Lomax1

1 School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, UK.

2 Future Food Beacon of Excellence, University of Nottingham, UK

3 School of Geography, University of Nottingham UK.

4 Geography, Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, UK.

5 Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, University of Münster, Germany.

6 School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.

In my PhD research I am intending to use Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy in order to identify cereal species from a pollen record extracted from Lake Nar in Turkey. The lake is located in the Cappadocia region, in central Anatolia, where human activity has been intense since the Late Epipalaeolithic (Allcock and Roberts 2014, England et al. 2008). The Lake Nar deposits are mostly composed of annually laminated sediments, dating back into the Late Glacial. These deposits have previously been analysed and have proven to be good indicators of palaeoenvironental change as well as human impact (Roberts et al. 2016). Therefore, this pollen record could be extremely helpful for our understanding of the the use of domesticated cereals through time, including their spread from the “Fertile Crescent” to the rest of Eurasia.

Many previous studies have used pollen for reconstructing past environments and assessing the impact of human activity in the palaeolandscape. However, when it comes to cereal cultivation and domestication patterns, pollen archives are underdeveloped due to the challenges of classifying Poaceae pollen based on their morphology (Fægri et al. 1989, Holst et al. 2007, Strömberg, 2011). Recent studies have successfully used FTIR for obtaining the ‘chemical fingerprint’ from modern Poaceae pollen grains and have achieved species identification (Jardine et al. 2019, Julier et al. 2016). My PhD project will build on these studies and seek to distinguish domesticated cereal grains from their wild progenitors, using the pollen from Lake Nar analysed by FTIR. This poster will present my methodological approach and research strategy.


Preparing a leaf bud and bud-scale reference collection

Matt Law1,2, Maren Pauly and Darrel Watts

1 Bath Spa University

2 L – P : Archaeology

Leaf buds and bud scales are occasional finds in waterlogged contexts, and can also be preserved by charring. This poster outlines the protocols that are being followed in the Quaternary Laboratory, Bath Spa University for the preparation of a reference collection, from specimen selection and treatment to open sharing of specimen images.


Archaeology of empty spaces – geoarchaeological research of Mt.Beuvray / Bibracte – Celtic oppidum in light of micromorphology

Lenka Lisá1, Mária Hajnalová2 and Petra Goláňová2

1 Institute of Geology CAS, Rozvojová 269, Prague 6, 165 00, Czech Republic

2 Masaryk University, Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Archaeology and Museology, Joštova 220/13, Brno, 662 43, Czech Republic

The production of iron in fact allowed one of the stages of agricultural revolution in the past. The use of iron-made tools helped people to move into lands situated in higher altitudes, where the conditions for agriculture were not so suitable as in lowlands with occurrence of fertile soils. Such occupational sites may be represented by the “Celtic” oppida which are a distinctive urban phenomenon of the Iron Age. The most enigmatic parts of oppida are areas called “empty spaces”. It means, that these areas seem to be unused, respectively, it does not contain any traces of house constructions or another type of archaeologically detectable occupation. There are many hypotheses of what such places served for. The hypotheses also count with the possibility that these areas were in fact used for agriculture purposes. One of the most famous and largest oppidum situated in eastern France and called Mt.Beuvray / Bibracte was choosen to test different hypotheses of how the “empty spaces” were used. Since 2019 the geoarchaeological research, including micromorphology in combination with archaeobotany and other environmental proxies started there. The first results show, that one of the “empty spaces” of site named La Terrasse was in the past surrounded by ditch and intentionally covered by 50 -70 cm of fertile soil. What was the potential of this site for agricultural purposes will show the further analyses.


Decayed wood in Iron Age contexts of northwest Iberia

María Martín-Seijo1

1 Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona

Decayed wood is rather frequent in charcoal recovered from Iron Age sites of northwest Iberia. The presence of fungi hyphae and wood-borers’ galleries has been identified in charred wood remains recovered from different kind of archaeological contexts dated to the Iron Age. This poster summarises evidence related to the presence of decayed wood such as fungi and other kind of insect attack- at Iron Age sites of northwest Iberia. The data available up to now indicate that Corylus avellana, Quercus sp. deciduous, Alnus sp. and Fabaceae were the most affected taxa by the action of fungus and wood-borers, and most of wood remains with evidences of xylophagous activity were closely related to the existence of fire events and/or presence of crafted wood. This paper stresses the possibilities of combining taxonomical identification and registering taphonomical and dendrological attributes to understanding the processes of wood degradation in archaeological contexts.


A close-up of fodder: integrating geoarchaeology and archaeobotany to understand livestock diets and early animal husbandry in the Iberian Peninsula.

Ana Polo-Díaz1, A. Burguet-Coca2,3, F. Burjachs4, J. Fdez-Eraso5, J. M. Vergès2,3

1 University of Sheffield. Department of Archaeology. Minalloy House, 10–16 Regent St, Sheffield S1 3NJ. Sheffield (UK).

2 IPHES e Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evoluciò Social;

3 Universitat Rovira i Virgili;

4 ICREA e Instituciò Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats;

5 University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU).

An interdisciplinary methodology that integrates geoarchaeology and archaeobotany for archaeological recognition of animal diets and for assessing the preservation of different plant resource types is presented.

Reference sediment and plant samples from present-day livestock penning deposits and experimental burning are used to determine the potential of microscopy for the identification of fodder and to assess how dietary and other plant components are preserved through animal ingestion, organic decay and combustion.

The objective is to provide a suite of high-resolution proxies for different plant types with known depositional and alteration histories, that are then applied to the analysis of Neolithic-Bronze Age penning sediments in Northern Iberian caves and rock-shelters.

The ultimate goal of the integration of reference and archaeological data is to improve our understanding of the temporal dimensions of early livestock diets and feeding patterns at intra- and inter-site levels to enable assessment of the potential scale of herding and thus of the likely mobility of livestock, the landscape impact of herding and the relative importance of crops and livestock in early farming in SW Europe.


How Does Archaeobotanical Analysis Trace the Origin of Historical Resources?

Ayako Shibutani1

1 The University Museum, the University of Tokyo, Japan

This paper proposes that archaeobotanical techniques reconstruct the origin of historical resources and capture data provenance and diversity, while promoting attribution and acknowledgement of their use. Scientific studies on historical paper materials have rapidly developed over the last decade, using sophisticated analytical approaches, including archaeobotany. Primary palaeographical studies used a small mobile microscope with 100x magnification to examine the thickness and density of fibres, existence and quantity of additives, such as rice powder and kaolin; and the conditions of other materials, like plant parenchyma. Since the USB digital cameras for microscopy and lenses of megapixel cameras have been upgraded, researchers are easily able to obtain distortion-free, high-definition images. In recent years, analytical methodologies in archaeobotany have been applied to identify plant-derived materials used in papermaking to measure their contents and extract the fibres’ DNA biomarkers. To enhance and accelerate scientific advances in historical studies, our project (Grant in Aid for Scientific Research (A), No. 19H00549) enumerates archaeobotanical and digital humanities’ applications to solve the technological and sociological challenges inhibiting global open access and data provenance of analytical results. This paper shows the current analysis results to promote a new diverse collaboration in historical studies through archaeobotanical methods.