Victoria Newson

Department of Archaeology

Research Student

Thesis– A Diachronic Study: Tree Fruits and Their Value-Added Products in the Mediterranean and Caucasus

Victoria Newson
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Full contact details

Victoria Newson
Department of Archaeology
Minalloy House
10-16 Regent Street
S1 3NJ
  • 2018 – Present- PhD Candidate in the Department of Archaeology – University of Sheffield
  • 2016 – 2017- MA in Mediterranean Archaeology – University College London
  • 2012 – 2016- BA(Honours) in Near Eastern and Classical Archaeology – Wilfrid Laurier University
Research interests

Thesis- A Diachronic Study: Tree Fruits and Their Value-Added Products in the Mediterranean and Caucasus

Thesis Abstract

My main research interests lie in tree fruits and their value-added products, like oil and wine. My particular emphasis is on the suspected development from small-scale fresh fruit consumption at a household level through to large-scale production of storable and tradable products form the Neolithic (c. 10,000-6500 BCE) to the Roman (27-BCE-395 CE) period. My geographic interest covers the Mediterranean and Caucasus.

Fruit tree crops (notably, but not exclusively, olives and grapes) feature prominently in a number of arguments (e.g. Renfrew 1972; Sherratt and Sherratt 1991; Hamilakis 1996; Sherratt 1999; Foxhall 2007; Chaniotis and Hadjisavvas 2012) concerning the development of urbanization, long-distance trade, social inequality and diacritical cultures of consumption in the Bronze and Iron Ages of the Mediterranean and Caucuses littorals. Fruit tree crops are very unreliable sources of subsistence, since they take many years to develop and to recover from periodic hazards like weather (e.g. they involve economic risk). However, they are also excellent sources of value-added and tradable products such as oil and wine.

There is significant dispute about the scale on which these tree crops were cultivated and their fruits processed for long-distance exchange/trade. There is also some risk that arguments for their importance rely more on modern arboricultural realities than ancient evidence. Set within this context, it is striking that the archaeobotanical record (pips/stones, wood charcoal) for tree crops is relatively neglected. As well, there has been no systematic attempt at a diachronic and spatial analysis of the combined archaeobotanical, artefactual (notably surviving crushing/pressing equipment), iconographic and literary/epigraphic evidence on this subject.

I set about filling this gap: I am creating a novel and effective proxy measure for the importance and dynamism of trade in these geographic regions. I am using a multidisciplinary and evidence-based approach, including the field work for a new ethnographic study in Armenia. A broad temporal and geographical focus has been adopted to ensure sufficient contrasts in the apparent scale of exploitation of tree crops. However, for reasons of manageability, only regions for which sufficient data has already been assembled will be used. The evidence of tree fruit products will serve as a proxy measure for exchange in successive time periods. This will shed light on the debates instigated by Renfrew, Sherratt, Finley and others.

Three specific questions are posed: (1) to what extent can a diachronic trend be recognized from the opportunistic local consumption of fresh tree fruits through to their systematic processing for storable and tradable value-added products? (2) to what extent does such a trend exhibit a marked variability by region within the Mediterranean and Black Sea/Caucasus areas? (3) do any such diachronic and regional trends in the use of tree fruits shed light on the scale and significance of exchange/ trade during the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in these regions.

Teaching activities
  • Spring 2020- AAP118: Human Origins, Migrations and Identities – Marker
  • Spring 2020 & Spring 2019- AAP110: Classical World and Its Legacy – Graduate Teaching Assistant
  • Autumn 2019- AAP108: World Civilizations – Graduate Teaching Assistant
Field Experience

I have been involved in excavations and survey work on the island of Crete (Gournia) and in the Peloponnese (WARP). Most recently in Winter 2020, I worked on an ethnographic field project in Armenia focusing on historic fermented tree-fruit beverages and the processing equipment used in the country (Aragatsotn, Ararat and Vayots Dzor)