Integrated Archaeobotanical Research (IAR)

Key points:

  • Develops an integrated approach to archaeoobtanical research;
  • Creates a web-based training package for archaeobotany.

Traditionally, charred seeds and fruits recovered from archaeological sites are the main source of evidence for past diet, subsistence strategies and plant economy. Specialists in all aspects of archaeobotanical research charred fruits and seeds, wood charcoal, waterlogged plant remains, charred plant tissues, silica phytoliths and starch were brought together in Sheffield to create an integrated interpretational framework for the study of ancient plant economies and to develop complementary research strategies building on the strengths of each specialisation.

Archaeobotany site screenshot.

Current methodologies for the recovery, identification, analysis and interpretation of the full range of archaeobotanical plant materials were tested and refined. Interpretative tools based on ethnographic amd ecological research were also developed. These methods were integrated in a number of archaeological case studies: Tell Brak (Syria), Catal Hoyuk (Turkey), Assiros (Greece) and Sipplingen (Germany). For each archaeobotanical specialisation, a reference collection of modern botanical specimens and images was created for training and research purposes and will remain in Sheffield as a lasting legacy of the project.

The online archaeobotany tutorial was created which guides students through the analytical and interpretative stages of archaeobotanical research for each specialisation (wood charcoal, charred seeds and fruits, charred roots and bubers, waterlogged plant remains, pollen, phytoliths and starch). The tutorial provides information on the history of each sub-discipline, sampling and recovery methods, identification and quantification techniques, numerical analysis and interpretation.

Funded by: EU Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Program IAR2
Grant Period: 2007 - 2009
Grant Holder: Prof G. Jones and Dr M. Charles
Researchers: Prof M. Madella, Dr U. Maier, Dr F. Ertug, Dr H. Pessin, Dr D. Zurro, Dr C. Herbig, Dr A. Crowther, Dr W. Out, J. Kutterer, and C. Longford.

Relevant publications

Albert, R. M. and Madella, M, (eds.) 2009. Perspectives on Phytolith Research: 6th International Meeting on Phytolith Research. Quaternary International 193: 1-192.

Bogaard, A., Charles, M., Twiss, K., Fairbairn, A., Yalman, N., Filipovic, D., Arzu Demirergi, G., Ertuğ, F., Russell, N. and Henecke, J. in press. Private pantries, celebrated surplus: saving and sharing food at Neolithic Çatalhöyük. Antiquity.

Charles, M. and Bogaard, A. in press. Charred plant macro-remains from Jeitun: implications for early cultivation and herding practices in western Central Asia, in Harris, D.R. (ed.) Excavations at Jeitun. London: UCL press.

Crowther, A. 2009. Re-viewing raphides: Issues with the Identification and interpretation of calcium oxalate crystals in microfossil assemblages’ in A. Fairbairn, S. O’Connor and B. Marwick (eds.) New Directions in Archaeological Science. Terra Australis 28 (Canberra; ANU EPress) pp. 105-120.

Herbig, C. 2009. Recent archaeobotanical investigations into the range and abundance of Neolithic crop plants in settlements around Lake Constance and in Upper Swabia (south-west Germany) in relation to cultural influences. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1277-1285.

Bogaard, A., Jones, G. and Bending, J. 2008. Crop husbandry and its social significance in the Körös and LBK periods, in D. Bailey and A. Whittle (eds.), Living Well Together: Settlement, Materiality and Subsistence in Neolithic and Copper Age south-east Europe. Oxbow, pp. 131-138.

Longford, C., Drinnan, A. and Sagona, A. 2009. The archaeobotany of Sos Hoyuk, Turkey. in A. Fairbairn, S. O’Connor and B. Marwick (eds.), New Directions in Archaeological Science. Terra Australis 28 (Canberra; ANU EPress), pp. 121-136.

Osterrieth, M., Madella, M., Zurro, D. and Fernanda Alvarez, M. (2009) Taphonomical aspects of silica phytoliths in the loess sediments of the Argentinean Pampas. Quaternary International 193: 70-79.

Out, W.A. 2008 Gathered food plants at Dutch Mesolithic and Neolithic wetland sites, in S. Baker, M. Allen, S. Middle and K. Poole (eds.), Conference Proceedings Food and Drink in Archaeology. Totnes: Prospect Books, pp. 84-95.

Out, W.A. 2008. Growing habits? Delayed introduction of crop cultivation at marginal Neolithic wetland sites. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 17: 131-138.

Out, W.A. 2008. The scale of human impact at the Hazendonk, the Netherlands, during the Late Neolithic, in: H. Fokkens, B. Coles, A. van Gijn, J. Kleijne, H. Ponjee and C. Slappendel (eds.), Between Foraging and Farming. Leiden (Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia 40), pp. 153-165.

Out, W.A. and U. Maier in prep. Preliminary archaeobotanical results on Neolithic occupation at Sipplingen, Lake Constance, Germany.

Out, W.A. and A. Louwe Kooijmans in prep. An integrated archaeobotanical analysis of human impact at the Dutch Neolithic site the Hazendonk.

Twiss, K., Bogaard, A., Bogdan, D., Carter, T., Charles, M., Farid, S., Russell, N., Stevanovic, M., Yalman and Yeomans, L. 2008. Arson or accident? The burning of a Neolithic house at Catal Huyuk, Turkey. Journal of Field Archaeology 33: 41-57.

Twiss, K.C., Bogaard, A., Charles, M., Henecke, J., Russell, N., Martin, L. and Jones, G. 2009. Plants and animals together: interpreting organic remains from Building 52 at Çatalhöyük. Current Archaeology 50: 885-895.

Zurro, D., Madella, M., Briz, I. and Vila, A. 2009. Variability of the phytolith record in fisher–hunter–gatherer sites: An example from the Yamana society (Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina). Quaternary International 193: 184-191.