Τρίτη, 7 Μαΐου 2019

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

What was the ecological impact of a Trypillia megasite occupation? Multi-proxy palaeo-environmental investigations at Nebelivka, Ukraine


Fine-resolution sampling of pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microcharcoal as well as sedimentological data in a 6-m sediment core were used to reconstruct both natural conditions and human impacts in the late fifth and early fourth millennia cal bc in the environs of the Nebelivka megasite in Kirovograd Oblast, Central Ukraine. This 238-ha site, dating to the Middle (or BII) Phase of the Trypillia culture, represents one of the first low-density urban establishments in Europe. Despite what was believed to be a sizable population, local human impacts reconstructed from the multi-proxy palaeo-ecological record were moderate in character. There was no positive evidence to indicate a depositional hiatus in the P1 core and no sign of a major ecological impact at any stage in the high-resolution record. The palaeo-ecological record indicates modest settlement agglomeration with less permanent populations rather than permanent populations of tens of thousands of people.

Historic landscape and site preservation at Gordion, Turkey: an archaeobotanist's perspective


Archaeobotanical perspectives inform site conservation and presentation at Gordion, Turkey. The historical landscape there includes about 240 royal burial mounds and the archaeological site of Gordion. The tumuli and the historical landscape in which they sit are threatened by agricultural development and suburbanization. The excavated part of the site is exposed to the elements. Protection of the largest tumulus against uncontrolled grazing has reduced erosion and led to biodiversity preservation. Plant management practices coordinated with the architectural conservation team are under development. On stone structures, soft caps are planted with Poa bulbosa and a selective weeding programme aims at keeping deep-rooted plants from destroying the stonework. Education and outreach for local people and tourists include a native plant garden and self-guided walking tours.

Applied archaeobotany of southwest Asia: a tribute to Naomi F. Miller

Ceremonial plant consumption at Middle Bronze Age Büklükale, Kırıkkale Province, central Turkey


A shaft-like room at the Middle Bronze Age site of Büklükale in central Turkey preserved a rich archaeobotanical assemblage of charred and mineralised plant remains, dominated by fruits, spices and nuts mixed with probable bread and wood charcoals. The remains were recovered in association with numerous ceramic vessels, jewellery and exotic artefacts. We combine identification and analysis of the seeds and wood charcoals contained in this deposit with studies of Old Assyrian and Hittite textual records to investigate the circumstances of the assemblage's formation and its significance for further understanding trade and plant consumption in Bronze Age Anatolia. We present the earliest archaeobotanical example in the region of rare and exotic plant species being consumed in the context of one or more social gatherings, including those possibly linked to ceremonial or ritual events. This offers new insights into the role of plants in the economic and social life of the southwest Asian Bronze Age, as well as the role of commensality and feasting in early states.

Cuisine of the Chinese at Market Street Chinatown (San Jose, California): using cookbooks to interpret archaeological plant and animal remains


Archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological remains from Market Street Chinatown, San Jose, California, show that 19th century Chinese migrants ate a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry, and fish. Most of the migrants came from southern China, an area with a well-developed Cantonese cuisine. This article explores how cookbooks can help us interpret the dishes, meals, and activities represented by the remains. 20th-century English-language Chinese cookbooks present guidelines related to meal planning, ingredients, flavours, cooking methods, and dining customs. These culinary principals cannot be applied uncritically to the Market Street Chinatown assemblage. But they help us connect remains from trash pits to food on the table and help us compensate for uneven data stemming from the differential preservation of various plant and animal taxa. Cookbooks indicate that grains are severely underrepresented in the macrofloral record at the site, as are vegetables compared to meat. Recipes show how ingredients could be combined and prepared, and suggest how Euro-American foods were adopted, providing an understanding of daily cooking and dining in 19th century California Chinatowns.

Holocene vegetation cycles, land-use, and human adaptations to desertification in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia


Since the end of the Pleistocene some 11,700 years ago, the landscape and vegetation of the Mongolian Gobi Desert has been profoundly changing, punctuated by the appearance of lakes, wetlands, and finally aridification. Vegetation communities have responded to these changes according to temperature shifts and northward to southward movements of the edges of East Asian monsoonal systems. Human groups have lived, foraged, and traveled through the landscape of the Gobi for millennia, adapting their technologies and systems of plant and animal use with the dramatic changes of flora and fauna, and likely contributed to the character of the vegetation communities in the region today. Pastoral nomads living in semi-arid regions are sometimes implicated as contributors to desertification. However, our research at the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Dornogovi Province, Mongolia has yielded geoarchaeological and phytolith data which show the opposite effect. Changing landscape and vegetation patterns from the Middle to Late Holocene suggest that early pastoralists might have contributed to a shift away from halophytic desert vegetation, and an increase in semi-arid desert-steppe grasses. We suggest that the halophytic succulents growing around saline ponds during the Mid-Holocene wet phase, were replaced by Stipa and other steppic grasses after pastoralists entered the region, increasing hillslope erosion which covered the saline sediments of the valley floor, and encouraged the growth of grass seeds carried in the dung of herd animals.

Context and contents: Distinguishing variation in archaeobotanical assemblage formation processes at Early Halaf Fistıklı Höyük, Turkey


Meaningful interpretation of archaeobotanical assemblages in the Near East often includes determination of whether dung fuel is the source of some or all of the recovered plant remains. In the years since Miller (Economy and Environment of Malyan, a Third Millennium B.C. Urban Center in Southern Iran. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1982; Paléorient 10:71–79, 1984) and Miller and Smart (J Ethnobiol 4:15–28, 1984) first identified archaeological plant remains from Malyan (Iran) as those of burned dung, subsequent archaeobotanical, experimental, and ethnographic research has been undertaken to test and expand her criteria for its recognition. A key criterion of Miller's was a high ratio of weed seeds to wood charcoal (or a low ratio of charcoal to weed seeds). When used together with other quantitative measures based on standardizing ratios, this measure can help to illuminate variability in the sources of the recovered carbonized plant remains and some of the taphonomic processes that contributed to the resulting assemblage. Using the Late Early Halaf dataset from Fistıklı Höyük, Turkey, as a case study, non-parametric statistical analysis was applied to eight such measures, including a new Fragmentation Index (FI), density measures (per litre of sediment) for charcoal, cereal grains, weed seeds, chaff, non-wood items, and cereal-type indeterminate non-wood items, and a relative density measure of charcoal to weed seeds. Each measure was calculated on the basis of 35 samples (n = 8,532). The results of this analysis indicate that these measures, when used in combination with Miller's weed seed to charcoal ratio, implemented here as the relative density of charcoal to weed seeds, can reveal recovery context-related variations in formation processes that help to clarify both the role of dung fuel in assemblage formation and to differentiate the remains of cereal processing from those of burned fuel.

The burning issue of dung in archaeobotanical samples: a case-study integrating macro-botanical remains, dung spherulites, and phytoliths to assess sample origin and fuel use at Tell Zeidan, Syria


Since Naomi Miller's first discussion of dung fuel within macro-botanical samples from Malyan, Iran, considerations of dung fuel across Southwest Asia have become commonplace, yet archaeobotanists remain divided on: (1) the extent to which dung fuel contributed to archaeobotanical assemblages relative to remnants of repeated crop processing and household activities; and (2) the plant-based, middle-range theories that should be used to infer the presence of dung within macro-botanical assemblages. Here we present a case-study integrating a simple, well-established geo-archaeological approach to assess the presence and relative abundance of dung spherulites within paired sediment and flotation samples from Ubaid period Tell Zeidan, Syria (5300–5100 bc). Spherulite data generated from "sediment smears" are integrated with macro-botanical and phytolith data to assess elevated concentrations of dung within samples. Our analyses demonstrate that plant-based depositional processes across a site are complex, reflecting the rich nature of plant use in antiquity. By using a multi-proxy approach, it is possible to differentiate between predominantly fuel-based deposits and those resulting from predominantly crop-processing processes with greater resolution. This study documents the use of wood fuels in hearths and dung fuel within pyrotechnic features and an oven during the Ubaid period, thereby contributing to discussions of fuel selection and the Secondary Products Revolution. When spherulites are preserved within sediment in abundance, they are also present in floated material, so it is possible to use this approach to consider the presence of dung within archived macro-botanical samples and resolve decade-old debates.

The lost dimension: pruned plants in Roman gardens


This paper focuses on evidence for the pruning and dwarfing of plants represented in Roman garden paintings. In two particularly fine examples of this type, from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta near Rome, and the House of the Golden Bracelet at Pompeii, the artists have carefully portrayed pruning marks and other horticultural practices that alter the size and natural habit of plants. This evidence complements archaeobotanical findings by showing the above-ground appearance of garden plants attested in the archaeological record. The remains of a garden that may be linked to garden paintings were found in 2007 in the Great Peristyle at the Villa Arianna at Stabiae, near Pompeii. Seeking evidence for the interpretation of this garden, paintings and texts have been critically examined. The results reveal a wealth of evidence for plant pruning management in the paintings linked to nemora tonsilia or silva tonsilia—the art of pruning groups of trees and shrubs for ornamental presentation, initiated by C. Matius during the reign of Augustus in the 1st century bc. This art of pruning woody plants may be a virtuoso display of the horticultural skills involved in the management of the broader cultivated landscape of Rome and Pompeii.

Dung burning in the archaeobotanical record of West Asia: where are we now?


In the early 1980s Naomi Miller changed the field of palaeoethnobotany; her research into whether the ancient seed eaters of southwest Asia were human or herbivore opened an ongoing debate over the impact that burning of animal dung had on the formation of archaeobotanical assemblages, and how researchers can differentiate between human and animal food remains. As the number of systematic archaeobotanical studies across West Asia and many other parts of the world increase, we are continually confronted with the question of the significance of dung burning. Herd animal dung is the dominant fuel source in many parts of West Asia today and the high densities of seeds of wild plants in archaeobotanical assemblages suggest that people were using dung as fuel across Inner Asia for millennia. Seed assemblages that represent herd animal dung are assisting scholars in understanding palaeoecology and herd animal diet in the past as well as human economy and pasturing practices. However, interpreting these assemblages is not always simple and there are predictable biases that need to be taken into account, notably an overrepresentation of endozoochoric seeds (seeds dispersed through animal ingestion). In West Asia, the most prominent of such seeds in dung assemblages are from the Amaranthaceae family, notably Chenopodium.

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