A tale of multi-proxies: integrating macro- and microbotanical remains to understand subsistence strategies
The integrated analysis of several proxies in order to answer a research question is a widespread approach in palaeoecology, but it is not well developed in archaeobotanical research. Applying a multi-proxy approach to archaeobotany has several advantages: a more diverse anatomical and taxonomical representation of the original plant input and a better understanding of taphonomic processes, both depositional and post-depositional. The aim of this paper is to show how a multi-proxy approach can enrich our understanding of plant-related subsistence strategies. Macro and microbotanical analyses were carried out on samples from Shikarpur, a Chalcolithic settlement in Kachchh, Gujarat, northwest India. This settlement is located in a semi-arid region with wet/dry cycles and highly saline soils that influence the preservation of charred remains, so that they do not offer the full picture of plant-related subsistence strategies. We show that the combination of different proxies is crucial to cross-validate the results and to gain a wider understanding of plant use strategies. The inhabitants of Shikarpur relied on a double-cropping system based on local small millets and pulses, and they also consumed cereals, tubers and sedges.