Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 45–56

The value of the archaeobotanical analysis of desiccated plant remains from old buildings: methodological aspects and interpretation of crop weed assemblages

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00334-005-0077-8

Cite this article as:
Ernst, M. & Jacomet, S. Veget Hist Archaeobot (2006) 15: 45. doi:10.1007/s00334-005-0077-8


Plant material like threshing remains has been used systematically as filling and insulation material in buildings for a long time. Such plant material can be found in several places, for example in floor cavities (internal floor deposits, Fehlböden) or in beam holes. For the first time in Switzerland, desiccated plant material like this has been investigated. In this article the analysis of the material from three different sites is presented, each dated to a different period, from the late medieval period to the time just before the industrial revolution. The samples consisted of chaff from Triticum spelta in bulk, and smaller amounts of other cereals such as T. monococcum, Avena sativa, Panicum miliaceum and Secale cereale, plus various weeds. The assemblages in the late medieval samples show evidence of three-field rotation: the high percentage of grassland species is interpreted as an indicator of the fallow land phase within the three-field system. A higher ratio of annual to perennial plants in the more modern samples indicates the development of more intensive tillage and cultivation. Methodological questions regarding sampling strategies of the floor cavity subsamples are investigated. The analyses suggest that the volume of these subsamples should be more than two litres.


Switzerland Three-field rotation Arable weed communities Early modern period Late medieval period 

Supplementary material

334_2005_77_MOESM1_ESM.xls (76 kb)
334_2005_77_esm_table4.xls (77 KB)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PhytosphäreForschungszentrum JülichJülichGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Prehistory and Archaeological Science IPASBasel UniversityBaselSwitzerland

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