Recovery techniques for waterlogged archaeological sediments: a comparison of different treatment methods for samples from Neolithic lake shore settlements

  • Tjaša Tolar
  • Stefanie Jacomet
  • Anton Velušček
  • Katarina Čufar
Original Article

Abstract

This paper presents the first comparable overview of different recovery techniques used for waterlogged Neolithic sediments in the surroundings of the Alps in the last decades. Such an investigation became necessary because it was not known which parts of plants and types of remains were absent or completely underrepresented due to inappropriate recovery techniques in Slovenian archaeobotany up to 2006. During the 2007 excavation of the approximately 5,200 years old Neolithic pile dwelling site of Stare gmajne, Ljubljansko barje, Slovenia, we compared three methods for the investigation of botanical macroremains: method 1 (M1) included rough wet-sieving and subsequent drying of the fractions; method 2 (M2) rough wet sieving and keeping the fractions wet; and method 3 (M3) washing over and keeping the fractions wet. M3 with gentle washing, systematic subsampling, examination, and sorting of macroremains while wet, as well as using 0.355 mm as the smallest sieve mesh size gave the best results. When using the cruder M2 or M1 methods, waterlogged uncarbonized seeds of taxa such as Linum usitatissimum, Papaver somniferum and Brassica rapa, waterlogged chaff of Cerealia and pericarps of Maloideae and Quercus sp., which are all fragile, were underrepresented or even completely absent and therefore the plant spectra were strongly biased. On the contrary, taxa with lignified seed/fruit walls like Cornus mas, Corylus avellana or Rubus sp. were overrepresented when using the M2 and particularly the M1 method. The application of the M3, instead of the M1 method which has been traditionally used in Slovenian archaeobotany, helped us to identify uncarbonized remains of Linum usitatissimum and various species of Triticum for the first time in a waterlogged Neolithic site in Slovenia. Our study should contribute to a standardization of methods, which is desperately needed in archaeobotany. The study clearly shows that the plant spectra can be strongly biased if inappropriate handling techniques are used. The conclusions hold for all kinds of waterlogged sediments of different periods.

Keywords

Waterlogged plant remains Recovery techniques Pile dwelling Neolithic Slovenia 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 43 kb)
334_2009_221_MOESM2_ESM.doc (227 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 227 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tjaša Tolar
    • 1
  • Stefanie Jacomet
    • 2
  • Anton Velušček
    • 1
  • Katarina Čufar
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyScientific Research Centre of the SASALjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Institute for Prehistory and Archaeological Science IPASBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Wood Science and Technology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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