Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 549–560 | Cite as

Flax in Neolithic and Bronze Age Greece: archaeobotanical evidence

Original Article

Abstract

This paper presents an overview of archaeobotanical finds of Linum usitatissimum from Neolithic and Bronze Age Greece, bringing together published records of this plant as well as some recently retrieved, unpublished finds. In addition, charred flax seed concentrations from five prehistoric sites from the region of Macedonia in northern Greece, are examined in detail. The Neolithic sites are Makriyalos, Mandalo, Arkadikos, Dikili Tash, dated to the Late and Final Neolithic and Archondiko, dated to the end of the Early Bronze Age. Archaeobotanical composition and contextual information are used in order to explore the cultivation and potential uses of flax at each site. By the 5th millennium b.c. a flax weed flora had probably developed in the region. The use of flax seed for oil extraction and flax stems for flax fibre preparation can only be speculated upon and these uses are discussed within the context of other archaeological finds related to plant oil production and weaving. It is also possible that flax may have been used for medicinal purposes. Despite a striking paucity in archaeobotanical remains from southern Greece, textual evidence available from the Mycenean palace archives in Linear B clearly documents the cultivation of flax and flax fibre production.

Keywords

Neolithic Bronze Age Greece Linseed oil Flax fibre Medicinal uses 

References

  1. Andersson E (2003) Tools for textile production from Birka and Hedeby. Birka Studies 8. Riksantikvarieambetet, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson Ε (2008) Technical textile tools report, Archondiko. http://ctr.hum.ku.dk/research/tools/toolsreports/Technical_Textile_Tools_Report_Archontiko.PDF/
  3. Andreou S, Fotiadis M, Kotsakis K (1996) Review of Aegean prehistory V: The Neolithic and Bronze Age of Northern Greece. AJA 100:537–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreou S, Jones G, Heron C, Kiriatzi V, Psaraki K, Roumpou M, Valamoti SM (in press) Smelly barbarians or perfumed natives? An investigation of oil and ointment use in Late Bronze Age northern Greece. In: Proceedings of the symposium “Subsistence, economy and society in the Greek World: improving the integration of archaeology and science”, 22–24 March 2010, AthensGoogle Scholar
  5. Barber EJW (1991) Prehistoric textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Aegean. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker C, Kroll H (2008) Das prähistorische Olynth—Ausgrabungen in der Toumba Agios Mamas 1994–1996: Ernährung und Rohstoffnutzung im Wandel. Prähistorische Archäologie in Südosteuropa 22. Leidorf, Rahden/WestfGoogle Scholar
  7. Behrendt S, Hanf M (1979) Grass weeds in world agriculture. BASF, LudwigshafenGoogle Scholar
  8. Bendall LM (2007) Economics of religion in the Mycenaean World: resources dedicated to religion in the Mycenaean Palace economy. Oxford University School of Archaeology, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Bown D (1995) The Royal Horticultural Society encyclopedia of herbs and their uses. Dorling Kindersley, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Bozi S (1997) Καππαδοκία, Ιονία, Πόντος: Γεύσεις και Παραδόσεις (Kappadokia, Ionia, Pontos: tastes and traditions) AthensGoogle Scholar
  11. Breslow JL (2006) n-3 Fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 83(Suppl. 6):1477–1482Google Scholar
  12. Brockhampton (1996) Guide to herbal remedies. Brockhampton Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Chauhan MP, Singh S, Kumar Singh A (2009) Post harvest uses of flax. J Human Ecol 28:217–219Google Scholar
  14. Dewilde B (1999) Flax in Flanders throughout the centuries. Lanoo, TieltGoogle Scholar
  15. Ertuğ F (2000) Linseed oil and oil mills in central Turkey: Flax/Linum and Eruca, important oil plants of Anatolia. Anatol Stud 50:171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ertuğ F (2010) The consumption of flax: linseed oil production in Turkey. In: Pochettino ML, Ladio AH, Arenas PM (eds) Tradiciones et Transformatciones en Ethnobotanica. Proceedings of the 5th ICEB. San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, pp 123–127Google Scholar
  17. Foster ED (1981) The flax impost at Pylos and Mycenean Landholding. Minos 17:67–121Google Scholar
  18. Gennadios P (1914) Λεξικόν Φυτολογικόν (Phytological Lexicon). Trochalia Publications, Athens (1997 reproduction)Google Scholar
  19. Halstead P (2007) Carcasses and commensality: investigating the social context of meat consumption in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Greece. In: Mee C, Renard J (eds) Cooking up the past: food and culinary practices in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Aegean. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 25–48Google Scholar
  20. Hansen JM (1988) Agriculture in the prehistoric Aegean: data versus speculation. AJA 92:39–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hansen JM (2000) Palaeoethnobotany and palaeodiet in the Aegean region: notes on legume toxicity and related pathologies. In: Vaughn SJ, Coulson WDE (eds) Palaeodiet in the Aegean. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 13–27Google Scholar
  22. 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. J Archaeol Sci 36:1,277–1285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herbig C, Maier U (2011) Flax for oil or fibre? Morphometric analysis of flax seeds and new aspects of flax cultivation in Late Neolithic wetland settlements in southwest Germany. Veget Hist Archaeobot. doi:10.1007/s00334-011-0289-z
  24. Hopf M (1961) Pflanzenfunde aus Lerna, Argolis. Der Züchter 31:239–247Google Scholar
  25. Hu B, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Golditz GA, Hennekens CH, Willett WC (1999) Dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women. Am J Clin Nutr 69:890–897Google Scholar
  26. Jones G, Valamoti SM (2005) Lallemantia, an imported or introduced oil plant in Bronze Age northern Greece. Veget Hist Archaeobot 14:571–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kapoor R, Huang YS (2006) Gamma linoleic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Current Pharmac Biotech 7:531–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Karathanou A, Valamoti SM (in press) Αρχαιοβοτανικά κατάλοιπα από την Κρεμαστή Κοζάνης (Plant remains from Kremasti Kozanis, in Greek with English summary) AEMTH 2008Google Scholar
  29. Killen JT (1984) The textile industries at Pylos and Knossos. In: Palaima TG, Shelmerdine CW (eds) Pylos comes alive. Industry + Administration in a Mycenaean Palace, New York, pp 49–63Google Scholar
  30. Kislev ME, Simchoni O, Melamed Y, Maroz L (2011) Flaxseed productions—evidence from the Early Iron Age site of Tel Beth-Shean, Israel and from written sources. Veget Hist Archaeobot. doi:10.1007/s00334-011-0303-5
  31. Kotsachristou D (2008) Οι αρχαιοβοτανικές έρευνες στην προϊστορική Μακεδονία: η συμβολή των δεδομένων από την Τούμπα Θεσσαλονίκης (The archaeobotanical studies in prehistoric Macedonia. The contribution of data from Toumba Thessaloniki). Unpublished MSc Dissertation, Aristotle University of ThessalonikiGoogle Scholar
  32. Kotsakis K, Papanthimou Α, Papasteriou A, Savvopoulou T, Maniatis G, Krommer B (1989) Carbon 14 dates from Mandalo, Western Macedonia. In: Maniatis Y (ed) Archaeometry. Proceedings of the 25th international symposium. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 679–685Google Scholar
  33. Koukouli-Chrysanthaki C, Treuil R, Malamidou D (1997) Προϊστορικός οικισμός Φιλίππων «Ντικιλί Τας» : δέκα χρόνια ανασκαφικής έρευνας (The prehistoric settlement of Philippoi “Dikili Tash”: ten years of excavation). AEMTH 10:681–704Google Scholar
  34. Kroll HJ (1981) Thessalische Kulturpflanzen. Z Archäol 15:97–103Google Scholar
  35. Kroll HJ (1982) Kulturpflanzen von Tiryns. Archäol Anz 1982:467–485Google Scholar
  36. Kroll HJ (1983) Kastanas. Ausgrabungen in einem Siedlungshügel der Bronze- und Eisenzeit Makedoniens, 1975–1979: Die Pflanzenfunde. Prähistorische Archäologie in Südosteuropa 2. Spiess, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  37. Kroll HJ (1991) Südosteuropa. In: Van Zeist W, Wasylikowa K, Behre K-E (eds) Progress in old world palaeoethnobotany. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 161–177Google Scholar
  38. Kroll HJ (1993) Kulturpflanzen von Kalapodi. Archäol Anz 2:161–182Google Scholar
  39. Maier U (2001) Archäobotanische Untersuchungen in der neolithischen Ufersiedlung Hornstaad Hörnle I A am Bodensee. Siedlungsarchäologie im Alpenvorland VI. Forsch Ber Vor-Frühgesch Bad-Württ 74:9–384Google Scholar
  40. Maier U (2004) Archäobotanische Untersuchungen in jung- und endneolithischen Moorsiedlungen am Federsee. In: Köninger J (ed) Ökonomischer und ökologischer Wandel am vorgeschichtlichen Federsee. Hemmenhofener Skripte 5:71–159Google Scholar
  41. Marcopoulos CA (1965) Seed and seed oil of Pistacia terebinthus and P. lentiscus. J Am Oil Chem Soc 42:1–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mårtensson L, Andersson E, Nosch M-L, Batzer A (2006) Tools and textiles—texts and contexts. Technical report, experimental archaeology, Part 2:1 flax. http://ctr.hum.ku.dk/research/tools
  43. Megaloudi F (2006) Plants and diet in Greece from neolithic to classic periods: the archaeobotanical remains. BAR Internat Ser 1516. Archaeopress, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  44. Özcan M (2004) Characteristics of fruit and oil of terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus L.) Growing Wild in Turkey. J Sci Food Agricult 84:517–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pals JP, van Dierendonck MC (1988) Between flax and fabric: cultivation and processing of flax in a mediaeval peat reclamation settlement near Midwoud (Prov. Noord Holland). J Archaeol Sci 15:237–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Papadopoulou E (2010) A methodological approach to prehistoric yarn production: a technological analysis of spindle whorls from Archondiko. In: Merousis N, Stefani E, Nikolaidou M (eds) Iris studies in memory of Professor Angeliki Pilali-Papasteriou. Sfakianaki publications, Thessaloniki, pp 181–200Google Scholar
  47. Papaefthymiou-Papanthimou A, Pilali-Papasteriou A (1997) Ανασκαφή στον Προϊστορικό Οικισμό του Αρχοντικού κατά το 1997 (Excavations at the prehistoric settlement of Archondiko in 1997). AEMTH 11:165–177Google Scholar
  48. Papaefthymiou-Papanthimou A, Pilali-Papasteriou A, Basogianni D, Papadopoulou E, Tsagaraki E, Fappas I (2002) Αρχοντικό 2000. Τυπολογική παρουσίαση και ερμηνευτικά προβλήματα των πηλόκτιστων κατασκευών (Archondiko 2000. Typological presentation and interpretive problems concerning the clay structures). AEMTH 14:421–433Google Scholar
  49. Papanthimou A, Valamoti SM, Papadopoulou E, Tsagaraki E, Voulgari E (in press) Food storage and Early Bronze Age household economy: new evidence from Archondiko Giannitson. In: Proceedings of the symposium “Subsistence, Economy and Society in the Greek World: improving the integration of archaeology and science”, 22–24 March 2010, AthensGoogle Scholar
  50. Pappa M (2008) Οργάνωση του χώρου και οικιστικά στοιχεία στους νεολιθικούς οικισμούς της Κεντρικής Μακεδονίας (Organization of communal and domestic space in the neolithic settlements of Central Macedonia). Unpublished PhD dissertation, Aristotle University of ThessalonikiGoogle Scholar
  51. Pappa Μ, Besios Μ (1999) The neolithic settlement at Makriyalos, northern Greece: preliminary report on the 1993–1995 excavations. J Field Archaeol 26:177–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pappa M, Halstead P, Kotsakis K, Urem-Kotsou D (2004) Evidence for large-scale feasting at Late Neolithic Makriyalos, N. Greece. In: Halstead P, Barrett JC (eds) Food cuisine and society in Prehistoric Greece. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 16–44Google Scholar
  53. Peristeri K, Touloumis K (1994) Ανασκαφή στον Αρκαδικό Δράμας 1991: προκαταρκτικές παρατηρήσεις για την οργάνωση του χώρου με βάση τη διάκριση εσωτερικών και εξωτερικών χώρων (Excavation at Arkadikos Dramas 1991: preliminary observations on spatial organisation based on the distinction between internal and external space). AEMTH 5:359–370Google Scholar
  54. Pyrros D (1838) Βοτανική Πρακτική Προσαρμοσμένη εις την Ιατρικήν και Οικονομίαν (Botanical Practice applied to Medicine and Economy) AthensGoogle Scholar
  55. Robkin AL (1979) The agricultural year, the commodity SA and the linen industry of Mycenaean Pylos. AJA 83:469–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Serpico M, White R (2000) Oil, fat and wax. In: Nicholson PT, Shaw I (eds) Ancient Egyptian materials and technology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 390–429Google Scholar
  57. Simpson JS (2005) The royal table. In: Curtis JE, Tallis N, Andre-Salvini B (eds) Forgotten empire: The world of ancient Persia. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 104–131Google Scholar
  58. Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burgess NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA (1964–1980) Flora Europaea, 5 vols. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  59. Tzahili I (1997) Υφαντική και υφάντρες στο προϊστορικό Αιγαίο, 2000–1000 π.Χ. (Weaving and weavers in the Prehistoric Aegean, 2000–1000 BC). University Press of Crete, HerakleionGoogle Scholar
  60. Urem-Kotsou D, Kotsakis K (2007) Pottery, cuisine and community in the Neolithic of northern Greece. In: Mee C, Renard J (eds) Cooking up the past. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 225–246Google Scholar
  61. Valamoti SM (2003) Neolithic and early Bronze Age ‘food’ from northern Greece: the archaeobotanical evidence. In: Parker-Pearson M (ed) Food, culture and identity in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. BAR Ser 117, Oxford, pp 97–112Google Scholar
  62. Valamoti SM (2004) Plants and people in Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Northern Greece. An archaeobotanical investigation. BAR Internat Ser 1258. Archaeopress, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  63. Valamoti SM (2005) Grain versus chaff: identifying a contrast between grain-rich and chaff-rich sites in the Neolithic of northern Greece. Veget Hist Archaeobot 14:259–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Valamoti SM (2006) Η συμβολή των αρχαιοβοτανικών καταλοίπων στη διερεύνηση των εκτεταμένων οικισμών: τα δεδομένα από το Νεολιθικό οικισμό Άψαλος-Γραμμή (The contribution of archaeobotanical remains in the investigation of flat extended settlements: the evidence from Neolithic Apsalos-Grammi, in Greek with English summary). Egnatia 10:9–130Google Scholar
  65. Valamoti SM (2007) Food across borders: a consideration of the Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeobotanical evidence from northern Greece. In: Galanaki I, Tomas H, Galanakis Y, Laffineur R (eds) Between the Aegean and Baltic Seas: prehistory across borders. Aegeum 30:281–293Google Scholar
  66. Valamoti SM (2009) Η αρχαιοβοτανική έρευνα της διατροφής στην προϊστορική Ελλάδα (An archaeobotanical investigation of prehistoric diet in Greece, in Greek). University Studio Press, ThessalonikiGoogle Scholar
  67. Valamoti SM, Jones G (2003) Plant diversity and storage at Mandalo, Macedonia, Greece: archaeobotanical evidence from the Final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Annu Br School Athens 98:1–35Google Scholar
  68. Valamoti SM, Jones G (2010) Bronze and oil: a possible link between the introduction of tin and Lallemantia to northern Greece. Annu Br School Athens 105:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Valamoti SM, Mangafa M, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki C, Malamidou D (2007) Grape pressings from Northern Greece: the earliest wine in the Aegean? Antiquity 81:54–61Google Scholar
  70. Valamoti SM, Papanthimou A, Pilali A (2008) Cooking ingredients from EBA Archondiko: the archaeobotanical evidence. In: Fakorellis Y, Zacharias N, Polykreti K (eds) Proceedings of the 4th symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry, 28–31 May 2003, Athens. BAR Internat Ser 1746. Archaeopress, Oxford, pp 187–194Google Scholar
  71. Vargas A, Touloumis K, Anagnostou I, Valamoti S, Christidou R (1995) Ανασκαφές στην προϊστορική τούμπα του Αρκαδικού Δράμας (Excavations at Arkadikos Toumba, Drama - in Greek with English summary). AEMTH 6:577–585Google Scholar
  72. Wijmstra TA (1969) Palynology of the first 30 metres of a 120 m deep section in northern Greece. Acta Bot Neerl 18:511–527Google Scholar
  73. Wilson K (1979) A history of textiles. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  74. Wilson DG (1984) The carbonisation of weed seeds and their representation in macrofossil assemblages. In: Van Zeist W, Casparie W (eds) Plants and ancient man. Balkema, Groningen, pp 201–206Google Scholar
  75. Zohary D, Hopf M (2000) Domestication of plants in the old world. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

Personalised recommendations