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Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 413–426 | Cite as

Archaeobotanical analysis of plant use at Kamennyi Ambar, a Bronze Age fortified settlement of the Sintashta culture in the southern Trans-Urals steppe, Russia

  • Lisa Rühl
  • Christoph Herbig
  • Astrid Stobbe
Original Article

Abstract

This paper presents the results of plant macro-remain and charcoal analyses from a fortified settlement of the Sintashta archaeological culture in the southern Trans-Urals, Russia. The work was carried out within the scope of a German/Russian research project and represents the first systematic studies on Bronze Age plant material in the region. Previous archaeological and archaeozoological investigations have revealed that the Sintashta economy was mainly based on livestock herding of cattle, small cattle and horses. There is additional evidence for fishing as well as some copper metallurgy, while the role of agriculture is still being discussed. Archaeobotanical studies therefore focused on the question whether the Bronze Age settlers cultivated, processed or stored crop plants. All cultural layers and important settlement features were systematically sampled, wet-sieved and subjected to plant macro-remain analysis. Anthracological (charcoal) samples were taken from burnt structures and charcoal concentrations. As no evidence for either cultivated plants or agricultural practices was found in the settlement, it can be concluded that farming was not practised at Kamennyi Ambar, and that the Sintashta economy was exclusively based on animal husbandry and fishing in that steppe region. The charred plant remains found in the settlement represent a broad spectrum of wild plants which can be attributed to vegetation units like small woodlands, steppe, ruderal steppe, meadow steppe and the riparian zone. As supported by palynological studies, Bronze Age vegetation patterns are largely comparable with those of the modern steppe environment. Since some of the recorded taxa have the potential to serve as food, fodder or for craft purposes, the use of wild plants at Kamennyi Ambar must be considered. The charcoal analysis reveals the dominance of Pinus sylvestris and Betula sp., representing a typical tree taxa spectrum from the steppe region during the Bronze Age as well as present times. It can be concluded that wood was readily available for construction material and fuel.

Keywords

Plant macro-remains Wood charcoal Sintashta culture Bronze Age Trans-Ural Plant use 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the German Research Foundation (DFG) for the financial support (KA 752/17-2, STO 720/2-3) and A. J. Kalis for initiating these studies within the wider project “Environment, Culture and Society of the Southern Urals in the Bronze Age: a Multidisciplinary Investigation in the Karagaily-Ayat Microregion, Russia”. A. König, R. Wittig and K. P. Buttler collected and identified modern plant material which enlarged the reference collection for determination of carbonized plant material. We also thank M. Ruppel (Faculty of Biosciences, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Goethe University Frankfurt) for the SEM pictures, and A. Röpke, T. Zerl and H. Schneider for the fruitful discussions and comments that improved this paper and, finally, M. Gumnior for help with translations.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Archaeobotany of Europe and Eurasia, Dept. III: Prehistory and Early History, Institute for Archaeological SciencesGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany

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