Small things can make a big difference: a comparison of pollen and macrobotanical records of some food plants from medieval and post-medieval cesspits in the Netherlands and northern Belgium

Abstract

This paper presents a review of records of pollen and botanical macroremains of a selection of food plants from late and post-medieval cesspits (12th century-19th century ad) in the Netherlands and northern Belgium. The presented data demonstrate that several food plants remain largely invisible in the macrobotanical records. These are all plants from which the flowers or flower buds (Borago officinalis, Capparis, Carthamus tinctorius, Crocus sativus, Syzygium aromaticum) or leaves (Anthriscus cerefolium, Spinacia oleracea) are eaten, or that are typical components of honey (Cistus). As a result, little is known about the import or local production and consumption of these food plants in these times. This review now shows that past use of some of these plants is reflected in the pollen assemblages of (post-) medieval cesspits. For the first time, a large archaeobotanical dataset is presented, including pollen, providing information on the past use of these plants between the 12th and 19th century ad in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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Deforce, K., Brinkkemper, O., van Haaster, H. et al. Small things can make a big difference: a comparison of pollen and macrobotanical records of some food plants from medieval and post-medieval cesspits in the Netherlands and northern Belgium. Veget Hist Archaeobot 28, 433–445 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-018-0706-7

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Keywords

  • Pollen
  • Macroremains
  • Cesspit
  • Medieval
  • Post-medieval
  • Taphonomy