Themes

The scope of archaeobotanical research today is far broader, both geographically and methodologically, than it was at the beginnings of this scientific discipline. Current research builds on a strong foundation laid by decades of previous research, and rich connections with specialists across archaeology, evolutionary ecology, and paleoecology. The 19th IWGP conference will be hosted in České Budějovice, and it will follow in a long tradition by focusing on plant macrofossils. Nonetheless, the scientific committee seeks to promote an intra-disciplinary archaeobotanical research by including studies that effectively integrate macrobotanical methods with other lines of evidence. For example, we encourage the submission of abstracts for studies that take an ethnoarchaeological approach and lean on ethnobotany for the interpretation of the archaeobotanical record. Archaeobotany is today and has long been a foundational method in the archaeological sciences, and macrobotanical, as well as microbotanical analyses have proven to be an indispensable tool for the reconstruction of past landscapes and subsistence strategies. A broader scope and a greater integration between methods will allow for the acquisition of wider archaeobotanical knowledge. 

Scientific Committee members

  


MACRO-THEME 1
ARCHAEOBOTANY AND ETHNOBOTANY AS EXPLANATORY TOOLS IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD

 

MACRO-THEME 2
ORIGINS AND EXPANSION OF CULTIVATED PLANTS

 

MACRO-THEME 3
LANDSCAPE CHANGE AND HUMAN TRANSFORMATION OF ECOSYSTEMS

 

   

  

  

MACRO-THEME 1:
ARCHAEOBOTANY AND ETHNOBOTANY AS EXPLANATORY TOOLS IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD

1.1. From processing to plate: Archaeobotanical approaches to cooking and consumption

Andreas G. Heiss, Dorian Fuller, Jaromír Beneš

Much archaeobotanical work has focused on production and procurement — what species were eaten, how were they grown or gathered — but increasing efforts are now focusing on how these plants were processed into consumables: breads and beers in the widest sense, mushes, porridges, and gruels. This session draws on widening theoretical concepts and a new look at the outcomes of cuisine as biogenic artefacts and material culture. Experimental analogues allow for the exploration of small details within the chaînes opératoires of food-making. On the analytical side, light and scanning electron microscopy can be accompanied by a wide array of additional lines of evidence such as lipid and biomarker analyses, and micro-remains such as phytoliths and starch. This session looks into current progress and challenges in reconstructing what and how people cooked, brewed and consumed and how this contributes to cultural and social interpretation of past societies.
 

1.2. Wild plant use among foragers and farmers

Welmoed Out, Radek Grabowski, Peter Poschlod, Michaela Ptáková

While domestication and Neolithisation resulted in incorporation of cultivated plants into the human diet in most parts of the world, gathered plants played an important role both before and after these processes. Apart from being consumed as food, wild plants may have been used for a variety of purposes (e. g. construction material, medicine, fodder, craft and fuel). Moreover, they may have been fostered or even cultivated. Which plants were used, how were they processed and/or prepared, what was their function, and is it possible to say something about their role and/or importance? How different were the roles of wild plants in hunter-gatherer systems versus amongst agriculturalists? How does ethnobotany inform archaeological interpretation? What do archaeobotanical finds say about social aspects of former societies and how they engaged with the broader landscape?
 

1.3. Plants structuring society: trade and globalisation

Leonor Peña-Chocarro, Laura Sadori, Jaromír Beneš

This session welcomes papers dealing with the early arrival, translocation, trade and diffusion of allochthonous plants in specific historical archaeological contexts and regions.  We intend to gather archaeobotanical evidence for a critical review of the available data on the introduction of edible and non-edible plants into Europe or elsewhere.  In prehistoric and early historic times crops from East Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa found their way into European environments, raising questions about processes of cultural interconnection as well as agricultural adaptations. We also welcome studies of plants being moved in the other direction. In Europe archaeophytes and neophytes have often been defined as being present before or after the “discovery” of the Americas. In the reconstruction of the spread of new species, written sources and iconography have often played a key role. What does archaeobotany add to this and what new contexts for understanding diversification of cultural flora are offered by an archaeological perspective?
 

1.4. Method development within archaeobotany

Welmoed Out, Adéla Pokorná, Maria Hajnalová

Archaeobotany, on the cross-roads of biology and archaeology, is an important tool for reconstructing the relationship between people and plants in the past. The field makes use of a wide range of methods and proxies, of which some have been used since the start of archaeobotany, while others are relatively recent. Fine-tuning of existing practices is an ongoing process, while new techniques additionally allow for development of innovative methods. This session aims to gather contributions about methodological aspects of archaeobotany, also based on experimental work, for example studies on modern plants to develop identification criteria, the development and testing of new lab protocols and the development of new proxies to understand ecological and/or socio-economic aspects of the past. Developing such methods allow us to push forward the state of the art of archaeobotany and ultimately improving our understanding of people in the past.
 

1.5. Round table: Dissemination of archaeobotany

Leonor Peña-Chocarro, Anna Maria Mercuri, Robert Spengler, Andreas G. Heiss

As an intrinsically interdisciplinary research topic, archaeobotany faces today’s communicative challenges from both its archaeological and natural scientific sides. Presenting results in a globalized world (as well as the bibliometric requirements for a career) demand international publications in English, while at the same time local publishing organs must not be omitted: They establish the connections to local stakeholders, to the “strictly archaeological” community, and to the wider public. Science communication via social networks has become a crucial factor in gaining attention for our research, challenging us in terms of activity and visibility as well as reducibility down to the length of a tweet. Innovative new formats such as citizen science can even receive funding on their own. Another crucial part of scientific dissemination is teaching which requires outstanding skills in science communication and didactics. Teaching constantly brings forward the most creative approaches of scientific communication. This session invites presentations on all aspects of science communication in archaeobotany from well-established to highly innovative concepts, but also critical discussions on the pitfalls of knowledge transfer to audiences beyond our own community.

 

MACRO-THEME 2:
ORIGINS AND EXPANSION OF CULTIVATED PLANTS

2.1. Current evidence for domestication and post-domestication crop evolution

Dorian Fuller, Chris Stevens, Robert Spengler

Archaeobotany provides the most direct, empirical dataset on the evolution of domesticated plants, as well as regional diversification after domestication. This is true of cereals, pulses, fruits and many other species and draws on a range of preserved features from qualitative changes to quantitative traits and geometric morphometrics. Studies updating our understanding of domestication of key species, or documenting changes in the crops that have previously not been studied, are invited. In addition, there is growing potential to integrate archaeobotanical evidence with functional genetics investigating domestication traits or drawing on ancient DNA. We encourage contributors to also consider how archaeobotanical evidence may contribute to questions on the rate of evolution, and Darwinian causal factors in domestication.
 

2.2.Textile and fibre production – as documented by archaeological and archaeobotanical records

Sabine Karg, Maria Hajnalová, Helena Březinová

Textiles such as strings, nets, cloths, etc. have been made of plant fibres since Palaeolithic times. Other plants were used as dyes. These finds are rare in archaeological dryland sites but much more frequent in wetland sites according to different preservation conditions. However, textile tools are found at many archaeological sites, and structures that were used for retting textile plants are known from Egypt, Central Europe, and many others regions worldwide. The aim of this session is to shed light on the different lines of evidence for textile production: from pollen and seed evidence to archaeological tools and structures. Contributions about fibre identification methods are very welcome too.

 

MACRO-THEME 3
LANDSCAPE CHANGE AND HUMAN TRANSFORMATION OF ECOSYSTEMS

3.1. Agricultural expansion and diversification

Dorian Fuller, Peter Poschlod, Robert Spengler, Jan Kolář

Archaeobotanists increasingly move beyond just identifying plant remains to reconstructing agricultural systems and inferring the extent to which they were intensive or extensive.  Such work draws together ethnographic, historical and experimental data that compare crop productivities, and in some cases uses ancillary lines of evidence such as stable isotopes on crop remains. Inferences of practices like manuring and irrigation are important, but also not without methodological challenges, and may also draw on additional lines of evidence such as phytoliths and soil micromorphology. Estimating past agricultural productivity is important as it underpins potential growth in population density and community size or the frequency of farmers’ migration, such as during Neolithic dispersal. Whether or not societies practice labour-limited or land-limited agriculture is an important component of past socioeconomics to which archaeobotany is central. Contributions might consider to what extent long-term trajectories are similar or different in various parts of the world.
 

3.2. Combining onsite- and offsite data for a better understanding of the history of land use and landscape change

Manfred Rösch, Anna Maria Mercuri, Petr Pokorný, Peter Poschlod

Since the foundation of the IWGP, offsite- especially pollen research was often excluded. One reason was that classical pollen profiles with few samples, low time resolution, few taxa are useful for palaeoclimatic research, but cannot contribute to our knowledge about past husbandry and environment. In recent years, more sophisticated studies were made which are useful to answer questions about agricultural systems and impact on nature.  Science has changed since the early years of the IWGP, and multidisciplinary as well as multi-methodological studies are more important than ever. There is growing interest in documenting the long-term history of land use and its impact on regional environments- vegetation, erosion, etc. Therefore, it is time to consider how to most effectively integrate off-site datasets, often called “palaeo-environmental”, with archaeobotanical evidence to achieve a more holistic appreciation of the human shaping of environments over the long-term.
 

3.3. Arable weed flora: origins, dispersal, diversification and evolution

Chris Stevens, Dorian Fuller, Adéla Pokorná

Agricultural systems the world over provide habitat for “volunteer” species, i.e. weeds. While cultural efforts may eliminate or reduce some species, others will take their place. The weeds in agricultural systems in most regions include species that originated far away and spread alongside crops. While conventional floristic studies may label weeds as segetal, ruderal, archaeophytes or neophytes, invasive, etc., the question remains how much of these assessments are based on the sub-fossil record of archaeobotany? How many of these species have changed categories over time or evolved new adaptations? If we use “obligate weeds” to infer pre-domestication cultivation then what was the habitat of these species before cultivation? The archaeobotany of weed floras, from their origins in the Neolithic through to later transformations, remains a ripe field for archaeobotanical contributions.
 

3.4. Grassland flora and systems: origins, dispersal, diversification and evolution

Peter Poschlod, Petr Pokorný, Manfred Rösch, Karel Prach

Grassland ecosystems are among the most species-rich environments. In addition to natural grasslands, some grass-dominated ecosystems are man-made landscapes. Some grasslands may have developed since the beginning of settlement as shown recently by a few palaeobotanical studies applying a pedoanthracological approach, sometimes supported by palynological studies. Other macroremains studies are very rarely represented due to the fact that preservation of seeds, subfossil leaves or bryophytes from grasslands are only found or preserved in exceptional cases. A more holistic approach including phylogeographic and ecological studies bring additional sources of interpretation to be considered by archaeobotanists. Furthermore, the history of grassland use created many different grassland ecosystems, differing in the use of as hay fodder or litter or in the quality to livestock feed.  Therefore, we would like to ask the following questions in this session: From where did the grassland species come and when they have established in central Europe or other regions  after the last ice age? When grassland systems have developed? How did grasslands diversify over time? How did grassland species migrate to new regions? Can we detect any anthropogenic effects on the evolution of grassland?