Recognising archaeological food remains: archaeobotanical case studies from Bulgaria

  • Ivanka Hristova Department of Archaeology; Department of Geology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki
  • Elena Marinova Laboratory for Archaeobotany, State Office for Cultural Heritage Baden-Württemberg, Fischersteig 9, 78343 Geienhofen-Hemmenhofen
  • Andreas G. Heiss Austrian Archaeological Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Franz Klein-Gasse 1, 1190 Vienna
  • Lambrini Papadopoulou Department of Geology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki
  • Vassil Nikolov Prehistory Department, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2 Saborna Str, 1000 Sofia
  • Hristo Popov Department of Thracian Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2 Saborna Str, 1000 Sofia
  • Stanislav Iliev Regional Historical Museum, 19 Svoboda Sqr., 6300 Haskovo
  • Soultana Maria Valamoti Department of Archaeology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki
Keywords: Cereal food remains, plant macroremains, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Southeast Europe, Early Neolithic – Early Iron Age

Abstract

The paper discusses possible evidence for cereal food from seven Bulgarian archaeological sites spanning the Early Neolithic to the Early Iron Age (6th millennium BC – 1st millennium BC). It aims to increase the awareness of excavators towards such finds and to present the methods for collecting and extracting such remains from archaeological layers and their laboratory analysis. The studied remains are mainly cereal fragments, agglomerations of fragments or amorphous/ porous masses with or without visible plant tissues. They were directly collected from vessel contents or derived by means of flotation from bulk samples taken from floor layers close to fireplaces/ cooking installations. The microscopic structure of the food remains is observed and described at plant tissue level under low magnification binocular, microscope with reflected light and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). These optical examinations were applied in order to detect alterations of the microstructure of the possible food remains and hence to trace the possible ways of food preparation. All the cereal food remains from the Neolithic/Chalcolithic period represent coarsely ground cereals, while the later ones (Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age) have characteristics of finely ground cereal products and may suggest the introduction of new cooking/ baking techniques as well as shifts in food processing practices. Based on their field experience and research results the authors strongly recommend careful sampling and documentation of any charred crusts recognisable as such in vessel contents, and deposits around installations like ovens and fireplaces, which could be related to daily food preparation or ritual offerings. Such systematic study of archaeological food remains will facilitate obtaining reliable information about food preparation and consumption in the past.

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Published
2019-12-21
How to Cite
Hristova, I., Marinova, E., Heiss, A., Papadopoulou, L., Nikolov, V., Popov, H., Iliev, S. and Valamoti, S. M. (2019) “Recognising archaeological food remains: archaeobotanical case studies from Bulgaria”, Bulgarian e-Journal of Archaeology / Българско е-Списание за Археология, 9(2), pp. 181-211. Available at: https://be-ja.org/index.php/Be-JA/article/view/214 (Accessed: 27January2020).
Section
Papers / Статии
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