ANTHONY BEESE (Consulting Geologist, Carraigex Ltd, Cork)

Land-claim using mud in the estuarine environment of medieval Cork, Ireland: studies in stratigraphy and sedimentology

The Hiberno-Norse people used estuarine mud to raise ground levels during the initial development of Cork City. Evidence obtained from a variety of studies has allowed reconstruction of the palaeo- and historical environments. The main sources of information have been archaeological excavations and geotechnical data. The evolving landscape is summarized as, firstly, the underlying, glacio-fluvial, outwash plain; secondly, the intertidal estuary in the early medieval period; and thirdly, the finished `platforms' or areas of land-claim. Studies show that prior to occupation, the landscape consisted of small, reedy islets on the upper mudflat separated by tracts of lower mudflat and channels. The earliest dwellings appear to have been located on the upper mudflat where land-claim was least difficult. Fabrics show that annual layers of introduced mud were placed within fenced plots using manual labour. Thus, in low-lying Cork, the archaeological and geological records are closely linked.

NÓRA BERMINGHAM & BENJAMIN GEAREY (University of Birmingham)

Raised mires: complexity, climate change and bog bursts

This paper compares and contrasts recent work (stratigraphic, pollen, testate amoebae, plant macrofossil and radiocarbon dating) on raised mire systems in Ireland (Kilnagarnagh, Tumbeagh) and England (Hatfield and Thorne Moors, east England), with particular reference to the timing and nature of early wetland development and subsequent transitions to ombrotrophy. It illustrates the complexity of such processes within individual systems and assesses the implications of pattern and process in the light of recent theories of raised mire development. The nature of palaeohydrological changes following the development of ombrotrophic conditions is also discussed and the character of any 'climate' signal assessed alongside the arguably under-investigated signal of other processes, such as bog bursts, in such records. 

FIONA GRANT (Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust)

The Impact of Early Ironworking in the West of Ireland: the Palaeoenvironmental Evidence

Early ironworking activities in the Ballyhaunis region of the west of Ireland and their possible effects upon the environment were examined using archaeological and palaeoenvironmental techniques.  The vegetation and environmental history of five sites was reconstructed using pollen analysis, microscopic charcoal analysis, magnetic susceptibility measurements and peat stratigraphy.  The profiles were radiocarbon dated and cross-matched with dates ascertained from charcoal contained within the slag.

Three chronological periods of ironworking were identified.  Several ironworking processes were identified including ore-roasting, smelting and smithing, and an alternative ore source was suggested. That even small-scale, early ironworking activities caused some local change in the environment was confirmed by this study.  This took the form of changes in the arboreal, shrub and herb taxa of the site and increases in microscopic charcoal and magnetic mineral deposition within the vicinity.  The application of magnetic susceptibilty measurements upon a peat core to record changes in deposition from pre-industrial activities proved generally successful in this study.

PENNY JOHNSTON & MARY DILLON (Eachtra Archaeological Projects)

Charred environmental remains from three Ringforts in Galway. Preliminary results and comparative studies

Preliminary results of charred plant remains and charcoal analyses from three ringforts in Co. Galway are presented. The sites were excavated by Eachtra Archaeological Projects for Galway County Council and the National Roads Authority in advance of the N6 road scheme. The sites produced samples of macro plant remains and charcoal from a relatively wide range of contexts, including souterrains, hearths, postholes, pits, ditches and industrial firings. Early medieval tillage agriculture is explored under environmental, economic and social headings. Local woodland environments, woodland exploitation and possible wood species selection are examined. The results from each ringfort are discussed individually and collectively, with national comparative studies also considered. The results are also integrated with documentary sources from the period. Sample strategies and post-excavation processes are detailed.

HELEN LEWIS (School of Archaeology, University College Dublin)

Soil micromorphological applications to sites and landscapes

This paper discusses the results of applications of soil micromorphology to a range of international archaeological contexts, sites and landscapes. These include studies of monuments and features, ancient land use practices, large-scale environmental change, and use of space in caves, on open-air sites and in structures. The aim of the paper is to give a flavour of the multitude of archaeological issues that can be approached through soil micromorphology and geoarchaeology in general, some of which are familiar to Irish archaeology and some that remain to be attempted in an Irish context. The great potential for Irish geoarchaeology to engage with internationally important archaeological issues will also be discussed.


From Llanmaes to Llangorse: herding and hunting in Early Wales

This talk presents information from three recently (re)analysed Welsh assemblages:

Llanmaes is a Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age site where excavations have revealed an early roundhouse covered by a later midden with over 10,000 fragments of animal bone recovered to date more than 80% of which were pig, in contrast to similar, contemporary assemblages from southern England. 

Dinas Powys, a hilltop settlement spanning the Early Iron Age to the 11th century, was excavated in the late 1950s and, although a sample of the zooarchaeological data was reported on in 1963 and the full assemblage analysed in the 1980s, we felt the assemblage would benefit from more research.  In particular there were tantalising references to a group of unusually large dogs associated with possible Iron Age deposits.

Llangorse, the only crannog known from Wales and the residence of the royal family of Brycheniog, was constructed c. AD 890-894 and destroyed by the Mercians in AD 916.  The short occupation period of the crannog allows a ‘snap shot’ of medieval life.  The results compare well with what might be expected from literary evidence for food rents.  The site has also produced the forelimb of a small, bandy-legged dog – was this the first royal ‘corgi’?

ELLEN O CARROLL (Consultant Archaeologist)

Kilns, Furnaces and Pits – fuel for thought! 

The pace of archaeological work in Ireland does not in general lend itself to research or discussions of wood use and woodland cover in relation to Ireland’s past. The primary aim of charcoal identifications is to determine suitability of material for C14 dating and a secondary aim (which does not always follow) is to determine species selection and the elucidation of Ireland’s woodland history. There have been many excavations and analyses completed recently on kilns, furnaces and pits from this period with little interpretation of the fuel that was used in their operation. The paper will examine recent analyses completed in respect of charcoal samples retrieved from corn-drying kilns, furnaces and charcoal-production pits. The presentation will centre on the different species selected and used for varying functions within these features. The Early Medieval Period will be the main focus. The sampling and recording strategies that can be employed during excavations to get most information from a sampling strategy will also be considered and discussed.

LORNA O’DONNELL & EOIN GROGAN (Margaret Gowen and Co. Ltd)

The Bronze Age Landscapes of the Gas Pipeline to the West

This lecture will concentrate on recent excavations by Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd along the Gas Pipeline to the West. A variety of Bronze Age sites were encountered, including occupation, funerary and the ubiquitous fulachta fiadh. Case studies will be presented to illustrate the environmental results.  Charcoal analysis noted some distinct trends in wood selection, particularly within cremation deposits and from fulachta fiadh. Plant remains also demonstrated strong trends of probable deposition of seeds in cremation deposits. Pollen and coleopteran analysis were used to attempt to provide an idea of functionality of fulachta fiadh. In addition to some spectacular discoveries the excavations on the Pipeline have made a significant contribution to our understanding of the spatial and chronological patterning of Bronze Age settlement and funerary sites on a local and regional scale. The integrated environmental and archaeological analysis provides new insights into landscape management and environmental change in this period. 

GILL PLUNKETT1, CONOR MCDERMOTT2, GRAEME T. SWINDLES1 & DAVID BROWN1 (1 School of Geography, Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast; 2 School of Archaeology, University College Dublin).

Wetland archaeology in Ireland and the "bigger picture": a critical assessment of the role of environment in determining past wetland activity

After two decades of dedicated survey and excavation, the number of wetland archaeological sites in Ireland now exceeds 3,500, clearly demonstrating that wetlands were an integral part of the past cultural landscape. The application of palaeoenvironmental techniques, including pollen, plant macrofossil, wood identification, coleopteran and testate amoebae analyses, has provided important information about the environmental settings of numerous sites or site complexes. Radiocarbon and dendrochronological data, available for some 300 sites, suggest that wetland activity was not a persistent feature of the prehistoric and medieval periods, but was instead rather episodic. Specific phases of expanded wetland activity have been construed by some as indications of environmental change, correlated variably with shifts to wetter or drier conditions. This paper examines the validity of such interpretations by reviewing the extensive palaeoenvironmental evidence that has been published for wetland sites. Phases of activity are considered in the light of a palaeohydrological record from Northern Ireland raised bogs to determine if climate played any likely role in instigating or impeding the use of wetlands. Alternative theories to explain the phenomenon of wetland activity are also explored. 

EILEEN REILLY (Botany Department, Trinity College, Dublin)

Lessons from Lemanaghan - insights into a dynamic wetland landscape from insect remains analyses 1996-2001

From 1996 to 2001 systematic survey and archaeological excavation took place in the Lemanaghan complex of bogs in County Offaly. The Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit and the wetland excavation unit of Archaeological Development Services Ltd. carried out this work as part of the mitigation strategy for peat milling and extraction by Bord na Mona (O’Carroll 2001). In addition, Dr Nora Bermingham undertook a small research excavation and palaeoenvironmental study focused on the human remains uncovered in Tumbeagh Bog (Bermingham and Delany 2006). 

During this time, the analysis of sub-fossil insect remains formed part of the post-excavation strategy for all major sites and complexes of smaller structures excavated. The sampling strategy was primarily site-focused and except in the case of the Tumbeagh bog body (Reilly 2006) was generally carried out in isolation from other environmental analyses. Nevertheless, important trends were identified in the insect assemblages that were remarkably consistent across sites, individual bogs and the complex as a whole. Changes in the assemblages were reflective of bog development from fen to ombrotrophic peat, the use of the trackways and platforms, proximity to dryland margins and islands etc.

This paper will summarise the salient results of all palaeoentomological work carried out in the Lemanaghan complex during this period, including a discussion of its shortcomings. It will also suggest strategies for better integration of palaeoentomology with other environmental proxies in future wetland landscape research.

References:Bermingham, N. & Delany, M. (2006) The Tumbeagh Bog Body. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin. O’Carroll, E. (2001) The Archaeology of Lemanaghan: the story of an Irish bog. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin.Reilly, E. (2006) Chapter 14: The insects, the body and the bog, pp. 155-171. In N. Bermingham & M. Delany The Tumbeagh Bog Body. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin. 

DAVID EARLE ROBINSON (Archaeological Sciences, English Heritage)

Grauballe Man revisited - new analyses and a reassessment of a bog body from the Danish Iron Age

Grauballe Man was discovered in a Danish peat bog on 26th April 1952. Subsequent analysis and conservation of the find in the course of the 1950s pushed back the boundaries of contemporary archaeological science and conservation techniques. Fifty years on, Grauballe Man has been removed from his display case and again subjected to a wide range of scientific techniques, most of which were unavailable to researchers in the 1950s.

This lecture gives a brief overview of the new work and results obtained, with particular attention focused on a new analysis and evaluation of Grauballe Man's gut contents. 

SCOTT TIMPANY (Headland Archaeology)

Palaeoenvironmental assessment of a wetland site, Newrath, Waterford

A palaeoenvironmental study was undertaken on monolith samples collected from a [reclaimed] wetland site at Newrath, Waterford.  Work was carried out as part of an excavation of a site identified during archaeological assessment prior to the construction of the new N25 Waterford Bypass.   The results presented here are from the assessment phase of the study and further work will progress later on in the year.

Archaeological excavation of the site showed a long period of use with finds ranging from the Later Mesolithic, from the identification of Bann Flakes, to the medieval period from scatters of brushwood.  The most substantial findings were wooden trackways and possible structures dating to the early Bronze Age.  These finds are situated within a series of intercalated peats and estuarine silt layers c. 2.5m in depth.  Palaeoenvironmental evidence from pollen, plant macrofossil, foraminifera and diatom studies shows these deposits accumulated in an increasingly wetland environment, caused by sea-level rise, with a successional sequence of: dry land surface - carr-woodland – reedswamp – saltmarsh. 

LUCY VERRILL (University of Edinburgh)

Recent research into settlement continuity and environmental marginality at Belderg Beg, County Mayo

Recent palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological investigations at the prehistoric field system at Belderg Beg, North Mayo, have substantially added to what was hitherto known from archaeological evidence.  A combination of on- and off-site investigation strategies included AMS 14C dated sediment stratigraphic analyses, palynology, soil micromorphology and peat humification.

Results show that peat initiation occurred during Early and Middle Neolithic agricultural occupation, when woodland had been subjected to disturbance. The economy was primarily pastoral but with an arable component. Middle Neolithic abandonment occurred several centuries prior to the spread of blanket peat over the fields, and woodland regenerated rapidly. The Bronze Age archaeological remains probably represent several discrete phases of occupation, associated with intensive arable agriculture which included soil amendment strategies, ceasing in the mid-second millennium cal. BP.

As the Neolithic field system at Belderg Beg was apparently smaller and less regular than that at nearby Céide Fields it may represent an economically marginal site. Abandonment occurred during a phase of relative climatic dryness, and soil deterioration and erosion were important factors in the demise of agriculture. The Bronze Age occupation is more difficult to characterise in terms of economy, but the gradual contraction of intensive agriculture suggests that again, soil quality rather than direct climatic shifts was the limiting factor and that the location eventually became environmentally marginal for an economy including significant cereal cultivation. 


FIONA BEGLANE (Consultant Zooarchaeologist)

Fallow deer as a high status gift in Medieval Co. Roscommon

This poster will review the results of the analysis of the faunal remains recovered during excavations at a High Medieval, Gaelic lordly site at Kilteasheen Townland, Knockvicar, Co. Roscommon.

The mammal bone assemblage from the site included the remains of the usual domestic animals – cattle, sheep, pig and horse as well as a partial red deer cranium and a fallow deer antler.  Based on stratigraphic and artefactual evidence the fallow deer antler is dated between the mid-13th and mid-14th centuries.  As such this is of interest for two reasons.  Firstly it represents additional archaeological evidence of fallow deer in Ireland.  Secondly, and more significantly, its presence on a Gaelic-held site provides evidence of high-status gift exchange and social interaction with the Anglo-Norman aristocracy who are more usually associated with fallow deer.

The site has been identified during research by Dr Thomas Finan as the location Cil-tSeisin, which is mentioned in the ‘Annals of Lough Ce’ on a number of occasions between 1243 and 1258.   According to the Annals a ‘cuirt’ was constructed there in 1253 by Tomaltach O’Conchobhair, (Thomas O’ Conor), Bishop of Oilfinn (Elphin) and was demolished in 1258 by Aedh O’Conchobhair (Hugh O’Conor), supposedly to prevent the ‘cuirt’ falling into the hands of Anglo-Norman raiders.

Investigations on the site are ongoing, but have so far identified a substantial masonry structure, a walled and ditched enclosure, a Medieval graveyard and some evidence for prehistoric activity.  Excavations took place under the direction of Chris Read as part of a project initiated by Dr. Thomas Finan.  Funding has been provided by the Heritage Council, the Royal Irish Academy, the Institute of Technology, Sligo and the American Institute of Irish Archaeology.

D. BORTHWICK1,T.M. MIGHALL1 & W.F. O’BRIEN2 (1 Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen; 2 Department of Archaeology, University College Cork)

The Iverni Project: Exploring vegetation change during the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition in south-west Ireland

The main aim of the Iverni Project is to investigate the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition in south-west Ireland. An excavation of a large bivallate enclosure known locally as the Cashel hillfort, situated close to Bandon, suggests that its defences were built around 1200BC, placing this site very early in Irish hillfort chronology. In order to place the hillfort into its environmental context, pollen and microscopic charcoal data is presented from a 1.6m core taken from a valley mire located in the Annagh More Townland, near Bandon, Co. Cork. This poster outlines the major vegetational changes across the LBA-IA transition and discusses the significance of these changes in relation to the Cashel hillfort. 


(1Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Science, University College Cork, The Cooperage, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland; 2Plant Ecology and Conservation Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; 3Department of Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands; 4TNO - National Geological Survey, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

History of an Irish Raised Bog Landscape

Clara Bog is the largest intact raised bog remaining in Ireland. The bog is recognised as being of international ecological importance, due to its intact nature and the presence of unusual surface features known as ‘soak systems’ (areas of fen vegetation within an otherwise acid bog).

We have assessed the development of the bog landscape since Neolithic times based on known archaeological records, palaeoecology, written historical records and maps. Biogeochemical investigations were carried out to determine the origin and development of Lough Roe soak system.

We show that while the landscape surrounding Clara Bog has been inhabited by man since the Neolithic, the bog itself remained in a relatively untouched state until the nineteenth century.  Since then, extensive peat cutting and drainage have caused dramatic changes to the bog including subsidence of the bog surface and acidification of Lough Roe.

We present results of biogeochemical investigations that are in agreement with earlier palaeoecological investigations (Connolly 1999). Our results confirm that  Lough Roe is an ancient feature of the bog and that the unusual mineral rich conditions of the soak originate from underlying fen peat and not regional groundwater as previously thought. 

THOMAS CUMMINS (School of Archaeology; School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin)

A low-cost, systematic approach to recording retent residues following bucket-flotation of archaeological soil samples for plant macrofossils

Soil samples from dryland archaeological sites are routinely separated by density fractionation using bucket-flotation in water, to extract charred plant macrofossils. The heavy residue, washed over a 2 mm sieve and known as retent, is scanned for artefacts before being discarded. Artefact retrieval continues until declining recovery offsets observation effort. The improvements proposed here allow retent materials to be systematically, rapidly & cheaply characterised. The retent is manually divided into fractions, minimising variation within and maximising that between fractions, without considering artefact status. Every fraction (and thereby every object in the retent) is explicitly described, to a level of detail defined by the operator’s stated confidence. Recording uses a concise, constrained vocabulary appropriate to the fraction, and the operator’s specific skills (here self-defined). Criteria for separating fractions include: material(s); internal structure; breakage & rounding; angularity; shape; evidence for heating, weathering & corrosion. Diagnostic interpretation, and confidence therein, complete the record. 

STEVE DAVIS1, GREG BAILEY2, CASSIE NEWLAND2, JOHN SCHOFIELD2 & ANNA NILSSON3 (1 School of Archaeology, University College Dublin; 2 Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol; 3 Atkins Heritage, Surrey).

Archaeology in Transition – Dead beetles from used cars

In July 2006, archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol with involvement from Atkins Heritage, embarked on a contemporary archaeology project to ‘excavate’ an old Ford Transit van, used for field archaeology projects for some years (1991-1999) prior to its new life in works and maintenance (1999-2005). The van was dismantled systematically, recording all features, structures, deposits and artefacts, with the objective of determining how the van had been treated, what condition it was in and what stories the artefacts, body work and engine parts could tell us. Environmental and forensic work has focused on dusting for fingerprints and examining hairs to establish whether humans or animals have been carried in the back. Researchers from the chemistry department are examining stains from above the driver’s seat, the door panels and the seat fabric, as well as dust from behind the facia. The current poster concentrates on a diverse beetle assemblage of 119 individuals recovered from organic deposits from inside the vehicle. This proved to be strongly dominated by Anobium punctatum, the woodworm in addition to a range of mould beetles and synanthropic taxa. Archaeologically the assemblage would seem to indicate a building, probably with a storage function. Virtually all of the taxa within the assemblage appear to be allochthonously derived and probably represent a living assemblage derived from heavily decomposed timbers employed in the van’s construction. 

STEVE DAVIS1, TONY BROWN2, JACKIE HATTON2 & MARGARET GOWEN3 (1 School of Archaeology, University College Dublin; 2 Department of Geography, University of Exeter; 3 Margaret Gowen and Co. Ltd)

Beetles from burnt mounds: Functional implications and new perspectives

This poster presents preliminary results from a two year study (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) examining burnt mound sites using multiple environmental techniques. Results are presented from three sites: Cragbrien, Co. Cork, Killescragh, Co. Galway and Coonagh, Co. Limerick. These are in broad agreement in reaffirming that these sites were constructed in extensively deforested landscapes. Evidence also suggests that these were marginal areas, with little indication of either local pastoral or arable activity. Beetle faunas associated with the mounds are entirely devoid of indications of human activity. Carrion taxa are sparse, and in addition to the poor representation of dung taxa suggest that cooking if it occurred would have been small scale and probably of wild game. Grain taxa are absent, as are parasites, seemingly arguing against a bathing or grain-based cooking function. The remaining alternative function, as an industrial structure related for example to dying remains a possibility as such an activity might result in a seemingly ‘natural’ assemblage such as those recovered in the current study. 


The Lake Settlement Project research portfolio

This poster outlines the Lake Settlement Project research portfolio and places the Derragh excavations within this. 


Mesolithic excavations at Lough Kinale, Derragh td, Co. Longford

This poster shows the Mesolithic excavation at Derragh td, Co. Longford, and provides a background for the following two environmental posters. 


Environmental landmarks: Kinale II - Mesolithic excavations at Derragh Island, Co. Longford

Derragh Island is located at the edge of Lough Kinale in an area that has seen extensive environmental research since 2002. The poster gives an overview of the latest results from Derragh Island. This is a unique Mesolithic site, with exceptionally good anaerobic preservation conditions for bone, charcoal, beetles, pollen, and macroremains such as seeds of waterlily and hazelnuts. The site is further put into context by extensive peat stratigraphical research, geomorphology and soil studies. 


Beyond axemarks: how an open approach can identify various styles of Mesolithic woodworking 

The poster shows some results of the examination of the Mesolithic worked wood assemblage of Derragh Island in Lough Kinale,. Co. Longford. Finds include split planks, charred pine tapers, a possible spear and various brushwood stakes, found throughout the site. There is also a selection of woodworking waste-pieces, indicating an episode of woodworking on site. Currently, microscopic examination and species identification occurs concurrently with woodworking investigation; this method is highly productive. 

LOUISA GIDNEY (Department of Archaeology, Durham University)

Modern Dexter Cattle as Comparanda for Archaeological Remains

The Dexter breed of cattle, originating in southern Ireland, is the smallest modern breed of British cattle, and so has been used for comparison with archaeological remains.

Objections have been made to such use of the Dexter on the grounds that the small size is caused by a dwarfing gene. The global DNA programme currently being undertaken by breeders is identifying animals of 1m/39” in height that are not carrying the dwarf gene.

Examples are given of the use of my personal reference collection of Dexter cattle skeletons in the interpretation of archaeological cattle bones from project funded post-excavation work under the aegis of Archaeological Services, University of Durham.

Further detailed analyses of these skeletons is a major research theme of my current PhD at Durham University, Department of Archaeology, provisionally entitled Cattle: from Conception to Consumption. 

PENNY JOHNSTON (Eachtra Archaeological Projects)

Slow food in prehistory: charred wild plant remains from north Cork settlement sites

This poster will present the results of charred plant remains analysis from two recently excavated prehistoric house sites in north Cork. The focus is on plants that may have been used as food, but are considered wild plants or weeds today. They included some common material, such as hazelnut shells and seeds from the Knotgrass/Dock family, as well as more unusual charred remains of apple/pear (pips and fragments of the fruit flesh). Hazelnut shells were found in Early Neolithic, Early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age deposits, while the apple/pear was primarily recovered from Early Neolithic contexts and Knotgrass/Dock seeds were primarily associated with three Middle Bronze Age houses. 


Preliminary results of recent environmental studies on the N6 Galway to Ballinasloe road scheme

Archaeological excavations were carried out by Headland Archaeology Ltd on behalf of Galway County Council along the route of the proposed N6 Galway to Ballinasloe National Road Scheme between September 2005 and May 2006. Eleven sites of archaeological significance were identified and subsequently excavated.

Where appropriate, the post-excavation assessment employed osteological, zoological and palaeobotanical studies to help further understand the function and activities carried out on each site.

Osteological analysis of both human and faunal remains from the multi-phase enclosure at Carrowkeel, Co. Galway, have so far revealed evidence for possible 'shaken-baby syndrome' and Early Medieval sheep breeding.

The preliminary results of a multi-disciplinary study which incorporates cremation analysis and wood charcoal identification from Newford and Deerpark, Co. Galway, is also presented, which suggests whether a ritual significance can be attached to prehistoric pyre technology. 

T.M. MIGHALL1, S. TIMPANY2, J.J. BLACKFORD3, J.B. INNES4, C.E. O’BRIEN5, W. O’BRIEN6 & S. HARRISON7 (1 Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen; 2  Headland Archaeology; 3 Geography, University of Manchester; 4 Department of Geography, Durham University; 5 Archaeological Services, Durham University; 6 Department of Archaeology, University College Cork; 7 Department of Geography, University of Exeter.

Vegetation change during the Mesolithic and Neolithic in Co. Cork, Southwest Ireland

Despite being rich in archaeology that includes megalithic monuments, Bronze Age copper mines and Medieval castles, the Mizen Peninsula, southwest Ireland, has revealed little about its Stone Age past.  Evidence for a Mesolithic presence in SW Ireland is rare and, to date, all archaeological finds of this age in Co. Cork are further north and east of the Mizen Peninsula. A recent paleoecological study of pollen, non-pollen palynomorph, plant macrofossil and microscopic charcoal data from a peat bog located near Mount Gabriel, however, has provided evidence for disturbances, characterised by fire disturbance of woodland and exploitation of wetlands, since ca 8400 years BP. The woodland disturbances described here, therefore, represent the first possible evidence of Mesolithic colonisation of the Mizen Peninsula. 

DON O'MEARA (Department of Archaeology, University College Cork)

Environmental facilitation in Central Asian cultural change

It is proposed to demonstrate the manner in which the environmental sciences have aided the understanding of the archaeological record of Kazakhstan. This will be achieved through an examination of current petroglyph studies and through the current interpretations of cultural change in central Asia. Central to this theme is the connection between the archaeological record and the reconstruction of average fluctuations of temperature and precipitation in Southern Kazakhstan during the last 3200 years.

The changing environment of the deserts of Central Asia facilitates varying human activities depending on fluctuations between levels of temperature and humidity. Through the history and prehistory of Central Asia, changes in climate seem to herald changes in social structure. This interpretation focuses on the understanding that the nomadic pastoralism practised by the cultures of the Mongolian and Turkic peoples is sensitive to vegetational change caused by short and long term climatic change. 

BEN PEARS (School of Biological and Environmental Science, University Of Stirling)

Anthropogenic soils on Fair Isle: A geoarchaeological perspective

Since the early 1980's analysis has been conducted on the anthropogenic soils on the Northern Isles of Scotland, especially Orkney and Shetland where the small islands provide a unique micro-manageable scale resulting in meaningful interpretations about anthropogenic soil formation from the island scale to across Europe.

Recent studies have been conducted identifying many new areas of deepened anthropogenic soils and through a multidisciplinary approach of historical, cartographical, geological and archaeological data together  with scientific laboratory methods have been used to determine the formation of the anthropogenic soils, source components and likely provenance.

Fair Isle, situated equidistantly between Shetland and Orkney, has received far less attention than other islands but a multidisciplinary geoarchaeological research conducted has determined   that anthropogenic deposits occur in and around historical farmsteads and, in places, are of considerable depth ranging from +500mm.

Fieldwork consisted of auguring to determine the spatial distribution of the enhanced soils on a 50m grid and the excavation of nine test pits, three in each landuse area identified (Kaleyard, Infield, Outfield and Upland areas).  Detailed field descriptions, bulk sampling at 200mm intervals and micromorphological tins were taken from the excavations alongside cored samples at 2m and 4m from each of the cardinal points of the test pits to increase the sample area. Laboratory testing included pH, loss on ignition, magnetic susceptibility and total phosphorus to determine a likely source for the organic components of the soil and were compared with natural samples of seaweed, turf, grass, peat and sand.

Initial results suggest that the formation of these anthropogenic soils has been occurring on a large scale for around 1000 years from a peat and turf source. 


ALYS VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS (Consultant Archaeobotanist)

Horse manure at Victoria Square, Belfast - a study of the waterlogged archaeobotanical remains

This poster presents the findings from waterlogged bulk samples taken from the site of Victoria Square, Belfast, by Archaeological Development Services (ADS). Sampling of this post-medieval site accessed well-preserved archaeobotanical material in the vicinity of a horse market. The analysis of these straw lenses has found the preservation of diverse archaeobotanical assemblages originating from straw flooring, horse manure and market detritus. The material encompasses the cultivated taxa of cereals, flax, hop and hemp seed. The purpose of the poster is to provide an example of analyses of recent environmental sampling on commercial sites, comparison to documentary evidence, and comparison with contemporary sites.

Association for Environmental Archaeology 2007 Conference

Dept. of Archaeology, University College Cork