Institute of Prehistory, Early History and Medieval Archaeology

Program

 

11.11.2020 - Ada Dinckal

Title: Take it with a grain of salt; Micromorphology and Diagenesis at the site of Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa

Abstract: Two conflicting Luminesce chronologies have been developed for the Howieson’s Poort bearing Middle Stone Age sequence at Diepkloof. This has led to considerable controversy within the understanding of the HPs place within the MSA chronological. One hypothesis for this difference argues that estimates of Potassium at DRS are resulting in the conflicting dates. This thesis provides the first extensive look at the diagenetic and micromorphology variations occurring across large lateral extents of the DRS archaeological sequence. A primary aim of this thesis is to develop an understanding as to what is happening with Potassium bearing minerals at DRS and how this may change over large lateral sequences. A secondary aim of this thesis is to provide a contextual framework for the diagenetic and micromorphological analysis occurring at the site by using Photogrammetric models. Along with the first detailed photogrammetric sequence of the DRS Long Trench profile, this study also provides the first known use of photogrammetry to georectify large scale loose sample collection used in this analysis. 
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25.11.2020 - Eirini Koutouvaki

Title: Clayey sediments and pottery fabrics in the wider Ierapetra area (Crete)

Abstract: 

Ierapetra and its wider region has caught the attention of Minoan archaeology much less than other areas on Crete, due to the sparsity of finds and the lack of impressive Minoan. It was only in the last decade that a series of new excavation projects started to shed light on the Bronze Age history of the area. There are, however, many gaps in our knowledge, particularly concerning the raw materials and the production of the pottery found in the new sites excavated so far in the area. 

This project contributes to this problem by exploring the two most frequently attested Minoan pottery fabrics in the southern part of the isthmus of Ierapetra, namely the granodiorite and the ophiolitic. The provenance of these fabrics had been taken for granted in Minoan literature: the Mirabello fabric is connected to the granodioritic outcrops at Gournia-Kalo Chorio area and the South Coast fabric is connected mostly to the ophiolitic series/flysch mélange between Myrtos and the Asterousia-Messara area. However, most recent studies1 have cast doubts to these ideas and show that, taking into account the repetitive geological structure of the island, this provenance is not a solid fact, particularly because ophiolitic lithologies and granodiorite outcrops have been attested in the southern part of Ierapetra isthmus as well, on the plain and the surrounding hills of the Ierapetra plain. 

In order to clarify this issue, clay prospection was carried out in the wider Ierapetra area. The samples were studied through petrographic analysis, and the purpose was to define a) the mineralogical composition of the clayey sediments and the role of the rock suite for their formation and composition, and b) the tempering material available in the plain. Furthermore, the results of this study are compared to Minoan pottery from sites in the area, as well as to modern pottery, locally manufactured by the traditional potters of Kentri, which was one of the most important pottery centers in the 20th century on the island. 

Despite the fact that archaeological work in the area is in a preliminary stage, the results of this study provide new evidence and allow us to reconsider well established and widely accepted ideas concerning the production and distribution of Minoan pottery is this area, and consequently to infer on exchange networks and the socio-cultural relationships.

 

 

1: Liard, F., 2018a. Production and trade of pottery in the so-called “South Coast” fabric in Bronze Age Crete. Current interpretations and recent findings at Malia, northern Lassithi, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 21, 973–982; Liard, F., Pomonis, P., Koutsovitis, P., Gait, J., Stamatakis, M., 2018. Ophiolites associated with pottery production in Bronze Age Crete, Archaeometry, 60(4), 731-749.
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09.12.2020 - Enrique Fernández-Palacios

Title: Approaching formation processes at the aboriginal site of Belmaco Cave (La Palma, Canary Islands) through the combined use of soil micromorphology and lipid biomarker analysis

 

Abstract: 

Belmaco Cave (Villa de Mazo, La Palma, Canary Islands), is an aboriginal rock-shelter site located at mid-slope in the south-eastern part of the island of La Palma. The site, which dates from the end of the 9th century to the 14th century AD, has been investigated since the mid 20th century and is a key reference locality on the island. Macroscopically, the stratigraphy exhibits alternating thin layers of ashy and charcoal-rich sediment, suggestive of a fumier-type deposit. These fumiers, documented during the early prehistory of the Mediterranean region, tend to be located in caves, which were used by shepherds as shelter for the livestock and underwent periodic burning events. However, this kind of deposit has usually been dated earlier than the Iron Age period on the continent. Here we present the first high-resolution geoarchaeological study combining soil micromorphology and lipid biomarker analysis to demonstrate the existence of a fumier at Belmaco Cave and characterize its formation processes. Our results show that a repetitive sequence of events took place at the cave. This sequence is based on the upward recurrent appearance of unburned dung layers, carbonized black layers, and dung ash layers, defining a series of approximately 10 stabling episodes across a period of 200 to 400 years, in which the burning of residues occurred sporadically. Furthermore, these burning practices, characteristic of fumier deposits, seem to have been introduced, or at least intensified, by the time of a new colonization wave in La Palma around the 11th century. Finally, lipid biomarker data has shown that goat/sheep diet at Belmaco was mainly composed of herbaceous plants.

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16.12.2020 - Sinem Hacıosmanoglu

 

Title: Provenance Analysis and Production Technology of Late Bronze and Iron Age Plain Ware from Sirkeli Höyük in the Ceyhan Plain, Cilicia, South Anatolia (Turkey)

Abstract: Sirkeli Höyük is one of the largest settlements in Cilician Plain (modern Ceyhan Plain) located in South Anatolia. The site was inhabited from Chalcolithic (ca. 5000 BC) to the Hellenistic period (300 – 100 BC). Bronze and Iron Age layers are the most substantial occupations of the settlement. In the region, the materials play a key role in not only in chronological and historical investigations but also in understanding the cultural relations of Cilicia with Central Anatolia and the neighboring regions including Cyprus. Among various wares, Plain ware is chosen for this study as it is the most common and characteristic ware of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. Here we present results of archaeometric analysis carried out on the LBA Plain Ware (n=40) and IA Plain Ware (n=20) from Sirkeli Höyük as well as local clay samples (n= 60) collected from the Ceyhan Plain. The aim is to identify the possible clay sources of the ware and to explore its production technologies throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages to examine continuations and/ or discontinuations in these aspects. To this end, we used LA-ICP-MS (Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy) for elemental analysis, Petrography, XRD (X-ray diffraction), and (SEM) Scanning Electron Microscope techniques for identification of mineralogical composition and textural analysis of the samples. As a result, this presentation will summarise the identified possible clay sources and production technologies of Plain Ware together with the variations occurring due to chronological, geographical, and geological factors.
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13.01.2021 - Beatrice Boese

 

 

Title: A window into the past. Mortars of the so-called Ginnasio (Solunto, Sicily) as a key-element for a better understanding of ancient building techniques and the chronological development of a Hellenistic-Roman city

 

 

 

Abstract: 

 

This contribution focuses on ancient building materials, particularly mortars, plasters and related materials. These are part of the Tuebingen Mortar Project, which aims to clarify the provenance of raw material and dating as well as the development of building techniques. It is based on a case study of plaster samples taken from the so-called Ginnasio in the Hellenistic-Roman city of Solunto (Sicily), which was dated to the mid-3rd or late 2nd century BCE. 

According to literary sources Solunto was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BCE, destroyed in the early 4th and rebuilt in the late 4th century BCE by Carthaginian mercenaries on the top of Monte Catalfano. From an archaeological point of view this literary tradition was accepted over a long period, even though there is no stratigraphic data for such an early dating. More recently, the city has been dated to the late 2nd century BCE because the evidence of any Carthaginian remains whatsoever was questioned, which means that the city was rebuilt by the Romans after the so-called romanisation of Sicily. But here again, stratigraphic data are missing. 

To get a better understanding of both the building technique and chronology of the so-called Ginnasio an integrated archaeometric approach including petrography, X-ray micro-diffraction (μ-XRD2), but also radiocarbon dating has been applied to the plaster of this building. Using this combined approach, different building techniques can be identified and linked to various functions and chronological phases. The mineralogical investigation also sheds light on the use of raw materials, which shows the different and interconnected strategies of selecting and processing of local resources, as well as the use of recycled pottery and mortars for pavements. Overall this work makes a significant contribution to the understanding of ancient architecture with the use of archaeometric techniques.

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27.01.2021 - Dr. Tillmann Viefhaus

Title: Raman spectroscopy – A non-invasive analytic method in archeology/archaeometry  

Abstract: 

Raman spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique applied to the analysis of various archaeological materials. In this lecture, the basic concepts of the method, its potential, and limitations will be presented with the aid of some examples from archaeological science. In addition, some important parameters for the instrumental set-up will be discussed briefly. The use and possibilities of data evaluation software will also be shown followed by some typical and prominent examples of archeological samples including paintings and metal corrosion.

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03.02.2021 - Dobereiner Chala

Title: Investigating Mobility and Social Interaction along Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age through Isotopic and GIS Analyses

Abstract:

Most cartographical representations of the Bronze Age in southern Iberia rely on territorial models, with borders separating traditionally studied Culture Areas. Some regions such as the Middle and Low Guadalquivir Valley remained understudied, giving the impression of being unoccupied or being a low ranked region for settling. This presentation shows the results of the combination of GIS analyses and isotopic analyses of Sr and O in human remains from the necropolis of Cobre las Cruces (Seville, Spain). The methodology here presented shows evidence of occupation of the Middle and Low Guadalquivir Valley during the Full Bronze Age (2200-1550 BC) and the relevant role played by landscape in the interactions identified alongsouthern Iberia. Archaeometrical analyses of pottery and isotopes can provide useful information for generating cartographical representations of the landscape, which consider more the relationships between people and their surroundings than the imposition of arbitrary borders created by the archaeologist.

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10.02.2021 - Baptiste Solard

 

Title: Back to Black: A Mineralogical and Chemical Characterisation of Atticising 4th Century B.C. Black Gloss

Abstract: 

Previous studies on Attic Black Gloss technology focused mostly on pottery productions from Greece, especially Athens. However, Black Gloss dispersed across the Mediterranean over several centuries, constituting one of the most wide-spread decoration techniques from the Archaic to the Hellenistic times. Focusing on both Attic and Atticizing Black Gloss productions from Sicily (Italy) and Asia Minor (Turkey), our work aims to shed new lights on Black Gloss technology and its transmission through the Mediterranean. For this purpose, we applied an integrated analytical approach, aiming to characterize both the chemistry and the mineralogy of our Black Gloss samples. This approach includes micro X-ray diffraction (µ-XRD²), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and micro Raman spectroscopy analyses. Specimens from the 4th century B.C. from Manfria (chora of Gela), Iasos (Caria), and Priene (Ionia) were analyzed. These assemblages reflect different productions, as shown by previous chemical and petrographic analyses. Our preliminary results illustrate that these distinct production groups are characterized by significant compositional differences, indicating not only their various provenances but perhaps their diverse production technology as well. This is especially highlighted by the mineralogical composition of the glosses, as shown by µ-XRD², suggesting the presence of different associations of iron oxides in the various production groups identified. Therefore, this study could lead to a significant advancement in the understanding of Black Gloss technology and its diffusion in the Mediterranean.
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24.02.2021 - Stephen Buckley 
Title: Sequential Thermal Desorption and Pyrolysis-gas Chromatography-mass Spectrometry: Current State of the ‘Art’ and Future Potential for Archaeometry

Abstract: 

Sequential thermal desorption-GC-MS (TD-GC-MS) and pyrolysis-GC-MS (Py-GC-MS) allows the analysis of both free and bound/polymerised biomolecules (lipids, carbohydrates and proteins) and so provides a convenient analytical approach to study complex and degraded amorphous organic residues. 
In a modern context, thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) are used extensively in organic geochemistry to characterise petroleum source rocks in petroleum exploration – they can give clues to the oil potential of the source rocks under study and as such are considered very valuable analytical tools. 
The ability to characterise and identify both free biomolecules and more intractable bound organic material/biopolymers commonly present in aged organic residues makes the combined technique of sequential TD-GC-MS and Py-GC-MS a powerful analytical approach, allowing the characterisation and identification of many organic residues in a wide range of archaeological contexts, particularly where sample availability is limited and/or where minimally destructive investigations are required due to the valuable nature of the material under study. 
The presentation will discuss the use of sequential TD-GC-MS and Py-GC-MS in the study of embalming agents from ancient Egyptian mummies, archaeological brain and organic residues from archaeological dental calculus. It will also consider potential pitfalls and analytical considerations in the context of current research and the future potential for archaeological science of this still somewhat ‘niche’ analytical technique. 

Summer Semester 2021

21.07.2021 - Dr Marek Vercik 

Title: Biomolecular investigations of pottery and cuisine during Periods 1 and 2 at Harappa, Pakistan 

Abstract: 

It has long since been proposed that the gradual development of urbanism in the Indus Tradition led to the emergence of cuisines through the various social processes that brought distant societies together. This project represents a novel addition to this school of thought by conducting an ORA study on pottery from Harappa periods 1 and 2. The results of this study suggest that some Harappan and modern South Asian cooking practices have ties to fourth millennium BCE antecedents. In addition to this culturally significant development, this study identified sulfur heterocyclic fatty acids for the first time in archaeological pottery, making them a potentially useful archaeological biomarker in the future.

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02.06.2021 - Julia Becher

Title: Reconstructing vessel use at Lydenburg Heads site, South Africa, using GC-MS and GC-c-IRMS. A critical review combining lipid residue analysis with the faunal and botanical record of the Early Iron Age in South Africa.
Abstract: 
Approximately 2000 years ago in southern Africa, the arrival of Bantu-speaking people prompted a fundamental shift in lifestyles. Regions once inhabited solely by hunter-gatherers transitioned towards a dominance of agropastoral groups in a period termed the ‘southern African Iron Age’. During this period, pottery is the most common and diagnostic artefact category, and the majority of Early Iron Age (AD 200-900) research is based on pottery typology and related ethnoarchaeological interpretations. However, little is known about the specific functions of EIA pottery and how this relates to human behaviour and subsistence.
Organic Residue Analysis (ORA) provides a new and previously unaddressed perspective on these questions in the region. In this study, ORA was applied to ceramic artefacts from the Lydenburg Heads site (South Africa) using a combined approach of lipid biomarker (GC-MS) and compound specific isotopic (GC-c-IRMS) analysis. The Lydenburg Heads site, known for the presence of elaborate terracotta heads, was occupied by a Urewe Tradition farming community in the 7th century AD (Mzonjani facies), and by a Kalundu Tradition farming community from the 9th to 11th centuries AD (Doornkop facies). The site, however, was heavily eroded, inhibiting nuanced analysis. Furthermore, the acidic nature of the soil at the site and surrounding area has resulted in poor organic preservation. Consequently, little is known about early farmer subsistence patterns in this region. For this study, 40 sherds were sampled (Mzonjani facies, n = 20; Doornkop facies, n = 20) to test the possibility of lipid preservation in pottery from eastern South Africa, trace possible vessel use and dietary changes through time and embed the research data within the existing faunal and botanical record. 
The results of this study show people were likely conducting post-firing treatments to strengthen or waterproof their pottery, and used pots for various dietary purposes, including the processing of mainly ruminant adipose and dairy products, often in association with plant matter. This suggests that vessels had multiple purposes, and people relied on various food sources. This research, which constitutes the first ORA study in the region, provides a new means of analysing ceramic use during the EIA, opening new perspectives for future research on Iron Age contexts in southern Africa. 
The project provides new insights on the current understanding of pottery use and living habitats within and also between cultural groups, and opens new perspectives and lines of research on Iron Age contexts in southern Africa.

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09.06.2021- Dr Umberto Veronesi 

Title:  Archaeology and the alchemical laboratory. Exploring early modern alchemical practices at colonial Jamestown (Virginia) and the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford).
Abstract:

Alchemy is increasingly a focus among historians of early modern science and technology, who strove to free it from the traditional pejorative narrative of a magical, irrational and utterly un-scientific discipline. Instead, it was shown how alchemy was a wide and overarching phenomenon, a mosaic of activities characterized by the active manipulation of natural substances by a variety of practitioners in artisanal workshops and laboratories all over Europe. The aims fuelling alchemical practice were equally wide; some were more philosophical while other more production-oriented, but the boundaries between them were always extremely permeable. The resulting increased attention towards the practical side of alchemy has opened the way to fruitful cross-fertilization with disciplines that, like archaeology, give material culture center-stage. In this presentation, I will discuss the benefit of such cross-disciplinary approach to the history of early modern alchemy by outlining the main results of my recent PhD research, in which I analyzed the remains from two contexts where alchemy was performed, the English colony of Jamestown (Virginia) and the Oxford’s Ashmolean laboratory. The contents of the crucibles tell us that the activities at the two sites appear different, with Jamestown colonists mainly occupied in testing minerals while the Ashmolean practitioners experimenting with innovative technologies such as lead crystal and zinc distillation. However, materials also bear witness to the many overlaps between apparently unrelated contexts. Thus, I argue, archaeological micro-histories offer a powerful focus to frame the current interest in early modern alchemical practice, while materials help bring some balance to the mainly text-based approach of historiography.

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23.06.2021- Dr Petra Tuslova

Title:  Pottery in context. Different methods and approaches to pottery studies 
Abstract:

The talk will introduce pottery material found in a one-room house at the hill-fort of Dodoparon in south-eastern Bulgaria. In total 57 (almost) complete vessels were found, well dated by the closed context to the end of the 6th c. AD. The vessels were documented by the traditional way - by form and fabric hand specimen description. They were also put in context by identifying vessels of the same form within other settlements in the area. However, thanks to the vessel preservation, other finds discovered in the same context and to the archaeometric analyses, we may go even further and say much more about the individual vessels as well as about the whole set of pottery finds. The talk will introduce several different methodological approaches to pottery studies and some of the preliminary results as the pottery documentation and evaluation is still in progress.

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07.07.2021- Dr. Berta Morell Rovira

Title:  Middle Neolithic funerary practices in North-eastern Iberian Peninsula: chronology, long-distance exchange networks and gender relationships.
Abstract: 

This presentation aims to explore the Middle Neolithic funerary contexts in North-eastern Iberia from different approaches. First of all, from statistical analysis and Bayesian Modelling of 14C dates, the temporal distribution of the funerary practices will be determined, as well as the long-distance exchange networks related to them. Secondly, the presentation will also explore the symbolic expressions of gender among these communities through a multi-proxy approach of one of the most representative contexts of the horizon: the cemetery of “Bòbila Madurell-Can Gambús”. The osteologically determined sex and age of the buried individuals will be crossed with different kinds of data by means of Multiple Correspondence Analysis: the grave goods distribution and characteristics from a functional and morpho-technical perspective, as well as the available δ13C & δ15N and 87Sr/86Sr isotopic data concerning the inhumated diet and mobility patterns. This empirical framework will allow us to approach how gender was symbolically expressed in these funerary practices, as well as to formulate explicative hypotheses in terms of the socio-economic organization of the Middle Neolithic communities of North-eastern Iberian Peninsula.

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21.07.2021- Dr Marek Verčík 

Title:  The iron and metalworking on the western Anatolian littoral during the Archaic period
Abstract: 

Prior to the Persian wars, the western Anatolian littoral – in historical period known as Ionia – was the main political, economic, and cultural centre of the Greek world. According to the literary evidence, metallurgy and metalworking played a significant role within this flourishing environment – best impersonated by Glaucus of Chios, the inventor of iron welding and the artificer of a splendid silver bowl for the Lydian king Alyattes. If one, however, has a look at the evidence, it quickly became clear that finds attesting use of metals, and more particularly iron technologies, have rarely been analysed in detail, which is in a sharp contract to local architectural and ceramic productions. In order to reconstruct the different technological requirements and choices implemented within the chaîne opératoire of iron, a broad analytical program was initiated in the region. The lecture will present the preliminary results of the project and discuss these from archaeometallurgical and archaeological perspective.