Department of Geoscience

SoSe 2017



Dr. Stephen Buckley (University of York)


Title: Putting flesh on the bones: a biomolecular approach to the study of human remains

Abstract: The biomolecular analysis of organic residues from human remains can provide a wealth of information on both the individuals themselves and the world in which they lived. Insights into diet, trade, geopolitics, technology and identity (cultural, religious and political) will be illustrated. Despite significant archaeological and analytical challenges, through the application of a biomarker approach, which identifies compounds characteristic of the original organic material and resistant to chemical and microbial degradation, it is possible to securely identify a wide variety of natural products exploited by ancient peoples. The focus will be on both human dental calculus and human remains/mummies more generally. By utilising both conventional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and sequential thermal desorption-gas chromatography mass spectrometry and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry it is possible to characterise and identify both free biomolecules and more intractable bound organic material/biopolymers commonly present in aged organic residues. Chemical investigations using these analytical techniques allow the detection of not only a diverse range and source of lipids, but also carbohydrates and proteinaceous material, providing a broad biochemical perspective which, particularly in the case of dental calculus, can reveal bioarchaeological evidence which compliments more focused biomolecular approaches such as proteomics and aDNA.


(University of Bradford)


Justin Carlson (University of Kentucky)


Dr. Aida Gomez-Robles (UCL)


Dr. Youssef Kanjou (University of Tübingen)


Sara Rhodes (University of Tübingen)


Dr. Joaquim Soler


Magnus Haaland (University of Tübingen, University of Bergen)


Title: Microcontextual investigation of Blombos Cave, South Africa: Development of Methods and Preliminary Results

Abstract: The archaeological material found in Blombos Cave (BBC), South Africa, has become central to our current understanding of the behavioural and cultural development of early humans in southern Africa during the Late Pleistocene. The most informative archaeological material sources from the Middle Stone Age (MSA; ca. 101–70 ka) sequence and includes worked and engraved ochre, ochre processing kits, engraved bone, marine shell beads, polished bone tools, and bifacially worked stone tools. The sedimentary sequence of BBC is more than 3m deep and has not before been evaluated in detail. It contains a stratified and unconsolidated deposit that is characterized by several major lithostratigraphic units, two of which correspond to human occupation during the MSA (101-70 ka) and the LSA (2000 - 300 BP). In this presentation, both the methods and preliminary results of an on-going geoarchaeological and micromorphological investigation of the BBC cave deposits are presented.

The main focus of this talk is on how macroscopic field documentation, microscopic lab observations and archaeological data can best be combined and easily visualised, explored, and analysed on multiple spatial scales and within a single framework. Selected case studies will show how this type of spatio-contextual approach to an archaeological site can enable us to investigate important behavioural aspects of the BBC context that hitherto have been overlooked. This study forms part of the doctoral research of Magnus Haaland, University of Bergen, Norway.


No talk


Dr. Enrico Capellini (University of Copenhagen)


Title: Paleoproteomics, state of the art and perspectives

Abstract: Europe’s cultural heritage, serves as a basis for communication of our common values, one of the world’s most diverse and rich patrimonies, attracting millions of visitors each year. It represents an important component of individual and collective identity, contributing to the cohesion of the EU and playing a fundamental role in European cultural integration. Preserving EU heritage is not only a priceless investment to support sustainable tourism, but more importantly, a strong moral duty towards future generations in an atmosphere of openness, democracy, mutual understanding and peaceful relations. Most of the cultural heritage objects produced using biogenic materials are rich in protein residues. In addition to their role in nutrition, the chemical and mechanical properties of proteins have always been exploited in a broad range of applications. For example, proteins have been utilised for clothing (wool, silk and leather), artistic expression (tempera is protein-bound paint), construction (blood and milk were added to building mortars as plasticizers), tool assemblage (before the introduction of organic synthesis, wood glues were made out of proteins) and even for writing support (parchment), before the advent of paper. Protein mineral composites (e.g. shells, ivory and bone) have also been used to make tools and ornaments. Ancient proteins are found almost everywhere in cultural heritage.

Only very recently the introduction of revolutionary analytical approaches, most notably high-throughput mass spectrometry (MS)-based protein sequencing, allowed confident sequencing of ancient proteins. This new, robust and reliable approach: paleoproteomics, already demonstrated it can provide very innovative results in the study, diagnostics, and protection of cultural heritage collections.


Dr. Rowena Banerjea (University of Reading)


Title: Crusading landscapes under the microscope: life on the Baltic frontier

Abstract: The medieval period in Europe sees shifting geographical boundaries and frontiers as a result of multiple waves of conquest and colonisation, as well as areas where different religious communities co-existed in the landscape; these processes have played an integral role in the shaping of present day European society. Frontiers remain largely perceived as zones of cultural polarisation, and our understanding of how multiculturalism was defined and sustained within the annexed territories remains problematic. This paper draws together the results from sites in the eastern Baltic region from areas that were formerly Prussia and Livonia within the Ordensland, the former territories of the Teutonic Order (present day northern Poland, Latvia and Estonia. Castles and their hinterlands (commanderies) within Prussia and Livonia are compared to examine the longue durée development of occupation as a result of conquest and colonisation processes, and the scale of the impact of the crusades on existing communities in this frontier zone. Geoarchaeological techniques enabled diachronic examination of the development of occupation, the use of settlements, and their hinterlands, through high resolution, multi-scalar analysis to understand the range of on-site and off-site activities in conjunction with macrobotanical and palynological approaches.


No talk, Bridge Day


Dr. Lionello Morandi (University of Reading)


Title: Microscopic indicators for animal farming: case studies and experimental approaches

Abstract: The talks aims to show the potential (as well as limitations) of non-pollen microfossils in archaeological research, as this evidence makes an important contribution to investigating Neolithic farming activities and their environmental impact. The Ligurian Neolithic (NW Italy) has provided an excellent cultural and environmental framework to apply this approach, given the presence of high-altitude bogs with deep sedimentary sequences and cave sites used as stables by the first shepherds of the region. Different case studies will be illustrated, from the uplands to the coastal belt. Deep cores from the alluvial plain of Genoa have shed light on the earliest occupation of the city, indicating the presence of herbivores around the site, as well as periods of desiccation and flooding of the area. Archaeological layers from a Neolithic cave (Arene Candide) and samples from a variety of modern pastoral contexts have also been sampled and analysed, showing the validity of a range of palynomorphs to identify stabling layers in pastoral sites.


No talk, Pfingsten


No talk, Bridge Day


Andrea Orendi (University of Tübingen)


Title: Development of flax cultivation and linen textile production in Bronze and Iron Age Palestine. A synthesis of the archaeobotanical and archaeological record.

Abstract: Linum usitatissimum, otherwise known as flax, is one of the oldest crops of the Fertile Crescent. Yet the investigations into the cultivation of this plant is still not comprehensively examined. Moreover, the archaeobotanical data has never been investigated in detail. In ancient Palestine the cultivation underwent some fluctuations between the Early Bronze Age and the end of the Iron Age II. These developments are reflected in the archaeobotanical dataset, as well as in the archaeological record represented in this paper, by finds of linseeds and linen textiles. The combination of the archaeobotanical finds with the linen textiles shows that the cultivation of flax and its processing to cloth degraded from the Early Bronze to the Middle Bronze Age until finds of linseeds and linen textiles increase again during the Iron Age. The reduction of flax cultivation during the Middle and Late Bronze Age has manifold reasons caused by climatic and sociocultural developments. The analysis gleaned from the archaeobotanical and the archaeological record shows that the Jordan Valley played a prominent role in the cultivation of Linum usitatissimum from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age, and that flax cultivation in the Early Bronze Age was centered in the Dead Sea Region, respectively.