EAI October Seminar

The second installment of our Environmental Archaeology seminar series takes place on Thursday 21st October (19:00 – 20:30 IST) and features presentations from Dr Penny Johnston of The Department of History, Politics and Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Scott Timpany of The Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands & Islands, who will both be discussing aspects of their current research projects in Ireland and Scotland.

Dr Penny Johnston: Plant remains and chronology: preliminary results from two late 4th millennium sites in Louth.

Analysis of charred macro-plant remains, both seeds and charcoal, result in identified and quantified material that can be used to obtain radiocarbon measurements, which in turn help to establish chronologies for sites and site types. Previous research projects have successfully used short-lived material, such as charred grain, to create tightly refined Bayesian chronologies (for example, for Irish rectangular structures, c. 3700 BC).

This talk will introduce Project Time, an ongoing research project that focuses on the period from 3500 to 1500 BC. The aim is to gather pre-existing radiocarbon data from late fourth and third millennium sites and, hand-in-hand with this, to obtain new radiocarbon measurements after analysing plant and animal remains from sites with relevant material culture (such as Grooved Ware pottery).

I will present some preliminary plant remains results from two relevant sites in Louth, at Balregan and Balgatheran, and will discuss these within the context of the current discourse on the exploitation of cultivated and wild plant resources in the period after 3500 BC.

Dr Scott Timpany : Fire in the Hole: an anthracological investigation of wood-fuel resources used in metalworking furnaces at Culduthel, Invernesshire.

The Iron Age site at Culduthel was home to a community of skilled artisan metalworkers who produced high-quality personal objects some of which were likely to have been traded with Roman communities, from the presence of Roman coins and glass, together with their contemporary Iron Age neighbours. Radiocarbon dates from Culduthel show a community was present here from around 810-550 cal BC to cal AD 130-340 and lived in impressive roundhouses with monumental architecture demonstrating their wealth, whilst working in specialised workshops that were found to still contain furnaces with fills of iron slag and charcoal. This project has sought to take a slightly different look at the exploits of this metalworking community through analysing the wood charcoal remains from three furnaces in one of the workshops, Structure 15. Through the anthracological analysis of this material questions can be asked on what trees were resourced for wood fuel for the metalworking activity? Can any woodland management strategies (e.g. coppicing) be identified that would suggest the inhabitants were sustainably utilising their woodland resource? Can any evidence for the storage of wood fuel be seen and/or the use of unseasoned wood in the fuel assemblages? This project is the first such analysis of the furnace wood-fuel at Culduthel and one of a small number of anthracological analyses examining woodland management themes in relation to Iron Age metalworking worldwide.

The presentations will be followed by a chaired panel discussion.

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