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  Plants and people in Mesolithic Scotland: examining hunter-gatherer-plant interactions over 5 millennia.


   School of Archaeology

  , Dr Karen Wicks  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The aim of the PhD project is to consider the role and importance of different plant food and fuel resources in hunter-gatherer subsistence in Mesolithic Scotland. The project will specifically focus on the plant remains from Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Islay, (Mithen et al. 2015). This is a key site for understanding hunter-gatherer subsistence. These have been recovered from excavations in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The site spans the whole of the Mesolithic period in Scotland (8500-3900 BC), providing a unique opportunity to examine chronological changes in plant subsistence and human-environment interactions from the earliest settlement period to the transition to agriculture. Previous research has shown that plants were key resources for hunter-gatherers, but their significance has been underestimated in studies of Mesolithic subsistence in Europe (Bishop et al 2013, 2022). Moreover, analyses of charcoal provide the opportunity to examine fuel wood selection practices and, when compared to local pollen evidence, the nature of human interactions, potential management and impact on ‘natural’ woodlands (Bishop et al 2015). The PhD candidate will receive comprehensive training in the identification of charred plant remains, including charcoal, seeds, nutshells and fruit remains. The PhD candidate will also conduct carbonisation experiments to assess preservation parameters for key wild foods in the archaeological record to establish relative representation of different wild plant foods in archaeological assemblages (cf. Bishop 2019). Informal enquires can be made by email to Steven Mithen, The aim of the PhD project is to consider the role and importance of different plant food and fuel resources in hunter-gatherer subsistence in Mesolithic Scotland. The project will specifically focus on the plant remains from Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Islay, (Mithen et al. 2015). This is a key site for understanding hunter-gatherer subsistence. These have been recovered from excavations in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The site spans the whole of the Mesolithic period in Scotland (8500-3900 BC), providing a unique opportunity to examine chronological changes in plant subsistence and human-environment interactions from the earliest settlement period to the transition to agriculture. Previous research has shown that plants were key resources for hunter-gatherers, but their significance has been underestimated in studies of Mesolithic subsistence in Europe (Bishop et al 2013, 2022). Moreover, analyses of charcoal provide the opportunity to examine fuel wood selection practices and, when compared to local pollen evidence, the nature of human interactions, potential management and impact on ‘natural’ woodlands (Bishop et al 2015). The PhD candidate will receive comprehensive training in the identification of charred plant remains, including charcoal, seeds, nutshells and fruit remains. The PhD candidate will also conduct carbonisation experiments to assess preservation parameters for key wild foods in the archaeological record to establish relative representation of different wild plant foods in archaeological assemblages (cf. Bishop 2019). Informal enquires can be made by email to Steven Mithen, http://www.reading.ac.uk/archaeology/

The successful candidate should have a Masters degree in environmental archaeology, archaeobotany, botany or palaeoecology. Knowledge and interest in Mesolithic archaeology is also essential.


Forensic and Archaeological Sciences (16) History & Archaeology (19)

Funding Notes

There is no funding currently available for this project. Candidates who are eligible for the AHRC SWWDTP will be supported in preparing an application for the 2024 competiton.

References

Bishop, R.R., Church, M.J., & Rowlety-Conwy, P.A. 2013. Seeds, fruits and nuts in the Scottish Mesolithic. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 143, 9-71. Bishop. R.R.2019. Experiments on the effects of charring on hazelnuts and their representation in the archaeological record. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 26:101839. Mithen, S.J., Wicks, K, Pirie, A.E., Riede, F., Lane, C., Banjerea, R., Cullen, V., Gittins, M. & Pankhurst, N. 2015. A late glacial archaeological site and tephra sequence in the far northwest of Europe: Ahrensburgian artefacts and geoarchaeology at Rupha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, western Scotland. Journal of Quaternary Science 30, 396-416. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2781

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