Publication date: July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 83
Publication date: July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 83
Publication date: Available online 27 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science Author(s): Magnus M. Haaland, David E. Friesem, Christopher E. Miller, Christopher S. HenshilwoodIn this paper we conduct geochemical and colourimetric measurements of glauconite grains in micromorphological thin sections from the Middle Stone Age site of Blombos Cave, South Africa, to investigate the formation, internal structure and reworking of heat-exposed cave deposits that are related to prehistoric burning events. Controlled heating experiments were first carried out on glauconite-rich loose sediments and block samples, both of which were collected from the Blombos Cave bedrock. The control samples were then subjected to Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTIR), microscopic Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (micro-FTIR) and petrographic-colourimetric analyses. The control experiment shows that glauconitic minerals undergo a gradual and systematic colour change when temperatures reach higher than c. 300–400 °C, primarily due to dehydration and iron oxidation. They also undergo clear structural changes when temperatures reach higher than c. 550 °C due to dehydroxylation and mineral transformation. By assessing the nature and degree of heat-induced optical and molecular alteration in glauconitic minerals, we demonstrate how glauconite grains in thin sections can be classified by the temperature to which they were exposed (20–400 °C, >400 °C, >600 °C and >800 °C). To assess the archaeological relevance of our controlled heating experiment, we applied this glauconite classification scheme to >200 grains found in three micromorphological thin sections of a Middle Stone Age (MSA) combustion feature. These grains were individually geo-referenced within the local coordinate system of Blombos Cave, through a thin-section-based GIS mapping procedure. With improved spatial control, we were able to study both the general distribution of non-altered and heat-altered glauconite grains in their original sedimentary context, as well as to calculate heat distribution models that cover the entire sampled section. This combined geo-chemical, optical and spatio-contextual approach provides insights into more elusive aspects of MSA site structure and burning events, such as heat intensity, burning frequency, temperature distribution, internal hearth structure and post-depositional reworking. The workflow we propose may easily be implemented and adapted to other archaeological contexts and to analogous sedimentary materials that show comparable heat-induced alteration patterns.
Publication date: July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 83 Author(s): Ann Brysbaert, Panayiotis Siozos, Melissa Vetters, Aggelos Philippidis, Demetrios AnglosLaser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) was used in the investigation of pyrotechnological materials (metal and ceramic items, glass-based objects, plaster-based materials) from several Late Bronze Age workshop and activity area contexts at Tiryns, Greece. The use of a portable instrument, which could be brought into the study place where all objects were housed, was crucial in order to establish the elemental content or verify the material composition of almost all materials analysed. In almost all cases, the LIBS analyses led to the preliminary identification of the materials investigated. In most cases, the results sufficed to confirm earlier research carried out or was in agreement with similar analyses published in the literature. The analyses demonstrate that the micro-invasive LIBS technique provides useful preliminary elemental characterization of most of the pyrotechnological materials while for some, additional work needs to be conducted for securing conclusive results. Essentially, the portability and compactness of the instrumentation enable its use in any workspace with a solid desk, light and electricity access which makes this technique very attractive for obtaining preliminary elementary results. While the technique remains limited by spot analyses it does open up an immense array of possibilities for routine characterization or speedy screening of different types of artefacts in any storage or museum context. These important methodological and scientific findings are considered prerequisite steps leading towards and aiding in responsible sampling strategies for further analyses.
Publication date: July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 83 Author(s): Naimeng Zhang, Guanghui Dong, Xiaoyan Yang, Xinxin Zuo, Lihong Kang, Lele Ren, Honggao Liu, Hu Li, Rui Min, Xu Liu, Dongju Zhang, Fahu ChenThe extracted microfossils from the dental calculus of ancient teeth are a new form of archaeological evidence which can provide direct information on the plant diet of a population. Here, we present the results of analyses of starch grains and phytoliths trapped in the dental calculus of humans who occupied the Bronze Age site of Shilinggang (∼2500 cal yr BP) in Yunnan Province, southwestern China. The results demonstrate that the inhabitants consumed a wide range of plants, including rice, millet, and palms, together with other food plants which have not previously been detected in Yunnan. The discovery of various underground storage organs (USOs; tubers, roots, bulbs, and rhizomes) and acorns complements the application of conventional macrofossil and isotope studies to understand the diet of the Bronze Age human population of Yunnan. The wide variety of plant foods consumed suggests that the inhabitants adopted a broad-spectrum strategy of gathering food and cultivating crops in northwest Yunnan Province in the late Bronze Age at a time when agricultural societies were developed in the central plains of China.
Publication date: Available online 20 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science Author(s): Steve Kosiba, R. Alexander HunterThis paper presents a political ecological framework for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis to examine changes in agricultural land in ancient and early historical contexts. It raises several issues pertinent to archaeological epistemology and science, with a particular focus on the limitations of using fixed data categories to examine fluid environmental processes and ecological relationships. The paper draws on political ecological theories that define land as a social process, moving beyond economic conceptions of agricultural land that rest on productive capacity and phenomenological theories that examine the physical environment in terms of cultural perception. It combines qualitative (archival) and quantitative (archaeological) data in a GIS methodology to address how linked changes in physical land attributes and labor routines can affect regional ecologies and foment social conflict. In empirical terms, the paper traces changes from maize to wheat fields during Spanish colonization (ca. 1533-1670) in Ollantaytambo, Peru, a monumental Inca town near the capital of their empire. It reveals how ecological transformations that occurred during this century–widespread deaths throughout, abandonment of Inca fields, and introduction of European biota–in part framed conflicts between Andean people and the colonial regime, and also empowered local farmers to claim land in previously undeveloped areas.
Publication date: Available online 17 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science Author(s): Gary Lock, John PouncettBeing human embodies understandings of space and spatial relationships which are embedded within the material world and are underpinned by complex frameworks of knowledge and experience. Just as this applied to people living in the past, so it applies to those of us concerned with trying to understand those past lives through the archaeological record. Most, if not all, archaeological material has a spatial component and it is not surprising, therefore, that spatial thinking has been central within archaeological endeavour since the beginnings of the discipline. Specific forms of spatial thinking have changed with developing theory and methods and with changing analytical and technological opportunities resulting in the rich variety of approaches available to us today. Within this development, the rapid adoption of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology since the early 1990s has had a major impact on archaeology and related disciplines and its use is now almost taken for granted. Although the use of GIS in archaeology has always been, and still is contentious at the theoretical level, the attractions of the technology are usually seen to outweigh any restrictions or disadvantages. In this paper we situate the use of GIS, including the papers in this volume, within the wider arena of spatial thinking in archaeology in an attempt to assess the impact that this technology has had on how we think spatially.
Publication date: July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 83 Author(s): Lorenzo Castellano, Cesare Ravazzi, Giulia Furlanetto, Roberta Pini, Francesco Saliu, Marina Lasagni, Marco Orlandi, Renata Perego, Ilaria Degano, Franco Valoti, Raffaele C. de Marinis, Stefania Casini, Tommaso Quirino, Marta RapiIn the ancient world beeswax and honey were of crucial importance not only for nutrition, but also for a range of activities including various artisanal practices. A rich body of iconographic and literary evidence has proven very informative, but archaeological data are strongly underrepresented in studies on ancient beekeeping. A multidisciplinary excavation project of the Etruscan trade center of Forcello near Bagnolo San Vito (Mantua province), led to the discovery of charred honeycombs in a workshop dated to 510-495 BCE. Morphoscopical, palynological and chemical analyses (IR, LC-MS, GC-MS) were conducted on these honeycombs and their associated materials (bee-breads and a mixture of melted honeycombs) in order to reconstruct beekeeping practices and the local environment. Palynological data indicate that honeybees were feeding on plants from both aquatic and ruderal landscapes. The palynological record from the bee-breads suggests the practice of itinerant beekeeping along rivers, an activity described by Pliny the Elder (Natural History, XXI.43.73) a few centuries later in relation to the town of Ostiglia (Mantua province) ca. 20 km downstream the investigated site. Hence, confirming the historical source, beekeeping in Iron Age Northern Italy appears to be characterized by a remarkably high degree of specialization. In addition, the pollen content of the melted honeycombs provides evidence for an unprecedented Vitis vinifera (grapevine) honey. The pollination syndrome suggests that bees fed on nectar of pre-domesticated or early-domesticated varieties of Vitis vinifera, confirming the archaeobotanical record of pips from Iron Age Northern Italy.
Publication date: Available online 12 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science Author(s): Steven A. Wernke, Lauren E. Kohut, Abel TraslaviñaArchaeological GIS is moving towards increasingly detailed, embodied, multidimensional simulations and analyses of human experience in the past. Most of the emerging GIS research synthesizing spatial modeling and subject-centered approaches has been concerned with practices and perceptions of landscape. This paper tightens the analytical focus to the more intimate scale of a single settlement, combining models of movement and visual experience within a planned colonial town in highland Peru. Such a rendering is important, since controlling movement and visual experience were central to the colonial project that built this and other such towns in the Viceroyalty of Peru. This study centers on an exceptionally well-preserved, relict planned colonial town in highland Peru to investigate affordances of movement and visibility within it. Several GIS-based simulations and analytical techniques are brought together, including drone-based high resolution three dimensional modeling, spatial network analysis, walking models, and cumulative viewshed analysis, to simulate aggregate visual experience as people moved through the town. The results are suggestive of how the layout of the town specifically routed transit to facilitate the visual prominence of the church and original Inka plaza of the reducción, as well as the prominence of indigenous elite households. Both continuities and discontinuities of movement and visual experience relative to Inkaic and Spanish colonial spaces are evident. By extension, this paper also provides a pathway for quantitative and reproducible modeling of site-scale movement and visual affordances as dimensions of subject and community formation in other global contexts.