Jennifer Bates, Kelly Wilcox Black, Kathleen D. Morrison
“Food lumps are becoming an increasingly important part of the ‘foodways’ turn in archaeobotanical analysis. These amalgams of plant materials allow insights into more than the taxa lists of plants used or even just present on a site; they represent how people engaged with and created food items out of plants, in turn shining a light on notions of food processing, preparation and cooking techniques and culinary traditions. Food lump analysis has traditionally been focused on the Near East and Europe, where large grained cereals have dominated the archaeobotanical discussion. This paper instead represents an analysis of more complex food practices, that of the Southern India Iron Age, where millets and pulse foods were an important part of the culinary tradition. Through a preliminary analysis of lumps from Feature 40, an Iron Age pit, at the site of Kadebakele in southern Deccan, we demonstrate that people were using both millets and pulses to make food items through a variety of culinary techniques and technologies, from dry doughs to wet batters. This preliminary analysis highlights the complexity of food lump analysis in regions outside the Near East and Europe and asks us to think about the longevity of culinary practices in South India.”
Dr Bates has a new paper out in Agronomy:
Is Domestication Speciation? The Implications of a Messy Domestication Model in the Holocene
“Domestication is one of the fundamental process that has shaped our world in the last 12,000 years. Changes in the morphology, genetics, and behavior of plants and animals have redefined our interactions with our environments and ourselves. However, while great strides have been made towards understanding the mechanics, timing, and localities of domestication, a fundamental question remains at the heart of archaeological and scientific modelling of this process—how does domestication fit into a framework of evolution and natural selection? At the core of this is the ontological problem of what is a species? In this paper, the complicated concepts and constructs underlying ‘species’ and how this can be applied to the process of domestication are explored. The case studies of soybean and proto-indica rice are used to illustrate that our choice of ‘species’ definitions carries with it ramifications for our interpretations, and that care needs to be made when handling this challenging classificatory system. ”
The LC6k project, which includes Penn Palecology Lab Members Prof. Morrison, Dr Bates and Dr Hill, has had a major paper published in PlosOne:
Mapping past human land use using archaeological data: A new classification for global land use synthesis and data harmonization
“In the 12,000 years preceding the Industrial Revolution, human activities led to significant changes in land cover, plant and animal distributions, surface hydrology, and biochemical cycles. Earth system models suggest that this anthropogenic land cover change influenced regional and global climate. However, the representation of past land use in earth system models is currently oversimplified. As a result, there are large uncertainties in the current understanding of the past and current state of the earth system. In order to improve representation of the variety and scale of impacts that past land use had on the earth system, a global effort is underway to aggregate and synthesize archaeological and historical evidence of land use systems. Here we present a simple, hierarchical classification of land use systems designed to be used with archaeological and historical data at a global scale and a schema of codes that identify land use practices common to a range of systems, both implemented in a geospatial database. The classification scheme and database resulted from an extensive process of consultation with researchers worldwide. Our scheme is designed to deliver consistent, empirically robust data for the improvement of land use models, while simultaneously allowing for a comparative, detailed mapping of land use relevant to the needs of historical scholars. To illustrate the benefits of the classification scheme and methods for mapping historical land use, we apply it to Mesopotamia and Arabia at 6 kya (c. 4000 BCE). The scheme will be used to describe land use by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) LandCover6k working group, an international project comprised of archaeologists, historians, geographers, paleoecologists, and modelers. Beyond this, the scheme has a wide utility for creating a common language between research and policy communities, linking archaeologists with climate modelers, biodiversity conservation workers and initiatives.”
Dr Ramya Bala Prabhakaran gave a great talk on Monday as part of the ongoing seminar and working group ‘New Avenues in Archaeological and Anthropological Science, co-organised by the Penn Paleoecology Lab and the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM). Dr Prabhakaran’s talk was titled “Stable Isotopes and Molecular Biomarks as Proxies for Paleoenvironments” and sought to explore how these could be used in a variety of contetxs to explore past human land use and interaction with the environment.
Dr Bates has a new paper out today in Archaeological Research in Asia:
Kitchen gardens, wild forage and tree fruits: A hypothesis on the role of the Zaid season in the Indus Civilisation (c.3200-1300 BCE)
“The nature of agriculture in the Indus Civilisation of South Asia (c.3200-1300 BCE) remains a topic of intense debate. Traditional models of Indus agriculture have been built on the assumption that it was divided into two cropping seasons: rabi (centred on the winter Western Disturbance) and kharif (focused on exploiting the Indian Summer Monsoon). This paper endeavours to unpack this assumption by looking to modern agricultural strategies. Through this approach the nuanced possibilities open to ancient farmers can be explored and a third cropping season is introduced, the hot dry summer season, also called zaid. […] The paper reviews the archaeobotanical data and hypothesises that Indus farmers had the potential to exploit the zaid cropping season, and that Indus agricultural strategies may, as a result have been even more complex than currently modelled. […]The zaid hypothesis has implications for how Indus agriculture fits into wider debates surrounding of adaptation, intensification, sustainability and resilience in the face of social, economic and environmental change.”
Prof. Morrison gave an excellent talk this evening on the LandCover6K project and the role of archaeology to explore past land use, land cover and climate modeling. The talk was held at the Penn Museum as part of their Great Lecture Series, and was packed! Prof. Morrison explored how the LandCover6k, an international scientific working group, is leading the unprecedented effort to integrate the large, scattered record of archaeological and historical data on past land use and land cover. She asked the question: how can we connect archaeological insights from around the world? In doing so the talk aims to show how as archaeologists we can better understand the long-term record of human impact on the earth and to contribute directly to the improvement of climate models.
Pollen analysis has started in the lab!
Kacey Grauer from Northwestern University is visiting to learn pollen extraction and identification methodologies with Prof. Morrison here at the Penn Paleoecology Lab. Kacey is a doctoral candidate, with a specialism in paleoethnobotany. She uses microbotanical analysis to study human-environment relationships, and has research interests in political ecology, ontologies, materiality, landscape, and archaeology. Kacey has been conducting archaeological research in Belize for 9 years, the last 5 of which have been spent on the Aventura Archaeology Project. Kacey’s research and publications can be found here: http://northwestern.academia.edu/KaceyGrauer
Delighted to have Dr Amanda Logan from Northwestern University visit the lab. Dr Logan was the speaker at the Penn Anthropology ‘Food’ Colloqium today, with an incredible talk entitled “The Scarcity Slot: Excavating Histories of African Food Security”. Dr Logan is an archaeobotanist focusing on how we can connect the past to the present, and thinks about how we can reframe the kinds of questions we ask and empirically bridge the modern/premodern divide. Her current research is building an archaeology of food security that traces how, where, and when chronic hunger emerged across the African continent.
You can find out more about Dr Logan’s work and forthcoming book at https://www.anthropology.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/logan.html
Dr Jennifer Bates presented a paper at the Annual Conference on South Asia, hosted by UW-Madison today, entitled Indus Foodways: exploring the implications of new theoretical perspectives beyond ‘diet’ and ‘subistence’. It was part of a larger sessions on ‘The Foundations of South Asian Cuisine: Indus foodways in urban and rural settlements’ roganised by Dr Richard Meadow. More information on the session can be found here: https://register.southasiaconference.wisc.edu/Schedule