Oxford’s focus within EXPLO is the bioarchaeology, featuring extensive archaeobotanical work led by Dr Michael Charles and Prof. Amy Bogaard. We will build a picture of plant use and management at each site by analysing the macroscopic remains of cereals, pulses, oil-seed crops and gathered plant foods. The anaeorobic waterlogged conditions of submerged lakeshore settlements are ideal for preserving plant tissues, including the fragile parts (such as leaves, pods and stems) not typically preserved by carbonisation on dry sites. Waterlogging also affords a holistic view of plant use beyond the crops and stored plants highlighted in carbonised assemblages. In this way we can build a detailed record of consumption patterns and foodwebs, and of how these changed through time within site sequences and among settlements and lake regions.
An initial fieldwork season in 2019 at the submerged site of Ploča, in the Bay of Bones on the SE side of Lake Ohrid, in North Macedonia, confirmed excellent preservation of crop and other food plant remains in thick (>1 m) layers of waterlogged organic detritus preserved on the lakebed, sampled through coring and excavation. Our preliminary analysis during the 2019 season – in collaboration with Prof. Ferran Antolín of the Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, University of Basel – identified abundant remains of cereals (e.g., chaff and bran), pulses (e.g., pods and stems), oil-seed crops and a diverse spectrum of gathered plants, including Cornelian cherry, acorn, hazelnut, strawberry, blackberry, fig and grape.
Text: Amy Bogaard
Photo: Raül Soteras (Waterlogged and charred remains of wheat chaff from Ploča)