CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

F3: Dynamics of Plant Economies in Ancient Societies


F3 investigates changes and innovations in plant production and consumption in later prehistory, from the Neolithic through the Iron Age (6th-1st millennium BCE). It does this through the multi-proxy analysis of macro-plant remains extracted from deposits at a selection of archaeological sites in northern Germany, western Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia. In the first phase of the project (2016-2020), we studied seeds (Fig. 1), fruits and similar remains by looking at their morphology, taphonomy, quantity, frequency, archaeological context, association with other archaeological materials, stable isotope composition, ecology of plants that they come from, and their radiocarbon-measured age.

Broomcorn millet grainsFig. 1: Broomcorn millet grains from the Late Bronze Age site of Wismar-Wendorf, Germany for which C and N stable isotope ratios have been measured (photo: Dragana Filipović).

These analytical proxies offered us a basis for the reconstruction of the past role and importance to people of different plants; the ways in which plants were grown, processed, stored and discarded; local and regional variations in plant use and plant handling; changes over time in crop cultivation regimes; innovations in the agricultural practice and new additions to the repertoire of crops in the study region. We identified continuity but also diversification through time of agrarian choices and techniques.

F3 study areaFig. 2: F3 study area and the location of sites for which archaeobotanical analysis are carried out (in collaboration with other subprojects).

The second phase of the project (2020-2024) explores correlations and causal links between the tendencies observed in the agricultural practice and the coeval changes and developments in palaeoenvironment, technology, ideology and social organisation. This is done at local and regional scales and from a long-term temporal perspective. Additionally, the F3 focus on seeds and fruits has been extended to include the analysis of food remains – amorphous lumps of charred material found in archaeobotanical samples or adhering to walls of ceramic pots (Fig. 3). The anatomy of these materials (observable through the scanning electron microscope) reveals the ingredients of past meals and offers a glimpse into past cuisines and food preparation (e.g. cooking) techniques. In both aspects of the F3 study – plant food production and consumption – we include an experimental component (crop growing and food preparation respectively) and use ethnographic observations in our interpretations.

Food remainsFig. 3: Food remains from the Bronze Age settlement at Kakucs-Turján mögött, Hungary (photo: Sofia Filatova).


Phase 2 - Research activities 2020-2024

Phase 1 - Research activities 2016-2020



Dr. Jingping An

Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology

Johanna-Mestorf-Straße 2-6, R. 4
Phone: +49 431 880-4460
Telefax: +49 431 880-7300

Subproject F3

Mihaela Golea

Institute of Archaeology “Vasile Pârvan”

11 Henri Coanda Street, 010667 Bucharest, Romania

Subproject F3

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