Work at Oxford
Oxford’s focus within EXPLO is the on-site bioarchaeology. This features extensive archaeobotanical work by postdoctoral researchers Dr Rachel Ballantyne (Lin 3), Dr Müge Ergun (Dispilio) and Dr Eugenia Gkatzogia (Dispilio), and by doctoral students Amy Holguin (Ploča Mičovgrad) and Doris Vidas (Dispilio). We are building 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 anaerobic 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 (charring) 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.
On the faunal side of the bioarchaeology, our focus so far is on the Dispilio faunal assemblages from both EXPLO and pre-EXPLO excavations. Dr Valasia Isaakidou is analysing the mammalian skeletal remains and teeth with Prof. Paul Halstead (Sheffield), Roula Chronaki and Dafni Androulaki. Dr Rena Veropoulidou (Greek Ministry of Culture) analyses the molluscs and ostracods. We are delighted also to be collaborating with Dr Eva Panagiotakopulu (Edinburgh), who is analysing the preserved insect remains, and Dr Tatiana Theodoropoulou (CNRS), who will continue work on the fish remains building on her doctoral research. Doctoral work by Doris Vidas includes stable isotope analysis of livestock, wild herbivores and crop material from Dispilio. The large and exceptionally well-preserved bones and teeth are affording us detailed insights into animal husbandry and exploitation of the wild fauna through macroscopic study, which both informs and will be enriched by stable isotope analysis. Interpretation of both macroscopic and isotopic data will be aided by oral-historical study of recent, pre-industrial farming and fishing practices in the vicinity of the site.
An initial fieldwork season in 2019 at the submerged site of Ploča, in the Bay of Bones on the south-east 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.