Disturbing households: assessing contextual integrity with botanical remains

Author(s): Susan Allen; China Shelton

Year: 2016


Since 2008, we have been investigating botanical evidence for subsistence practices, economic organization, and environmental change at the Bronze Age site of Iklaina in southwestern Greece. The spatially intensive sampling strategy we have adopted—the first of its kind to be applied to a Mycenaean administrative center—promotes a high spatial resolution for the archaeobotanical dataset. As such, in addition to providing insights concerning changes in subsistence and land use during the Mycenaen period, the macrobotanical assemblage illuminates deposit taphonomy, particularly concerning plant macroremain preservation and contextual integrity.

In addition to generally poor preservation of carbonized plant remains, our samples also include modern carbonized materials that result from on-site burning of olive trimmings and adjacent surface vegetation. To assess post-depositional disturbance, we developed a method for calculating a modern seed rain contamination value (MSRC) through semi-quantitative recording of the relative abundance and diversity of modern seed rain types. Our assessment of samples from two household units using MSRC highlights differential disturbance within and between rooms and reveals loci where plant remains likely reflect human behavior. We argue that the use of MSRC facilitates recognition of charred plant remains that cannot be assumed to be ancient or to reflect past human behavior.

Cite this Record

Disturbing households: assessing contextual integrity with botanical remains. Susan Allen, China Shelton. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404241)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;