7th Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Don O’Meara

Getting to the bottom of it: experimental approaches to archaeobotany

Don O’Meara

Durham University

Replicative experiments have played an important role in the archaeological understanding of fields such as artefact production and. building construction (and destruction). However, the role of experimentation in the field of archaeological examinations of diet has often limited itself to issues surrounding food processing as evidence from the frequency of experiments on the effects of butchery on bone, or on the charring of plant remains. These studies have provided valuable information regarding how the archaeological record of food remains has been biased, however, it is also important to realise these experiments concern aspects of the archaeological record that may never pass through the human digestive tracts (i.e. charred remains and large mammal bones)

The understanding of the physical and chemical process of human digestion and the possible effect this may have on the archaeological record has been little explored however. This paper focuses on the post-grad research of the author in his examination of the importance of experimental approaches to digestive taphonomy. This paper will discuss the research and experiments conducted by the author on mastication and full digestion on certain plant remains, (in the tradition of experiments such as those of AKG Jones on fish remains). These have been undertaken in the context of an examination of latrine/cesspit remains from sites in Northern England.

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