Provenance analysis in archaeological contexts
2017. "Provenance analysis in archaeological contexts", The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History, M. Williams, T. Hill, I. Boomer, I. P. Wilkinson
Download citation file:
Microfossils are found associated with building materials, ceramics, tools, works of art and human remains. Despite problems associated with the destructive preparation techniques required to examine microfossils, their size renders them important analytical tools as they can be recovered from small samples such as potsherds, tesserae and even chips of paint. Biostratigraphical and palaeoenvironmental analysis provides data that can be used to determine the provenance of raw materials and their transportation along trade routes, the migrations of agricultural practices, diet and culture. A more profound archaeological analysis can therefore be achieved by taking an integrated approach as outlined here.
Calcareous nannofossils are one of several groups of microscopic fossil remains that can occur within archaeological artefacts such as ceramics, lithics and plaster. Their detailed taxonomic and biostratigraphic study holds significant potential to address archaeological questions such as raw material procurement, artefact provenance and related topics including trade, exchange, migration, technological choice and tradition. Here the occurrence of nannofossils in ancient artefacts is discussed, a method for their study is outlined, and a review of the ways in which they have been used in this interesting and poorly reported context is presented.
Figures & Tables
The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History
Microfossils are an abundant component of the sedimentary rock record. Their analysis can reveal not only the environments in which the rocks were deposited, but also their age. When combined, the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of microfossils offer enormous utility for archaeological and forensic investigations. Their presence can act as a geological ‘fingerprint’ and the tiniest fragment of material, such as a broken Iron Age potsherd, can contain a microfossil signature that reveals the geographical source of the materials under investigation. This book explores how microfossils are employed as tools to interpret human society and habitation throughout history. Examples include microfossil evidence associated with Palaeolithic human occupation at Boxgrove in Sussex, alongside investigations into human-induced landscape change during the Holocene. Further examples include the use of microfossils to provenance the source materials of Iron Age ceramics, Roman mosaics and Minoan pottery, in addition to their application to help solve modern murder cases, highlighting the diverse applications of microfossils to improving our understanding of human history.