Assessing the potential of phytolith analysis to investigate local environment and prehistoric plant resource use in temperate regions: A case study from Williamson’s Moss, Cumbria, Great Britain

Kali Wade, Lisa-Marie Shillito, John M. Marston, Clive Bonsall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The archaeological site of Williamson’s Moss, located in north-west England, was excavated in the 1980s as part of an investigation of the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age populations living around the estuary of the River Esk in Cumbria. Recovery of plant remains was generally low, but bulk sediment samples were collected from different contexts as part of a project archive for future analysis. This paper presents the results of new analyses conducted on these archived samples, carried out to assess whether phytolith analysis could offer additional insights into the local environment and plant use at the site. Whilst the results indicate the presence of a diverse range of phytolith types from both monocotyledon and dicotyledon plants (along with sponge spicules, diatoms and microcharcoal), interpretation of the data is problematic. Comparison with existing palynological and excavation data indicate methodological limitations in using bulk archived samples. Nevertheless, the recovery of abundant microfossil material is encouraging for the emerging field of phytolith studies in temperate environments such as Britain, and suggestions are made regarding future sampling strategies and taphonomic considerations that will reduce problems for future analyses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Archaeology
Early online date27 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 May 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • phytolith analyses
  • pollen analysis
  • multivariate investigation
  • prehistoric archaeology
  • methods
  • Britain

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