Emma Jenkins – Traces of life: using geochemistry, phytoliths and ethnographic analogy

15 March 2017 18:00 to 20:00

British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London
SW1Y 5AH

Our understanding of Neolithic sites is often impeded by the lack of preservation of biological evidence. The function of Neolithic buildings and other structures is frequently unclear, but their interpretation is critical to our understanding of the development of new economic and social strategies. In order to address this problem we undertook a study of Al Ma’tan, a  traditional village  in Jordan, to determine if certain building construction techniques and anthropogenic activities leave phytolith (the microscopic silica structures in plants)  and geochemical signatures. We sampled a range of structures and our found that some, for example fire installations and animal pens, do have distinct phytolith and elemental concentrations that reflect their use. Other types of structure, mainly those made of local clay sources, for example the make-up of hearths, plastered features and wall plasters, could not be distinguished one from the other. 

This is the 5th lecture in the 2016/17 series, People, Power & Place in the Levant.

***Please note that this lecture has been moved from its original date of 8th March.***

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