Neolithic farming in north-western Europe: archaeobotanical evidence from Ireland

M. McClatchie, A. Bogaard, S. Colledge, Nicola J. Whitehouse, R.J. Schulting, Philip Barratt, T. Rowan McLaughlin

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    Abstract

    This paper presents significant new insights into the appearance of agriculture at the north- western edge of Europe, focusing on Neolithic Ireland (4000-2500 cal BC). Previous studies were based upon a limited plant macro-remains dataset, as much of the Irish evidence is unpublished. A research project, 'Cultivating Societies', was implemented to examine the nature, timing and extent of agricultural activity in Neolithic Ireland through collation and analysis of different strands of published and unpublished archaeological and environmental evidence, with a particular focus on plant macro- remains, pollen, settlement and 14C data. Plant macro-remains from a total of 52 excavated sites were collated and analysed, representing the most comprehensive study to date of Neolithic plant remains from this region. Cereals were present at many locations and site types, sometimes in large quantities and most often at sites dating to the earlier Neolithic (3750-3600 cal BC). Emmer wheat was the dominant crop, at least at this time. Other crops included naked and hulled barley, naked wheat, einkorn wheat and flax. Analysis of arable weeds indicates that early plots were not managed under a shifting cultivation regime, which has important implications for understanding Neolithic settlement practices and how communities engaged with landscapes. The variety of crops cultivated in Neolithic Ireland is similar to those in Britain, reflecting a decreasing diversity in crop types as agriculture spread from south-east to north-west Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)206-215
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Volume51
    Early online date07 Nov 2012
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • History

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