Chenopodium Seeds in Open-Air Archaeological Sites – How to Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater
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Differentiating between charred and uncharred plant remains may appear straightforward but for some taxa (here fat-hen, Chenopodium album type) can be very problematic. Recognition of the preservation state is obviously crucial for archaeobotanical data derived from dry, open-air sites. Fat-hen as a common weed, is also one of the most important components of a persistent soil seed bank. It is also a well-known food plant, gathered or cultivated. Numerous findings of fat-hen seeds in unclear states of preservation were noted in the Early Neolithic sites of the Linear Pottery culture in Kuyavia (N Europe). In previous studies such specimens were omitted as probably uncharred. Re-examination of Neolithic finds of fat-hen from that region showed the link of their abundancy with the earliest phases of the Neolithic occupation. The plant probably played an important role in the diet of the early Neolithic settlers there. It may indicate intensive use of local, open, fertile, probably alluvial areas. Distinguishing between ancient and modern specimens of that common weedy plant, producing large amounts of small, black, resistant seeds is thus very important, holding a great potential to shed new light on the origins of agricultural societies in this part of northern Europe.
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