Monday, 9 January 2012

New micromorphology slides from Catalhoyuk and Boncuklu

I just recieved a nice suprise in the post today - a new set of micromorphology slides from the 2009 field season at Catalhoyuk and 2010 season at Boncuklu. I have technically been working on material from Catalhoyuk since 2003, when I analysed midden samples at the University of Reading for my MSc thesis, though I didn't visit the site myself until 2004 when I started my PhD. I've been working on the site ever since, in collaboration with Dr Wendy Matthews (micromorphology) and Dr Ian Bull (coprolites). It really is a fantastic case study for the type of high resolution approach that I am interested in. As you can see from the following pictures, the level of preservation (particularly in the lower, deeply buried deposits) is phenomenal, and enables reconstruction of past human acitivites to the extent that we can recognise individual actions such as the dumping of a fine layer of ash.

More recently I have become involved in work at Boncuklu, which is being led by Professor Baird at the University of Liverpool. As a possible predeccessor to Catalhoyuk, it it a great contrasting case study for questions of human activity and development, but also methodologically. The deposits excavated so far are much shallower, and so are likely to be more affected by bioturbation and weathering.

The photos below show a thin section of midden sediments from the South Area at Catalhoyuk. I have already published on midden material from earlier contexts at the site - these new slides provide an exciting contrast from later levels, and also have a very detailed associated sequence of houses that can be linked directly to the middens. This gives a unique opportunity to compare what was going on in a specific house with the midden directly adjacent to it, and to test some of the hypothesis proposed by excavators in the field.

The slides were prepared by Julie Boreham at earthslides.com, who is highly recommended. I would also recommend having a look at her 'virtual lab' Off The Bench, which has some great discussions on the practicalities of producing thin section slides. I can't wait to get these under a microscope, but it will have to wait for a short while as the next few weeks are very hectic in the BioArCh lab - another 60 samples of pottery from Durrington Walls arrived just before Xmas, to process for GC/MS and GC-c-irMS. That's analysis of food residues in pottery for non-chemists!

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