Friday, 7 September 2012

Medieval manure, from Riga to Reading


Many boxes of medieval stratigraphy

I was back at the University of Reading a few days ago to have a look through all the samples that have been collected for the Ecology of Crusading project.  Four cardboard boxes and a tray of miscellaneous samples later, I finally got them all unpacked and ready for the drying oven. It appears at least half the samples have the note ‘manure layer’ attached, so nothing new there. In fact, that'll be the third time this year I've recieved parcels of such material. I should start telling people I am interested in highland single malt whisky as well as coprolite analysis, maybe I’d start getting that in the post regularly too. Anyway.

Block of medieval manure
 The majority of these samples were collected from excavations of medieval deposits in the centre of Riga (Latvia). I am told that these are the first micromorphology samples ever collected from a commercial excavation in Latvia, by students who took part in the Cēsis excavations back in May. I’m glad to see the enthusiasm for micromorphology spreading, and will hopefully be heading to Latvia sometime next year to give a presentation and/or practical session so everyone who collected the samples can have a look at them under the microscope. The blocks were taken through a series of rebuilt clay floors in a number of buildings, and as well as manure they contain layers of waterlogged wood and organic deposits. We will hopefully be able to tell whether the manure relates to primary deposition such as animal penning, of if it is midden material (re)deposited during a period of abandonment. Other samples include a suspected ‘floor’ from the horse trench at Cēsis castle, with a fine layer of charred plant residues which are hopefully related to the original use of the room before the building collapsed.

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