Thursday, 28 February 2013

Middens from the Mound of Beads

Ashy midden deposits in thin section.
Since starting my new job as a Research Fellow, I feel like the amount of actual research I have done is limited! But I have spent plenty of time applying for money to do research. It must be nice being a researcher in a subject that doesn't require expensive laboratory work or sample processing. I have daydreams about spending all my time just reading and writing in a nice quiet library somewhere, preferably overseas and sunny. On the plus side, the more funding applications I write, the quicker it gets, and sometimes I even get the money! I just found out recently I was awarded a University of Edinburgh Munro Research Grant to complete the pilot work I've been doing on material from Boncuklu Hoyuk ('the place of beads') in Turkey. I started working there after finishing my PhD, I think the first samples I collected were in 2009, but due to the expense of producing thin sections, I was not able to get them processed at the time. As part of my ongoing work at Catalhoyuk I managed to get 2 Boncuklu slides made at the end of 2011, but this new grant will enable me to get the rest of the pilot samples processed so I can write up the results. Better late than never!

Collecting micromorph blocks from a sub-floor burial at Boncuklu
Boncuklu Hoyuk is a possible predecessor to Catalhoyuk, and so it makes a great case study to take my research further back in time, and look at human activities, resource use and disposal in the earlier Neolithic of Anatolia. As I mentioned in my previous blog on the site, it is also very interesting from a methodological perspective, as the midden deposits are much shallower than many of the deposits I've looked at from Catalhoyuk. On initial observation they look more similar to Catal's external area deposits and exposed midden deposits from the late Neolithic TP Area - it seems the earlier deposits are much better preserved due to their deep burial, whereas the younger deposits are much more bioturbated. The opposite of what is normally expected.

So another large box of soil will be making it's way to Julie Boreham at Earthslides.com, who produced the first 2 slides from the site and produced the lovely slide scan above. This is a curious sample - a thick ashy midden with limited evidence of fine layering at the macroscale. Is this a single event or multiple episodes of deposition that have become more homogenised due to the shallow stratigraphy? And there are many, many phytoliths! Now just to check if they are coming from the ash itself or if there's any evidence of animal dung burning...


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