Digitized thin section slides!

I can't remember if I posted about this earlier in the year, but I was lucky enough to be awarded two student work experience placements as part of the Newcastle NWE programme, where students complete flexible paid projects within the university. Two of my Environmental Archaeology students have been working for the past few months, digitizing my entire collection of thin section slides. At some point I hope to make these available online as an open access resource for teaching and research. They did a brilliant job! I've only just had a chance to go through all the scans, having been away on fieldwork, busy with exams, then graduation. Here is one of the scans of a thin section from medieval Riga, that I have been working on as part of the Ecology of Crusading project. Combined with the fact I have just moved the lovely Leica DM750P research microscope into my office (kindly purchased by History, Classics and Archaeology), I can now get working on my mounting backlog of samples on a regular basis. In the pictures below you can see a lot of partially waterlogged wood (the brownish orange looking stuff), some of which is undergoing various stages of microbial decay. As I was browsing I came across these little spherical particles, which are scattered throughout this layer. I suspect these are fungal spores of some sort, though I am not an expert in fungi and will need to do some digging around to see if I can identify them. they look similar to some spores I found in samples from Margat castle, also associated with decaying wood.


  1. Dear Lisa-Marie,

    I think you have the fruiting bodies of saprofytic fungi, generally known as sclerotia. I encounter them a lot in association with decaying organic matter in various environments. They can vary considerably in overall size and size of the cells - I guess they may come from a range of fungal species.

    By the way, I notice the scanned thin sections have shading. That can be evaded by using a diapostive scanner with backlighting instead of the standard scanner. We scan our thin sections standard, and I always have a print-out of the scan next to the microscope when studying thin sections. So much easier to keep track where you are in the sample!

    Kind regards,

    Hans Huisman


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