image/svg+xml87 VII/1/2016 INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICA NATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGY homepage: http://www.iansa.eu Unrecognized Taphonomy as a Problem of Identifcation and the Scale of Contamination of Archaeobotanical Assemblages – the Example of Prague – Zličín Migration Period Burial Ground Tereza Šálková a,b,f* , Alena Dohnalová c , Jan Novák b , Tomáš Hiltscher d , Jaroslav Jiřík d,e , Jiří Vávra f a University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Philosophy, Institute of Archaeology, Branišovská 31a, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic b University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Science, Na Zlaté stoce 3, Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Palaeoecology, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic c Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, Department of Geological Sciences, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic d Prácheň Museum in Písek, Velké náměstí 114, 397 24 Písek, Czech Republic e Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts, Institute of Prehistory and Early History, Celetná 20, 116 36 Praha 1, Czech Republic f Labrys, o. p. s., Hloubětínská 16/11, 198 00, Praha 9 – Hloubětín, Czech Republic 1. Introduction The role of plants in the burial rites of diferent societies can be studied through analyses of their remains recovered from grave deposits (Hansson, Bergström 2002). However, the problems of intrusion and residuality in archaeobotany are most acute in periods in which plant assemblages are generally less abundant than in others (Pelling et al. 2015). For example, a low density of carbonized and mineralized macroremains (with contaminants) has been demonstrated in open settlement sites with a long history of human occupation, cultivation, grazing, and bioturbation. The spectra of macroremains found there are often, at least partially, “mixed” or contaminated due to depositional and post-depositional processes (Borojevic 2011).By studying an assemblage of plant remains from partially wet sediments in the Migration Period graves at Prague Zličín (Jiřík et al . 2015), we have shown that the same can also be true for burial sites situated in an area with a history of long-term occupation. The archaeobotany of Migration Period burial grounds in central Europe is very rare ( e.g. Hopf 1979; Theune-Großkopf 2010), and our research at the large burial ground in Prague Zličín is therefore unique. Rigorous sampling of excavated sediments has been applied (Figure 1), and three types of archaeobotanical materials studied: plant diaspores, charred and uncharred wood, and pollen with non-pollen polymorphs. The aim of this research is to: determine the relationship between various types of plant remains, and their positions in graves ( e.g. cofn, looting shaft, various layers of the infll); reconstruct the process of plant intrusion and residuality at the site; Volume VII ● Issue 1/2016 ● Pages 87–110 *Corresponding author. E-mail: terezasalkova@seznam.cz ARTICLE INFO Article history: Received: 7 th December 2015Accepted: 28 th November 2016 Key words: archaeobotanycontaminationplant macroremains wood charcoalpollengraves Migration Period ABSTRACT This research aimed to compare diferent sources of botanical material obtained from the infll of Migration Period graves (Vinařice group, 5 th century and the turn of 5 th and 6 th century AD) in Prague Zličín during 2005–2008. From a total number of 173 excavated graves with 176 burials, 74 were sampled for archaeobotanical analyses, and these are the subject of this contribution. All of the researched graves were robbed shortly after the time of burial. The archaeobotanical approach was applied through three methods: macroremains analysis; anthracology – xylotomy; and pollen analysis. The samples had low densities of plant macroremains, and contained many residuals and contaminants which had penetrated the graves’ infll. Only a fragment of the pollen samples was positive. Knowledge about the penetration of intact features by earlier and later plant remains was of major importance in the development of the methodology used for this research in the graves.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2016 ● VII/1 ● 87–110Tereza Šálková, Alena Dohnalová, Jan Novák, Tomáš Hiltscher, Jaroslav Jiřík, Jiří Vávra: Unrecognized Taphonomy as a Problem of Identifcation and the Scale of Contamination of Archaeobotanical Assemblages – the Example of Prague – Zličín Migration Period Burial Ground 88 reconstruct the burial rite, with a focus on the role of plants; reconstruct the vegetation of the area during the “life” of the burial ground. 2. Background information about the site Rescue excavations in Prague Zličín (2005–2008) uncovered a multi-period site with a number of settlement features from farming pre- and protohistory, and 176 burials in 173 graves – dated to the 5 th century AD and the turn of the 5 th and 6 th century – belonging to the Migration Period Vinařice group (Vávra et al. 2012, 3, Figure 2). The burial ground represents the largest inhumation cemetery from the early phase of the Migration Period excavated in Bohemia up to now (Svoboda 1965, especially list of grave yards at pp. 237–295), and it is also one of the largest cemeteries in central Europe (Figure 1). The assemblage of the grave goods from the Prague Zličín graves refects a material culture from the greater part of the 5 th century, a dating which is also supported by radiocarbon dates on human skeletal material. The wide spectrum of the fnds demonstrates extensive contacts with various parts of the Barbaricum, as well as the (former) Roman provinces ( i.e. “barbarian kingdoms” on Roman territory). Within the relative chronology, the dating of the site can be attributed to the phases D2–D3/E1 sensu J. Tejral (Vávra et al . 2012, 1–3). Accordingly, it was hoped that the site would ofer a unique set of information about burial processes and the life of the inhabitants of the Bohemian Basin during the Migration Period.Settlement features from other than the Migration Period, located among the graves (Vávra et al. 2012, Figure 2), can be attributed to the Bronze Age and/or to a wide category of “farming prehistory”. The artefacts recovered from all depths of the features of the Migration Period graves date the occupation of the site more closely. They point to the use of the area during the Neolithic, Late Neolithic, Late Bronze Age and La Tène Period (Vávra, Kuchařík 2015, 123). Occupation of the area from the Late Iron Age to the Early Figure 1. Prague Zličín; plan of the excavation. Blue – graves with foated samples, green – graves with pollen analysis, yellow – graves with both foated samples and pollen analysis. 0 100 m
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2016 ● VII/1 ● 87–110Tereza Šálková, Alena Dohnalová, Jan Novák, Tomáš Hiltscher, Jaroslav Jiřík, Jiří Vávra: Unrecognized Taphonomy as a Problem of Identifcation and the Scale of Contamination of Archaeobotanical Assemblages – the Example of Prague – Zličín Migration Period Burial Ground 89 Roman Period could be attested by a fragment of animal bone from grave no. 142 dated by AMS (see results). It is very important to stress that almost all of the graves in Prague Zličín had been reopened and robbed in ancient times, as is often the case (Vávra, Kuchařík 2015, 130–147). There is factual uncertainty about the flling mechanism used for the looting shafts. This probably difered in each case. Assumptions as to the flling of the shafts can only be made in connection with the physical evidence at the site. This is due to the fact that the depths of the graves are variable (see above), and if left open (which seems more probable-given the humous character of the infll, which is clearly diferent in comparison to the backfll of the grave itself-than the possibility that the looters found the time to refll the open grave) then the time necessary for the shaft to be flled would difer according to the individual extent of the secondary intervention, and also perhaps the slope of the terrain. Without radiocarbon dating of specially-selected plant macroremains, which would indicate contamination by earlier residua as well as later intrusions, interpretation of the assemblage of plant remains is virtually impossible. Regardless of these circumstances, the material from Prague Zličín represents an important body of data on the plant use and vegetation in diferent time periods, as well as information about cofn manufacture, possible looting equipment directly connected to the robbing of these graves, and the dating of these events (see Vávra et al. 2012, 3, 10–13, Table 1).The graves, varying in depth (0.12–2.6 m), disposition and presence of grave goods, provided variable chemical conditions for the preservation of their organic material. The analyses of the archaeological fnds from the graves revealed a wide range of organic, usually perishable, fnds in several dozens of cases. Apart from the bones of the deceased, they included bone or antler artefacts ( e.g. grave no. 54, 113), hair/fur/scalp (grave no. 11), leather ( e.g. graves no. 132, 152), textile or its imprint ( e.g. grave no. 143 and 172), fragments of wooden handles of knives, and an arrow shaft. All of these fnds were preserved due to the increased humidity of the sediment (wet, but not waterlogged), or by metal corrosion products ( e.g. oxides and sulphides of copper), if connected to the metal fnds. The frst group, preserved due