Farming and hillforts: diversity and distinction of early food crops in the eastern Baltic

Duration of the project

01.06.2021. - 15.11.2021.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

University of Latvia
University of Tallinn
University of Rostock

Project manager

PhD Candidate Vanda Visocka

Project aims

The general change from the hunter-fisher-gatherer model to farming was a relatively late development in the eastern Baltic, not before the Bronze Age (1800–500 BC). The earliest macro remains (e.g., charred seeds) we know of so far come from hillforts emerging at ca. 900-800 BC. Those food crops, and interesting seed imprints on pottery fabric, come from two hillforts in Estonia and Latvia (Asva and Ķivutkalns), but have neither been thoroughly studied nor dated by means of radiocarbon dating (14C AMS).

With the expertise of archaeobotanists the project is about distinguishing and determining the food crops in terms of quantity, distribution and defining or extending the still roughly known spectrum of hordeum vulgare, triticum spelta, triticum aestivum, triticum sp. and avena sp.

In the course of seed determination among charred seeds (and pottery imprints) by attending experts, a few stratigraphically contested samples will be selected for AMS dating (incl. stable isotope analysis). The results, i.e., the dataset on seed types known from Late Bronze Age hillforts and the chronology of early farming and food crops, will be presented on conferences and public lectures, and published in a common research paper.

Main activities and venues

1. Context study of food crop finds in the hillforts by investigating the archaeological data, stratigraphy and excavation reports, also for sample selection for 14C AMS dating (see 3.)

2. Sampling and analysis of food crops.

2a) Sampling of macro remains and seed imprints from pottery fabric of the Asva and Ķivutkalns assemblages

2b) Pottery “autopsy” – analysis of pottery collections to collect samples with seed imprints. Creating positives with moulding clay and making Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) models and additional images with digital Keyence 3D-Microscope.

2c) Palaeobotanical study of the sampled food crops and identification of imprints from the pottery.

3. 14C AMS dating of selected samples of charred seeds from Asva and Ķivutkalns. Sample preparation and submitting to 14CHRONO Centre radiocarbon dating laboratory, Queen’s University Belfast.

4. Writing-up a research paper from the obtained results (all of the project partners; Riga, Tallinn, Rostock).

Direct and indirect target group

Direct: Researchers of this study and possible collaborators in similar future studies (min. 10 people).

Indirect: Archaeological and geological science community researching similar topics at the Universities from Latvia, Estonia and Germany (min. 50 people), and overall society interested in the topic of the project (min. 200 people).