I have just got back from two weeks in Senegal, collecting pearl millet grains from farms in the regions of Thiès, Diourbel and Kaffrine. The lush green trees and two-metre high millet stalks were a huge contrast to the dusty brown soil that I saw at the end of the dry season last year. It … More Fieldtrip to Senegal: October 2017
Two months in and I’ve been busy with both strands of the project: planning fieldwork to collect modern millet grains in Senegal that will take place very soon in October and selecting archaeological millet and animal bones from the sites in Burkina Faso. Veerle Linseele, KU Leuven, visited a couple of weeks ago to help … More My first few months in Frankfurt
I didn’t think I would ever turn into the person who took their work away with them—especially not to the furthermost reaches of Nepal. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re an archaeologist who’s interested in farming and landscape. My latest trip was to Nepal. Making the most of a month off before the … More Another holiday, another opportunity
Since my new research project is focused on using crop isotope values to discover how ancient farming practices changed in West Africa, I have just spent two weeks in Senegal. This is where I will return next year to collect pearl millet grains and see what effects farming practices—manuring, composting, terracing etc.—have on their isotope … More Research recce to Senegal
An archaeobotany conference in Paris is a nice place to find out that you’ve been awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship! I’ll be starting at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, in July 2017 after doing a four-month intensive German language course. The wine tasting tonight is very good timing.
In a bid to extend the focus of this blog beyond charred grains and farming, I have decided to use my various trips and holidays as inspiration for finding other research topics in archaeological chemistry. My recent holiday in Lebanon was a real eye-opener. On my first foray to the Middle East, the friendliness of … More On holiday in Lebanon
Although charring doesn’t completely destroy cereal grains and other plant parts, it does cause some changes. Lots of experimental work has shown that heating modern cereal grains to no more than 230˚C for more than 8 hours produces grains that look like their archaeological counterparts. Any hotter than this and they start to “popcorn”, bursting … More The burning question
Our keyholes for looking into the past are the cereal grains that people were growing and eating. It is astounding that these little pockets of information survive at all, let alone in quantities large enough for us to gain a picture of ancient agriculture. So how can these cereal grains remain intact in the ground … More How do they survive?
One of the wonderful things about archaeology (and academia in general) is the chance to travel… and to the most unexpected places! While focussing on early agriculture in southwest Germany and the Near East, the last place I expected to find myself was Morocco, but a chance meeting with Professor Mohammed Ater at the University … More On the road in Morocco
The reason why isotopes are useful when we’re trying to find out whether crops were manured or not in the past is that nitrogen, or more precisely the lighter isotope of nitrogen 14N, from manure volatilises very easily (that is the smell you get when you pass a cow’s field). Manured soil therefore contains relatively … More The manuring question