How fascinating is a buried soil?

If you read my last post, you’ll recall how I got excited about the impressive waterlogged remains of pressed grapes, hinting at agricultural change in 8th century Byzantine Italy. This time I’m staying in the 8th century but shifting onto Spanish soil. Soil, in fact, is the star of this show, but don’t let that…

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The unexpected interest of wet grapeskins

Those pondering how to reinvigorate the economy in 21st-century Britain may have been perusing the report recently published by Michael Heseltine. But I haven’t. I’ve been pondering how to reinvigorate the economy in 8th-century Italy, by perusing the report recently published by Paul Arthur and his colleagues (Arthur et al. 2012). The promisingly-titled “Roads to…

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When is an agricultural strategy not an agricultural strategy?

The answer: when it’s a socio-cultural strategy. OK, bear with me. Cast your mind back to a previous post about Neolithic farming in Britain.  As you may recall, archaeobotanists Stevens & Fuller have recently argued that crop husbandry had something of an abortive start in Britain: fading out around the Middle Neolithic and only returning…

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Speed well the plough

Then cometh clerkys of Oxford and make their mone, For their school here they must have money, Then cometh the tipped-staves for the Marshalse, And saye they have prisoners mo than inough; Then cometh the mynstrellis to make us gle — ‘I praye to God, spede wele the plough.’ (from a medieval rhyme) In fact,…

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Britain goes nutty

A relative of mine has recently asked me how agriculture came about in the first place. It’s a fair enough question. We’re all so familiar with the concept of farming, that it’s hardly obvious how our distant ancestors moved from hunting and gathering to tilling the hateful earth. Indeed, I don’t (yet) have an answer…

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Who are you calling lazy?

One of the quirkier perks of studying agricultural history (and archaeology) is discovering unusual terms and phrases which, I’m sure, I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. So it is with “lazy beds.” I can’t even remember where I first read or heard the term, but it’s lodged itself firmly in my memory. It sounds vaguely like…

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Staddle up

Last week’s post was vaguely theoretical, and theoretically vague. This week, by contrast, I have decided to think about something altogether more solid and down-to-earth: staddlestones. The word may be familiar as a name for a place or building; I know it as the name of both a Grade II listed building in Oxfordshire and…

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Beating the bounds

The general topic of this blog is agricultural archaeology. But what exactly is agricultural archaeology? What should I be writing about? What sorts of finds, models or interpretations are relevant to this subject? It seems a straightforward question. However, the more I’ve ruminated, the more I’ve come to anticipate a rather complex answer. Meanwhile, I’ve…

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