Accepted Paper:

Added value - Can phytolith analysis add to our understanding of prehistory in the south west?  


Hayley McParland

Paper short abstract:

The thorough programme of research carried out in the Somerset Levels region as part of the Somerset Levels project, provides the perfect background to the question: Can phytoliths really add to our understanding, in an area with so much palaeoenvironmental evidence?

Paper long abstract:

The Somerset Levels have been the subject of a thorough programme of research, providing both an archaeological and palaeoenvironmental background to the area. This background forms the basis of a theoretical paper drawing on previous studies, aiming to assess the potential use of phytolith analysis in the region and its contribution to our existing knowledge. The study encompasses not only the wetlands, but also the adjacent 'dry land' of the Mendip Hills, providing comparisons of preservation with the potential contribution of phytolith analysis for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and environmental archaeology - drawing on small scale studies undertaken to assess phytolith presence and production in both archaeological sediments and non-archaeological reference material.

The background of the environmental analysis takes the form of pollen, macrofossil and entomological data. This is compared with knowledge of phytolith production in order to assess the potential, if any, of using phytolith analysis as both a multi-proxy tool and an individual method in environmental archaeology in the south west. The paper, drawing on environmental data, begins to ask, can phytolith analysis add to our understanding of prehistory in the south west? Or are existing techniques likely to be representative enough of environment and archaeology?

Panel S02
Palaeoeconomy and palaeoecology of south west Britain