Current Research Postgraduates
Miss Rosie Bishop
(email at email@example.com)
Plant gatherers, plant managers or agriculturalists?: The Importance of wild and domestic plants in Mesolithic and Neolithic Scotland
The transition from gathering wild plants to cultivating domestic species was the single most momentous change in human history, laying the foundation for all subsequent agro-economic systems. However, it has been claimed that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers may have actively managed 'wild' plants like domestic crops and that not all Neolithic farmers carried out large-scale cultivation. The 'transition' may therefore have been a continuum and its nature remains a matter of considerable contention. Northern Britain is a key region for resolving this debate, as it was the last area of Europe to which agriculture spread, and presented an extremely diverse and challenging environment for human settlement. Both indigenous hunter-gatherer practices and incoming agricultural systems would therefore have been highly sophisticated.
This research examines the scale, nature and significance of Mesolithic and Neolithic plant use in Scotland using 3 main approaches:
1. A review of Mesolithic and Neolithic archaeobotanical remains from Scotland.
2. A detailed case-study of human-plant interaction in the Northern and the Western Isles of Scotland. The archaeobotanical data from the Neolithic settlement at the Braes of Ha'breck, Wyre, Orkney (http://www.orkney.uhi.ac.uk/courses/archaeology/staff/excavations-at-the-braes-of-ha2019breck-wyre) and the Mesolithic midden at Northton, Harris, will be placed in their regional contexts using a review of archaeobotanical data, offsite palynological evidence for woodland exploitation and the archaeological evidence for agricultural practices (fieldsystems, ard marks, middening).
3. Experimental archaeology. Experimental return rates will be used to compare the relative importance of edible wild roots, nuts and cereals in the Mesolithic/Neolithic. The effect of middening on Neolithic cereals will be assessed through the comparative archaeobotanical and isotopic analysis of cereals grown on amended soils and replica midden heaps.
Journal papers: academic
- Edwards, B., Miket, R. & Bishop, R (2011). The excavation of Duddo Stone Circle, Northumberland. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 77: 321–353.
- Bishop, R. R., , Church, M. J. & Rowley-Conwy, P. A (2010). Northton, Harris. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland (NS) 11: 178.
- Bishop, R. R., , Church, M. J. & Rowley-Conwy, P. A. (2009). Cereals, fruits and nuts in the Scottish Neolithic. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 139: 47-103.
- Bioarchaeology Research Group