Monday, 31 October 2016

Conference on Neolithic foods and farming, London

I am currently preparing a conference paper that I will present at a meeting in London next month. The conference is entitled Food and Farming Systems and is being organised by Jessica Smyth and Roz Gillis for the Neolithic Studies Group. The conference will take place at the British Museum on 28th November.

I am writing my paper with long-time collaborators from the Cultivating societies project: Amy Bogaard and Rick Schulting from University of Oxford, Sue Colledge from University College London, Nicki Whitehouse and Phil Barratt from University of Plymouth, and Rowan McLaughlin from Queen's University Belfast.

Our paper is entitled "Our daily bread? Plant foods in Neolithic Ireland". The Neolithic period in Ireland witnessed enormous changes in the types of foods being produced and the work involved in their production. Several new crops were introduced. Archaeobotanical studies indicate that emmer wheat became the dominant crop, with evidence also for barley (hulled and naked) and flax. Gathered resources were not abandoned when farming arrived into Ireland. On the contrary, there is substantial archaeobotanical evidence for a variety of nuts, fruits and greens.

Recent studies have shed much light on the timing and nature of these new ways of farming and living (McClatchie et al. 2014; Whitehouse et al. 2014; McClatchie et al. 2016), but the focus is often on ingredients rather than finished food products. Can we determine what foods were being made with these new crops? How can we assess the dietary and social importance of cereals? This paper will explore current archaeological evidence for plant foods in Neolithic Ireland and highlight potential avenues for future research.

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