I am delighted to be in Maastricht, where I am participating in the 2017 EAA conference. The EAA (European Association of Archaeologists) is the Association for all professional archaeologists of Europe and beyond. There are thousands of archaeologists in Maastricht for the conference, and I am looking forward to the start of lectures tomorrow.
I am delivering one lecture and co-authoring another. The paper that I will deliver is entitled "Fibre plants in prehistoric Ireland: insights from archaeobotany and other sources". The paper will provide a review of fibre plants from prehistoric Ireland, based primarily upon archaeobotanical evidence. The potential use of fibres from wild plants during the Mesolithic period (8000-4000 BC) will be explored. Cultivated plants arrived into Ireland at the beginning of the Neolithic period (4000-2500 BC), including flax, but there is also extensive evidence for continued use of wild plants in various activities, possibly including fibre production. It is during the Bronze Age (2500 - 700 BC) and Iron Age (700 BC-AD 400) in Ireland that we start to find actual textile fragments, as well as further archaeobotanical evidence for plants possibly used in fibres. The paper will focus on archaeobotanical evidence for fibre production in prehistoric Ireland, but will also explore archaeological evidence for tools utilised during the various stages of fibre and textile production, as well as related archaeological features. The paper will also draw upon documentary and folkloric evidence from the historic period to provide an integrated approach to understanding the role of plants as resource fibres.
The co-authored paper is entitled "Exploring the 'somewhere' and 'someone' else: an integrated approach to Ireland's earliest farming practice". The paper will be delivered by my colleague at UCD School of Archaeology, Dr Jessica Smyth, and our colleague Associate Professor Graeme Warren is another co-author. We have had fun putting the paper together, bringing our individual perspectives on the nature of early farming in Ireland, and learning from each other. As an island on the westernmost edge of Europe, with few native wild predecessors of the main domesticated animal and crop species, the idea that farming arrived in Ireland from somewhere and someone else has rarely been contested. Only recently have archaeologists begun to amass significant amounts of data on the specifics of the earliest crop and animal husbandry on the island. This has resulted in narratives that sometimes complement, and sometimes conflict with, existing models on the arrival of farming drawn from observations of the material culture record. In this paper, we review multiple strands of evidence for what the earliest farming in Ireland looked like, combining results from the organic residue analysis of pottery, programmes of radiocarbon dating, and analysis of plant macro-remains, lithics and settlement remains. Together, these data provide greatly increased resolution on where these somewheres, and who these someones, may have been.
The EAA conference will also be a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues from around the world and hear the results of lots of good research! I'm looking forward to it.