Wild Harvest: Plants in the Hominin and Pre-Agrarian Human Worlds [Paperback]

Karen Hardy (Editor); Lucy Kubiak-Martens (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781785701238 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Studying Scientific Archaeology | Volume: 2 | Year of Publication: 2016 | Language: English 368p, H240 x W170 (mm) black/white & colour images

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Wild Harvest


Plants are fundamental to life; they are used by all human groups and most animals. They provide raw materials, vitamins and essential nutrients and we could not survive without them. Yet access to plant use before the Neolithic can be challenging. In some places, plant remains rarely survive and reconstructing plant use in pre-agrarian contexts needs to be conducted using a range of different techniques. This lack of visible evidence has led to plants being undervalued, both in terms of their contribution to diet and as raw materials. This book outlines why the role of plants is required for a better understanding of hominin and pre-agrarian human life, and offers a variety of ways in which this can be achieved.

Wild Harvest is divided into three sections. In section 1 each chapter focuses on a specific feature of plant use by humans; this covers the role of carbohydrates, the need for and effects of processing methods, the role of plants in self-medication among apes, plants as raw materials and the extent of evidence for plant use prior to the development of agriculture in the Near East. Section 2 comprises seven chapters which cover different methods available to obtain information on plants, and the third section has five chapters, each covering a topic related to ethnography, ethnohistory or ethnoarchaeology, and how these can be used to improve our understanding of the role of plants in the pre-agrarian past.

Table of Contents


Part 1. Setting the scene
1. Food carbohydrates from plants, by Les Copeland
2. Why protein is not enough: the role of plants and plant processing in meeting human needs for dietary diversity, by Peter J. Butterworth, Peter R. Ellis and Michele Wollstonecroft
3. An ape’s perspective on the origin of medicinal plant use in humans, by Michael Huffman
4. Plants as raw materials, by Karen Hardy
5. Hunter-gatherer plant use in south west Asia: the path to agriculture. Amaia Arranz Juan Jose Ibanez and Lydia Zapata

Part 2. Plant foods, tools and people.
6. Scanning Electron Microscopy and starchy food in Mesolithic Europe: the importance of roots and tubers in Mesolithic diet, by Lucy Kubiak-Martens
7. Tools, use wear and experimentation: extracting plants from stone and bone, by Annelou van Gijn and Aimée Little
8. Buccal dental microwear as an indicator of diet in modern and ancient human populations, by Laura Mónica Martínez, Ferran Estebaranz and Alejandro Pérez-Pérez
9. What early human populations ate. The use of phytoliths for identifying plant remains in the archaeological record at Olduvai, by Rosa Maria Albert and Irene Esteban
10. Phytolith evidence of the use of plants as food by Late Natufians at Raqefet Cav, by Robert C Power, Arlene M Rosen and Dani Nadel
11. Evidence of plant foods obtained from the dental calculus of individuals from a Brazilian shell mound, by Célia Helena C. Boyadjian; Sabine Eggers and Rita Scheel-Ybert
12. Stable isotopes and mass spectrometry, by Karen Hardy and Stephen Buckley

Part 3. Providing a context: Ethnography, ethnohistory, ethnoarchaeology
13. Prehistoric fish traps and fishing structures from Zamostje 2, Russian European Plain: Archaeological and ethnographic contexts, by Ignacio Clemente Conte, Vladimir M. Lozovski, Ermengol Gassiot Ballbè, Andrey N. Mazurkevich and Olga V. Lozovskaya
14. Plants and archaeology in Australia, by Sally Brockwell, Janelle Stevenson and Annie Clarke
15. Plentiful scarcity: plant use among Fuegian hunter-gatherers, by Marian Berihuete Azorin, Raquel Piqué Huerta and Maria-Estela Mansur
16. Ethnobotany in evolutionary perspective: wild plants in diet composition and daily use among Hadza hunter-gatherers, by Alyssa N. Crittenden
17. Wild edible plant use among the people of Tomboronkoto, Kédougou region, Senegal, by Mathieu Guèye and Papa Ibra Samb

The development of Neolithic house societies in Orkney: Investigations in the Bay of Firth, Mainland, Orkney (1994–2014), edited by Colin Richards and Richard Jones

Reviews & Quotes

"I heartily recommend this publication to anybody interested in plants, their use in past and present non-agrarian societies, and he methodologies required to study them."
Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute
European Journal of Archaeology (28/07/2017)

"This unique collection is valuable for paleoanthropologists and their graduate students seeking new perspectives on paleo-ecology and the evolution of hominin diet. It clearly summarizes the current Bstate of the profession. As a text, the price is reasonable and worth the investment."
Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund
Economic Botany (02/05/2017)

"This book is a noteworthy attempt to bring archaeobotany into the archaeological discourse and is useful for the student, the non-specialised archaeologist and the general reader."
Inés López-Dóriga
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (23/01/2017)

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