Plant macrofossil, pollen and invertebrate analysis of a mid-14th century cesspit from medieval Riga, Latvia (the eastern Baltic): taphonomy and indicators of human diet

Alex D. Brown , Monika Badura , Gary King , Krzysztof Gos , Aija Cerina , Laimdota Kalnina , Aleks Pluskowski


The paper presents the results of an integrated environmental analysis on the fill of an exceptionally well-preserved mid-14th century cesspit from the historic centre of Riga (Latvia, eastern Baltic). Palynological, plant macrofossils and invertebrate analysis yielded important new information about the use of plants by the indigenous community living within the medieval city, including their socio-economic status. The taphonomy of the botanical and invertebrate data is considered to largely reflect the input of undigested food waste and human faecal material with a subordinate component derived through the input of cereal waste-products. The results show that the diet of the indigenous community was based largely on cereal products, most probably bread and porridge, supplemented by a limited range of locally cultivated and/or collected vegetables and spices. Documentary sources emphasise that bee-keeping was an important element of the local economy of Riga. Elevated levels of lime pollen in the cesspit samples are taken as possible evidence for the consumption of honey, most likely of a local origin. This study also serves to demonstrate the significant quantity of information that can be gleaned from a relatively small volume of material.
Author Alex D. Brown - [University of Reading]
Alex D. Brown,,
, Monika Badura (FB / DPE)
Monika Badura,,
- Department of Plant Ecolog
, Gary King - [University of Durham]
Gary King,,
, Krzysztof Gos (FB / DPTNC)
Krzysztof Gos,,
- Department of Plant Taxonomy and Nature Conservation
, Aija Cerina - [University of Latvia]
Aija Cerina,,
, Laimdota Kalnina - [University of Latvia]
Laimdota Kalnina,,
, Aleks Pluskowski - [University of Reading]
Aleks Pluskowski,,
Journal seriesJournal of Archaeological Science. Reports, ISSN 2352-409X, (0 pkt, indicated Indexes)
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets1.2
Keywords in Englishmedieval Riga, cesspits, taphonomy, diet, social status
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)15
Score sourcejournalIndex
ScoreMinisterial score = 15.0, 20-03-2020, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators WoS Citations = 2; Scopus Citations = 4
Citation count*5 (2020-03-11)
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* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
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