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

Abstract

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
Alex D. Brown,,
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, Monika Badura KER
Monika Badura,,
- Department of Plant Ecolog
, Gary King
Gary King,,
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, Krzysztof Gos KTRiOP
Krzysztof Gos,,
- Department of Plant Taxonomy and Nature Conservation
, Aija Cerina
Aija Cerina,,
-
, Laimdota Kalnina
Laimdota Kalnina,,
-
, Aleks Pluskowski
Aleks Pluskowski,,
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Journal seriesJournal of Archaeological Science. Reports, ISSN 2352-409X
Issue year2017
Vol11
Pages674-682
Publication size in sheets1.2
Keywords in Englishmedieval Riga, cesspits, taphonomy, diet, social status
DOIDOI:10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.01.016
URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.01.016
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)5
ScoreMinisterial score = 0.0, 07-03-2018, ArticleFromJournal
Ministerial score (2013-2016) = 5.0, 07-03-2018, ArticleFromJournal - czasopismo zagraniczne spoza list
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