"The SCHERD project is centred on the systematic analysis of lipid residues from pottery from key Irish sites through the Neolithic. In providing the first conclusive evidence for the contents of these vessels, as well as absolute dates for vessels from key assemblages in the Irish pottery sequence, this all-island project aims to obtain a clearer picture of the nature of agriculture and the timing of its introduction and development across Ireland, and to place this in its wider European perspective.
In many parts of Europe the appearance of pottery is linked to the introduction of agriculture and in Ireland the presence of pottery is widely used as a dating proxy for the Neolithic and vice versa. However, we have little idea of some of the most basic information on how these vessels fitted into everyday life. What did they contain? What were different shapes and sizes of vessels used for? Did shifts in style represent real or significant turning points in the Neolithic? Archaeological lipid analysis is answering many of these questions, and fundamentally altering our understanding of prehistoric farming - and prehistoric societies - across Europe. The presence of animal fats, distinguishable as dairy or adipose fats and traceable in some cases to species, may be used as proxies for animal exploitation. Applying these analyses across geographic areas and through the Neolithic, aided by targeted radiocarbon dating, we can obtain ‘snapshots’ of how diet and economy and even belief systems changed over time and between different societies.
Based at the Organic Geochemistry Unit at the University of Bristol, a European centre of excellence in this scientific research area, the SCHERD project will provide the applicant with valuable new skills in this field of archaeological science. The questions posed in this project, as well as the methodologies employed, will contribute to cutting-edge European research."
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