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The scale and significance of early animal husbandry in SW Europe: development of an interdisciplinary high-resolution approach to the investigation of livestock diets and herding practices.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GeoFodder (The scale and significance of early animal husbandry in SW Europe: development of aninterdisciplinary high-resolution approach to the investigation of livestock diets and herding practices.)

Reporting period: 2019-03-27 to 2021-03-26

In the history of early farming, the absolute scale and relative importance of livestock and crop husbandry, their degree of integration, and their landscape impact are largely obscure. To address this issue, GeoFodder will develop for the first time an interdisciplinary methodology that integrates geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical techniques for archaeological recognition of leafy browse and leafy fodder (currently not directly detectable) and for assessing the preservation of different plant resource types, with the ultimate aim of reconstructing early livestock diet and herding practices. To achieve these objectives, an innovative ethnoarchaeological and experimental programme will study present-day livestock penning deposits (for which herding practices, animal diets and depositional processes are known) to determine how dietary and other plant components are altered and partly preserved through ingestion, organic decay and (to sterilize pens) burning.
This will generate a suite of geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical proxies, for different plant types (taxa, anatomical parts, seasons) with different preservation histories (ingested, decayed, burnt), that will then be applied to analysis of prehistoric penning deposits in Iberian caves and rock-shelters. The resulting semi-quantitative data on livestock diet in particular contexts will underpin modelling of the qualitative and temporal dimensions of early livestock grazing/browsing and foddering at intra- and inter-site levels to enable assessment of the potential scale of herding and thus of the likely mobility of livestock and relative importance of crops and livestock in early farming. Geofodder will thus advance our understanding of early livestock husbandry in the SW Mediterranean, contribute to assessment of the long-term landscape impact and sustainability of herding, and establish methodological standards for investigating such questions in other regions and periods.
GeoFodder has been able to establish for the first time, an interdisciplinary methodology that integrates geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical data from archaeological, ethnoarchaeological and experimental sources. Microscopic sedimentary markers for direct evidence of fodder and sheep/goat diets have been defined.
The project has also succeed in unravelling the formation processes of prehistoric corralling areas in caves and rock-shelters studied by clarifying the agents of accumulation (human, animal, environmental) and alteration (organic decay, combustion) of organic and inorganic residues. This achievement has significantly improved our ability to assess the impact of formation processes on the preservation of plant remains and therefore, on our the ability detect them in the archaeological record.
Temporal dimensions of early livestock livestock diet and management and plant resource exploitation at intra-and inter-site levels have been characterized. Comprehensive semi-quantitative data sets provided by micromorphological analysis have allowed to determine variabilities in early livestock diet and management and plant resource exploitation between chronocultural periods (i.e. Early/Middle/Late Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age) at intra- and inter-site levels.
Scientific and technological achievements of GeoFodder have significantly improved our understanding of the strategies, scale and landscape impact of early livestock management in the Iberian Peninsula a key area for the investigation of early farming in SW Europe.
The project results are intended to be used by the wider research community since the methodology developed is suitable for a broad range of archaeological and natural sciences contexts beyond the scope of the project GeoFodder. The acquisition of a new set of transferable and complementary skills in an environment of academic and research excellence as Sheffield, has broaden the competence of the fellow and enhanced her innovation and interdisciplinary capacity. These interdisciplinary skills acquired together with increased networking and organizational responsabilities associated to the implementation of GeoFodder and activities conducted within the Career Development Plan related to managerial skills and leadership, personal effectiveness and communication, have been key to the fellow success in coordinating different strands of specialist scientific knowledge in the research units she is joining as collaborator after completing the fellowship.
Public exposure, crucial to connect with different audiences and give visibilityto research updates of the project has been achieved through the project website and engagement of the project in social media.
GeoFodder project: archaeological and ethnoarchaeological sites investigated.