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Microscopic transformations in arable land and shell midden habitation in coastal Northern Europe during the 4th and 3rd Millennium BC


The later fourth and third millennium BC in Northwest and Northeast Europe are a period characterised by important social changes, such as the migration of peoples, the emergence of new hierarchies, new ways of treating the dead, and intensifying exchange networks. At the same time this period often represents the final stage of a long-term economical process, the transition from a hunting, gathering and fishing economy to a primarily agricultural way of life. Several recent findings however show that this is not a one-way process, and especially in coastal regions a much more complex picture must be envisaged, even for this final stage of the Neolithic. Two kinds of archaeological phenomena, both often overlooked in scholarly debates, characterise this complexity: the (shell)midden and the arable field.
Within MicroTRASH, these two phenomena are studied from a microscopic and a biochemical perspective. The scientific methods of micromorphology and lipid biomarkers enable a detailed disentangling of midden accumulation, shellfish consumption and arable land management (including manuring and irrigation practices) during this period. Additional use of absolute dating techniques and statistical modelling generate an increased temporal framework. This allows for a better understanding of subsistence practices, their temporality and the interplay between agriculture and shellfish gathering. In doing so, MicroTRASH is providing a better picture of coastal communities and their particular ways of life in Northwest and Northeast Europe amidst of the large-scale social and cultural transformations.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Broerstraat 5
9712CP Groningen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 175 572,48