Session: #272

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Crop Husbandry Across the Iron Age and Roman Periods: Bringing Together the Picture of Human-crop Interaction across Europe
Whilst European wide-narratives of changes in animal husbandry are available for the later prehistoric and Roman periods, with a shift towards cattle husbandry and an increase in animal size widely observed, the picture for crop husbandry remains fragmented. The study of crop choice and farming practice are crucial for examining how societies interacted with their landscape, and how these practices were shaped by changing climatic, and socio-cultural factors, namely the expansion of Phoenician and Greek influence, and later, of the Roman empire and the subsequent establishment of villa agriculture systems.

In terms of crop choice and cultivation practice, the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods have long received the bulk of attention in archaeobotanical analysis. However, after decades of archaeobotanical analysis in some regions of Europe (France, Germany, UK), and the more recent introduction of systematic sampling and analysis in other areas (Croatia, Bulgaria), large quantities of data are available in order to establish the major changes in crop husbandry across the first millennia BC and AD.

Recent large-scale research projects in the UK (Roman Rural Settlement Project), north-eastern Gaul (RurLand), and Iberia have begun to draw undertake syntheses of crop data, providing regional narratives including shifts in some regions from an Iron Age focus on hulled wheats towards the Roman cultivation of free-threshing wheat, while in the Western Mediterranean, free-threshing wheat and hulled barley are already the most common cereal species from the beginning of Iron Age.

This session aims to bring together researchers working across Europe to present regional syntheses in order to establish where and when the key shifts in crop choice took place, and to begin to evaluate the reasons why these changes happened – was the development of market-orientated crop production, shifts in culinary tastes, or local environmental factors more important for crop choice decisions.
Iron Age, Roman, Archaeobotany, Agriculture
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Main organiser:
Lisa Lodwick (United Kingdom) 1
Natàlia Alonso (Spain) 2
Veronique Zech-Matterne (France) 3
Patricia Vandorpe (Switzerland) 4
Silvia Valenzuela Lamas (Spain) 5
1. University of Oxford
2. Universitat de Lleida
4. Universität Basel
5. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas