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Reconstruction of earlymedieval economy on the basis of fitocenoses’ development and plant biodiversity – Radom case study

Project information


Project title: Reconstruction of earlymedieval economy on the basis of fitocenoses' development and plant biodiversity - Radom case study

Project No: 2014/13/N/HS3/04592

Project lead: mgr Grzegorz Skrzyński

Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016


e-mail: grzegorz.skrzynski@gmail.com
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86

Project implementation:

mgr Grzegorz Skrzyński - Project lead
dr hab. Maria Teresa Lityńska-Zając - Scientific advisior





1. Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis


The main aim of the research is the reconstruction of the economic activity of an early human societies. The research will be carried out on the basis of changes of floras' biodiversity in Mleczna valley near the "Piotrówka" stronghold in Radom. Analysis of the subfossil plant macroremains gained by sampling fen beds and from archaeological sites will form the basis for the verification of supposition about the positive effects of the settlement on the biocoenotic diversity of Polish lowland river valleys. To recognize the changes in biodiversity of flora it will be required to identify the vegetation in the time before and after the Slavic expansion. It allows to determine how these lands was transformed by the process of colonization. The results will be compiled as a floristic lists which contain the phytosociological of and the ecological analyses. Results of analyses allow to observe the change of plant communities' structure and their biodiversity in the early Middle Ages. In addition, the residual of synanthropic plants will be radiocarbon dated, so they will be used to indirect dating of settlement activity, which is identical to the appearance of synanthropic plants. The results of the research will also be used in the reconstruction of early medieval economy. The studies will be an important step to recognition the biological processes and they become an important point of reference in an archaeological research.


2. Research project methodology


The analysis of macroscopic plant remains obtained during water sieving of organic matter from fens and flotation of chared macroremains from the archaeological objects will be the main method used in the project. Taxonomy of gained plant residues will be determined by the morphological-comparative method. At this stage of research, using the herbarium collections is strictly necessary. Also, a syntaxonomic classification of plants will be made. On the basis of the taxonomic lists there will be identified relation of the particular plant species to the environmental conditions of their growth. In order to standardize the results and capture any correlation between samples statistical analysis will be developed. As a complement to botanical analysis there will be applied the radiocarbon (14C) dating of organic residues. In addition, if it will be possible, the indirect archaeological dating will be done. There will be made a palynological analysis which will verify and enrich, based on an analysis of plant macroremains, taxonomic and syntaxonomic identifications. Pollen analyses will allow identifying potential inconsistencies between the macro and micro remnants of the former flora occurring in the Mleczna valley. Thanks to that kind of analyses the spectrum of research will be expanded and local vegetation shall be known.


3. Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society


Analyses of changes in biodiversity in archaeobotany and paleoecology based on macroremains are unique. It will provide a lot of new data for several fields of botany and plant ecology. It will be also an invaluable source of information for archaeologists studying the economy of early medieval Slavic population. Results of the research significantly contribute to the knowledge of mechanisms of flora anthropogenization in the early Middle Ages. Planned analysis will provide comparative data for phytosociologists interested in transformations of plant communities and their correlation with extensive agricultural economy. The results of this work also will bring significant information for cognition of dangered by extinction segetal weed species and plant communities which they form. In addition, the study will contribute to the very rich and floristically diverse heterogenic communities located on the borders of main phytocoenoses (such as riparian forest - farmland or pasture). However the main aspect of planned analyses will be the most valuable for archaeologists. Apart from the basic information about cultivated plant species they will provide knowledge of advance of agricultural works (sowing, crop rotation, resting, harvest and processing of it). Taxonomic classification of wood remains makes it possible to specify preferences of different kinds of wood used by early medieval settlers (building material, fuel, etc.). The speed and area of vegetation changes will indirectly infer about the size of the original human diaspora which settled in the Mleczna valley in the early Middle Ages and appearance of the first remains of synanthropic plants will give the possibility to determine the approximate date of the colonization of the study area (thanks to radiocarbon dating). Discovered on archaeological sites plant remains, according to the archaeological context, will also allow the inference about other areas of life of ancient society (magic, beliefs, herbal medicine, diet and other). In addition, the results of this research will be applied during investment which aim is to create an archaeological park in Radom city. Results of analyses of macroscopic plant remains have wide use in reconstructing ancient settlements and strongholds and their economy. They will also be the basis for the restoration of environmental conditions, which operated in the former community.