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Man and the environment: Plants in use by prehistoric communities

Project information


Project title:Man and the environment: Plants in use by prehistoric communities.

Project lead:Dr hab. Maria Lityńska-Zając, Professor at IAE PAN

Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology (IAE PAN), Bio- and Archeometry Laboratory
Project financing: statutory



Project implementation


Institutions involved:

Name of institution: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences (IAE PAN).

Researchers involved:

Dr hab. Maria Lityńska-Zając, Professor at IAE PAN





Project description:

It is an obvious truth that since times immemorial man has made use of wild plants – for an array of purposes, including consumption, technical uses, medicine, arts, decoration and magic. This diverse range of uses reflects the wide range of plant properties. One way of finding out plants’ importance for the prehistoric economy is to interpret macroscopic remains preserved on archaeological sites.

Drawing on data from specialist literature and the Team’s own research, the project will analyse plants preserved at prehistoric archaeological sites in Poland, with the aim of identifying species that potentially were used by man. The chief criterion in assessing the species’ economic usefulness is knowledge about their contemporary uses. Ethnographic insights and knowledge obtained from iconographic and written sources will also be of importance. The analysis will take into account the character of archaeological finds and how plants are deposited in features and layers (e.g. species appearing in fills and food-storage pits may indicate that food was stored for consumption purposes, while species found in burial grounds may suggest that food was used in funeral rites).

Planned results:

The project will be crowned with a monograph on the importance of plants in the economy of prehistoric communities.




Lityńska-Zając M. 2012. Nettle in Polish archaeological sites. Acta Palaeobotanica 52(1): 11-16.