Waterlogged Plant Remains by Ellen Simmons

Sampling and recovery

Two soil samples from the excavation of grave [108] at the Upper Chapel were sub-sampled and processed by wet-sieving (whereby soil is gently washed through a stack of sieves) for the recovery of waterlogged plant remains. Material was collected in sieves of 2mm, 1mm, 500µm and 300µm mesh and stored in ethanol in airtight glass jars.

A preliminary assessment of the material was carried out by scanning all size fractions under a low-power microscope (x7-x45), and recording the abundance of the main classes of plant material present. The abundance of other types of material preserved by waterlogging, such as Coleopteran remains, were also recorded, where present. Preliminary identification of plant material was carried out by comparison with material in the reference collections at the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield and various reference works (Berggren, 1981; Cappers et al, 2006). Nomenclature follows Stace (1997). These data are recorded in Table 18.

Plant types represented

Neither sample was found to contain a significant abundance of waterlogged plant remains. Sample 1 from the grave fill (115) did, however, contain large numbers of wood chips, some of which were larger than 8mm. The majority of the sample labelled SK2 residue, which was from the fill of a coffin was made up of hairs/fibres. Small numbers of wild plant seeds and herbaceous plant roots/stems were present in sample 1 from grave fill (115) included goosefoot (Chenopodium sp.), knotgrass (Polygonum arenastrum/aviculare) and dock (Rumex sp.). These plant species are all associated with disturbed or rough ground and are often found as weeds of cultivation (Stace 1997).


Preservation of plant remains was by waterlogging. No significant abundance of plant material, other than the wood chips in sample 1 (115), was found to be present. Large numbers of hairs or fibres were present in the SK2 residue from the coffin fill, along with a small number of seeds from plant species associated with disturbed or rough ground.


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