Research questions

SEArch’ing for…

…Shell midden formation

How were shell middens accumulated? What was the nature of the occupations that generated them? How permanent were those occupations? To answer these questions, it is essential to collect depositional and post-depositional highly-resolved data to isolate different events of shelly deposits accretion. This is a major challenge of shell middes faced by archaeologists that can be achieved at the microstratigraphic scale, using micromorphological techiques, which are the basis of the project.

…Plant aquatic resources

What and how aquatic plants were exploited by the last-hunter gatherers and first farmers? Fish and shellfish resources are commonly associated with Mesolithic and Neolithic populations in Atlantic Europe. But our knowledge of how these coastal-adapted populations used further aquatic resources, such as seaweeds and reeds, is very limited. SEArch will combine microparticle and biomarkers analysis on the sedimentary organic matter to assess the exploitation of these resources.

…Fish and shellfish harvesting, processing and cooking

Dynamics of harvesting shellfish and fishing relate with settlement strategies behind the establishment of several shell midden clusters in Atlantic Iberia. The microparticle and biomolecular analysis will reveal in detail the types of harvested intertidal ecosystems. The foraging locations and the processing techniques (boiling, roasting…), and their inter- and intra-site differences are directly related to the function of the sites, the cultural value of shellfish and their role in feasting behaviour or mainly subsistence through the Neolithization.

…Human palaeoecological reconstruction

How Mesolithic and Neolithic populations adapted to changing coastal environments of Early and Mid-Holocene in Western Europe? The emergence of shell middens is a global phenomenon tracking sea-level changes and associated human exploitation of intertidal environments. Microscopic harvesting by-products are optimal proxies for local palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of the coast and its evolution spanning the variance from Mediterranean to Oceanic climate conditions of Atlantic Iberia, within the SEArch project geoagraphical framework.

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