Emanuela Cristiani's project 'Hidden Foods: Plant foods in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic societies of SE Europe and Italy' is a five-year project, that will start in March 2015 at the McDonald Institute following her success in securing an ERC Starting Grant. This is one of only seven grants awarded by the European Research Council, of which three are based in the United Kingdom.
The Hidden Foods project aims to further develop a suite of methodological and experimental approaches in order to obtain systematic and incontrovertible evidence about the importance of plant foods in European early prehistory; study causal links between plant foods processing and technological changes in artefact production; and assess the role of plant foods for prehistoric hunter-gatherers’ health status. The project will take a comparative, novel and integrated approach and investigate the importance of plant foods by studying three different categories of archaeological materials: ground stone tools, macro-botanical remains and human skeletal remains.
The main methodological approaches involve (a) use-wear analysis; (b) starch identification; (c) parenchyma tissue analysis in macro-botanical remains recovered from archaeological sites; and, (d) study of dental pathologies related to plant foods on ancient human remains. The project will examine direct and indirect evidence of plant foods for Palaeolithic (~40,000–11,600 calibrated [henceforth cal] before present [henceforth BP]) and Mesolithic (~11,600–7900 cal BP) societies of southeast Europe and Italy.