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Archaeological palaeoenvironmental archives: challenges and potential

Flintoft, P. (2023) Archaeological palaeoenvironmental archives: challenges and potential. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113094


This Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) sponsored collaborative doctoral project represents one of the most significant efforts to collate quantitative and qualitative data that can elucidate practices related to archaeological palaeoenvironmental archiving in England. The research has revealed that archived palaeoenvironmental remains are valuable resources for archaeological research and can clarify subjects that include the adoption and importation of exotic species, plant and insect invasion, human health and diet, and plant and animal husbandry practices. In addition to scientific research, archived palaeoenvironmental remains can provide evidence-based narratives of human resilience and climate change and offer evidence of the scientific process, making them ideal resources for public science engagement. These areas of potential have been realised at an imperative time; given that waterlogged palaeoenvironmental remains at significant sites such as Star Carr, Must Farm, and Flag Fen, archaeological deposits in towns and cities are at risk of decay due to climate change-related factors, and unsustainable agricultural practices. Innovative approaches to collecting and archiving palaeoenvironmental remains and maintaining existing archives will permit the creation of an accessible and thorough national resource that can service archaeologists and researchers in the related fields of biology and natural history. Furthermore, a concerted effort to recognise absences in archaeological archives, matched by an effort to supply these deficiencies, can produce a resource that can contribute to an enduring geographical and temporal record of England's biodiversity, which can be used in perpetuity in the face of diminishing archaeological and contemporary natural resources. To realise these opportunities, particular challenges must be overcome. The most prominent of these include inconsistent collection policies resulting from pressures associated with shortages in storage capacity and declining specialist knowledge in museums and repositories combined with variable curation practices. Many of these challenges can be resolved by developing a dedicated storage facility that can focus on the ongoing conservation and curation of palaeoenvironmental remains. Combined with an OASIS + module designed to handle and disseminate data pertaining to palaeoenvironmental archives, remains would be findable, accessible, and interoperable with biological archives and collections worldwide. Providing a national centre for curating palaeoenvironmental remains and a dedicated digital repository will require significant funding. Funding sources could be identified through collaboration with other disciplines. If sufficient funding cannot be identified, options that would require less financial investment, such as high-level archive audits and the production of guidance documents, will be able to assist all stakeholders with the improved curation, management, and promotion of the archived resource.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Bell, M. and Smith, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:113094
Date on Title Page:2022


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