Meeting Environmental Archaeology 'Subsistence and surplus production' (21-22 octubre, Ams

12/10/11 .-

Autumn meeting Association for Environmental Archaeology
'Subsistence and surplus production'
VU University Amsterdam
21-22 October 2011

We are happy to announce that the autumn meeting of the Association for Environmental Archaeology will take place at the VU University in Amsterdam, on Friday 21 October 2011 and Saturday 22 October 2011. On Friday, the first two sessions will take place, followed by a welcome reception. On Saturday, the final two sessions are scheduled, with a conference dinner in the evening. On Sunday, there is the option of taking part in one of the two excursions we are organising.

Since the programme for oral presentations has now been finalized (see Programme and timetable), we can no longer accept paper proposals. Proposals for posters can be submitted until 30 September. The Association for Environmental Archaeology will award two poster prizes at the conference.
Please note that it is advisable to book a hotel room in Amsterdam as soon as possible, as hotels are often fully booked.

With your help, we hope to have an excellent meeting in Amsterdam!
The organising committee:
Maaike Groot (VU University Amsterdam)
Laura Kooistra (BIAX Consult)
Daphne Lentjes (VU University Amsterdam)
Jørn Zeiler (ArchaeoBone)

THEME: Subsistence and surplus production
Everyone needs food. How people produced or acquired their food in the past is one the main questions in archaeology. Since environmental archaeology focuses for a large extent on food remains and means of production, this research field of archaeology provides the best chances for studying food production.
The landscape with its relief, soil types, soil fertility and water levels forms the framework for the possibilities for food production. Man can adapt the landscape to a certain level in order to increase food production. It is clear that people in the past had an impact on the landscape in this way, for instance by digging ditches to drain marshes or by fertilizing fields with mineral, vegetable or animal manure. Not all food came from the immediate environment. Sometimes, this is due to an insufficient basis of the landscape for the production of a certain type of food, but more often, part of the population in a differentiated society does not produce (all) food themselves. In that case, food may have been transported over large distances.
In archaeological research, it is the task of environmental archaeologists to find out how food production was organised in the past, and to determine whether surplus production occurred. Careful research, in which both abiotic landscape factors as well as plant and animal remains are included, can show the potential of the landscape and the use that was made of it. Specific plant remains can tell us what plant foods were consumed and whether this food was of local origin or imported. Animal remains provide information on the livestock that was kept, and the meat that was consumed (butchery marks) and whether animal products were supplied from elsewhere. These environmental data placed in the archaeological context in which they were found make it possible to reconstruct food procurement in the past.
This conference addresses the topic of subsistence and surplus production. Terms such as subsistence societies and surplus production are easily used, but what do they actually say about the societies involved? How easy is it to determine whether a society did or did not produce more food than necessary to survive: a surplus? Which tools and what methods can we use to analyse surplus production in different kinds of societies? We invite papers from all fields in environmental archaeology, and all time periods, that address this theme.


This session focuses on the methodology necessary for studying subsistence and surplus production. On what basis can we say whether a society was truly self-sufficient? What are indicators for surplus production, both of arable products and animal products? Is it possible to quantify the extent of surplus production?
For animal bones, an analysis of skeletal elements, age profiles and measurements is often used to investigate production strategies. However, the production of food for a market has consequences for our methodology, since transport of animals and animal parts has the potential to distort our slaughter profiles. For plant remains, the presence of exotic weeds suggests imports, but archaeological indicators can also be used, such as changes in storage capacity.
New methodological approaches of existing environmental materials may lead to new insights. New techniques such as isotope analysis and DNA research can shed light on the origin of food and provide insight into the way in which food production in past societies was organised. For this session, we welcome methodological contributions that can lead to better insight into the themes surrounding food procurement and surplus production.

Self-subsistent societies

A first question when studying so-called subsistence societies is whether these really exist. Are there not always contacts and exchanges between societies, albeit on a small scale? Evidence for this is formed by exotic items and materials sourced from outside the society’s range. Or do we apply the term subsistence regardless of such small-scale exchange, especially if this does not concern food items? Even self-subsistent societies will have aimed at producing a surplus, whether for security reasons (if a crop failed or animals died from disease) or for feasting or cultic offerings. The main difference between subsistence societies and market-oriented societies is the absence of specialisation, both in agricultural production and crafts. There is some adaptation to the potential of the landscape, but basically everything is produced everywhere.
Possible topics for this session are surplus production for feasting, exchange or redistribution. Is there a relationship between the ability to produce surplus food and status? What is the role of elites in surplus production?

Emerging markets
With the emergence of markets and a non-food-producing population, there are opportunities for rural societies to produce more food than they need for themselves, and exchange or sell this. The Roman provinces form a good example. We now see specialisation in production and crafts (spinning, weaving, cereal or bread production), although the degree of specialisation seems to be smaller than in a true market economy.
For this session, we invite case studies that demonstrate that an agrarian population produced a surplus, and case studies that investigate the relationship between town and country, as far as food supply is concerned. Studies of emerging specialisation in production are also welcome. A final question that can be addressed is to what extent inhabitants of small towns produced their own food.
Urban societies
With the rise of urban societies and a true monetary economy, complex long-distance networks can play a role in the supply of even staple foods, such as cereals. A large part of the population is dependent on others for their food. The level of specialisation in agricultural products and crafts is high. The landscape is often optimally utilised, with cereals grown in areas with suitable arable land, and livestock grazed on land less suitable for arable production. In the medieval Low Countries, for instance, there is a clear distinction in ‘livestock zones', ‘arable zones’ and zones for horticulture and fruit trees.
Are all food producers specialized to some extent, or are there subsistence farmers in urban societies as well? What is the evidence for food production in towns?


Friday 21 October

9:00-10:00 Registration

10:00-Session 1: Self-subsistent societies

10:00-10.10 Opening of the conference

10:10-10:35 James Walker, Finding the Famine? An integrated approach to testing hypotheses of shellfish as a starvation food

10:35-11:00 Canan Çakırlar, Re-thinking Neolithic subsistence at the gateway to Europe in the light of new archaeozoological evidence from Istanbul (Yenikapı-Marmaray site, ca. 6500-5500 BC)

11:00-11:30 Coffee break

11:30-11:55 Stefanie Klooß, Wiebke Kirleis and Helmut Kroll, Neolithic food production within Northern German settlement systems

11:55-12:20Julia Elise Cussans and Julie M. Bond, Ewe are What Ewe Eat: Increased Cereal Production and Biometrical Changes in Domestic Mammal Bones in the Later Iron Age of the Scottish Isles

12:20-12:45Ilse Kamerling, Kevin J. Edwards and J. Edward Schofield, Cultivation, reindeer herding and 'Norse'-indigenous interactions in northern Sweden - a palynological analysis

12:45-13:00 Discussion

13:00-14:00 Lunch break

Session 2: Emerging markets

14:00-14:25 Sue Stallibrass, Keeping your options open: a SWOT analysis of northern Britain during the Roman period (SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)

14:25-14:50 Sabine Deschler-Erb and Örni Akeret, Swiss cows for the Roman army. A synthesis of archaeobiological data from villae in Roman Switzerland (1st century AD)

14:50-15:15Anja Fischer and Heleen van Londen, Forum Hadriani, a consuming market for food from Midden-Delfland?

15:15-15:45 Coffee break

15:45-16:10 Alejandro Valenzuela, The animal production and consumption in Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Western Mediterranean) during the Late Iron Age-Roman transition

16:10-16.25 Discussion

16:30-17:30 AEA organization annual meeting

17:30-20:00 Welcome reception

Saturday 22 October

Session 3: Urban societies

9:00-9:25 Ceren Kabukcu, Early Agriculture in North Eastern Syria: Botanical Remains from Jerablus Tahtani

9:25-9:50 Fabienne Pigière and Annick Lepot, Food production and exchanges in the civitas Tungrorum

9:50-10:15 Matilda Holmes, Entrepreneurs and Traditional Farmers: the Effects of an Emerging Market in Middle Saxon England

10:15-10:40 Lee Broderick, Make Do and Spend (the zooarchaeological assemblage from Mediaeval Exeter)

10:40-11:05 Coffee break

11:05-11:30 Kristopher Poole, Waste not, want not: the effect of urbanisation on patterns of production, consumption and disposal in Anglo-Saxon England

11:30-11:55 Don O'Meara, Scant evidence of great surplus: Investigations into the Monastic Site of Holm Coultram, Cumbria, England

11:55-12:05 Discussion

Session 4: Methodology

12:05-12:30 Richard Madgwick, Jacqui Mulville, Rhiannon Stevens and Jane Evans, Management, Movement, and Motivation: Understanding Prehistoric Middens

12:30-13:30 Lunch break

Session 4: Methodology

13:30-13:55 Michèle Wollstonecroft, More than simply saving it for later: the role of food plant preservation in human subsistence and surplus production

13:55-14:20 Elizabeth Henton, 1200 years of sheep herding success: the use of oxygen isotope and dental microwear analysis in elucidating effective herding practices in later Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Central Anatolia

14:20-14:45 Nicole Boenke, Modelling the past – A calculation model for the food requirement at the Iron-age Salt-mining settlement at Dürrnberg near Hallein

14:45-15:10 Marieke van Dinter, Laura I. Kooistra, Monica K. Dütting, Pauline van Rijn, Chiara Cavallo, Could the local population of the lower Rhine delta supply the Roman army? A conceptual and computational model research based on interdisciplinary research

15:10-15:25 Discussion

15:25-15:30 Closing of the conference

19:00 Conference dinner

Restaurant Café Van Puffelen

Prinsengracht 375-377

Sunday 23 October
Excursion 1
10:00-15:00 Guided walk through historic Amsterdam, lunch, visit to the botanical garden.

Excursion 2
10:00-16:00 Oostvaardersplassen (Flevoland) incl. lunch.

More information and registration: :

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