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Home arrow Sites of interest arrow  Al-Khidr arrow Archaeobotany
Archaeobotany at Al-Khidr

Mária Hajnalová 

The main aim of archaeobotanical research of the KSAM is to reconstruct the environment, dietary habits and ways of economic use of plants by people living at Al-Khidr and on Failaka island during the Bronze Age. This is to be achieved by interpretation of the assemblage of ancient plant macro-remains (seeds, fruits, wood) and micro-remains (phytoliths) collected from the archaeological sediments. Differences between the ancient and modern environmental conditions, resource exploitation and sustainable land use on the island are also to be investigated. In order to do this, both archaeological information and modern vegetation and floristic data are being collected and utilized.

Among the questions posed by archaeobotanical research are: What assortment of wild and cultivated plants did the Bronze Age people of Failaka use? Do we find on this island, which lays much closer to agrarian based Mesopotamia than other Dilmun sites, proof of utilization of other staple foods than just dates? Are there any wild collected plants or cultivated cereals and pulses among these? If the latter would be the case, what was the economic use of individual plants? Were any of the economically important plants cultivated/grown locally? What sources of fuel (animal dung, wood, bitumen, etc.) were used? Were those available on the island or were they brought from elsewhere? Answers to these questions, in cooperation with results from other scientific realms, will contribute to the reconstruction of daily life on ancient Failaka and will help us to understand the role and function of the Al-Khidr site.

Despite the systematic sampling strategy and extensive flotation programme (over 16 tonnes of sediment has been processed to date) we are bound to say that ancient plant macro-remains are almost non-existent in the Al-Khidr archaeological strata. Based on a limited sample of several dozens of seeds and imprints in bitumen it seems that the fruits of date palm (cf. Phoenix dactylifera) was the only staple plant food consumed on Failaka during its Dilmun past. The finds of uncharred grape seeds (Vitis vinifera) alongside the wide spectra of very well preserved uncharred seeds of wild plants are most probably of modern date. Their presence points to the fact that bio-turbation has been an important factor in the formation of the Al-Khidr sandy sediments. Until now, there are no remains from Al-Khidr of any other palatable plants found in charred or mineralized form, neither imprinted in bitumen. The analyses of tiny charcoal fragments, phytolith samples and remaining macro-remains samples, which are still to be carried out, will hopefully shed more light on problems tackled by the archaeobotanical research.

See also


Click to enlarge

Click on a map to see all known archaeological sites on Failaka island from the Bronze Age up to the present day.