The Ancient Biomolecules Initiative is a Natural Environment Research Council programme exploring the biomolecular record of past life which is entombed in archaeological and geological deposits. The findings have applications in archaeology, anthropology, forensic science, research into the past climates and oil exploration. This resource consists of a series of leaflets in PDF format which describe the key findings of the Ancient Biomolecules Initiative.
The spectacular botanical preservation and long occupation of Qasr Ibrim, Egypt make this site archaeobotanically matchless. 600 samples have been collected over 20 years covering a timespan of c. 1000 BC - AD 1800. The project has particularly focussed on the period AD 100-400 during which several new summer crops including sorghum, cotton, lablab and sesame first appear. These new crops are thought to be associated with the introduction of new irrigation technology, specifically a device known as the saqia, an ox-driven water wheel from which descends a conveyor belt to which pots are attached. It has never before been possible to examine this crucial change archaeologically and this project has allowed the investigation of when and how this great change happened. This has major implications for the history of agriculture in Africa and the Indian Ocean.
This project aimed to investigate whether the present chronological data for late Mousterian sites in Europe are biasing our perception of Neanderthal populations by making them appear more cold-adapted than the incoming anatomically modern Early Upper Palaeolithic humans. In this study we focused on the part of the Neanderthal world that experienced the most continental climatic environments - namely, European Russia north of the Black Sea - for it is in such a region that the environmental preferences, in particular tolerance to temperature, are most discernible. By applying a series of cross-validated non-14C chronological methodologies (OSL, TL, palaeomagnetic intensity, and tephrostratigraphy) to late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages the project sought to identify spatial and temporal patterning which, when correlated with local environmental proxies and wider climate data, would provide a better understanding of Neanderthal climate tolerances. The project has produced a suite of new age determinations from a selection of archaeological sites that had previously undergone investigation and which were available to sample without requiring new excavations; the corresponding data on the cultural, lithic and environmental associations of the new age measurements derive mostly from earlier existing studies.
Star Carr is arguably the most well known Mesolithic site in Europe. The potential of this area was first discovered by the work of local amateur archaeologist John Moore in the late 1940s, who realised that the flat expanse of peat within the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering had once been an ancient lake, which he called Lake Flixton. Since the Mesolithic period, the lake had infilled with peat and this had created excellent preservation conditions for the archaeology in this area.