I studied environmental archaeology at Sheffield (more years ago than I care to remember) so it was very fitting that I attend the 40th Association for Environmental Archaeology conference, held at the University of Sheffield. The theme of this year’s conference was the archaeology of human-environment interactions and, in this spirit, Wessex Archaeology decided to enter a poster showing off Rossington Inland Port.
Rossington Inland Port (or RIP as it is affectionately known) is a site that staff from Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office excavated in 2017. Archaeological features on the site ranged from ditches, pits and postholes to roundhouses, cremation graves, kilns/ovens and crop dryers. The environmental evidence produced by these features was quite exceptional and raised many questions:
- Do the wild plant remains, that appeared in abundance in some features, represent diet, medicine, industry?
- Do the charred cereal grains in the cremation grave on the site represent deliberate use of crop processing by-products as fuel?
- Do the sprouting cereal grains from the oven/kilns represent malting for beer?
Our research, however is ongoing, and there are still answers to gather.
The conference was well attended and I was impressed by the enthusiasm, the engagement and the multidisciplinary approaches presented. I was particularly struck by the closing remarks from Umberto Albarella (Professor of Zooarchaeology at the University of Sheffield) in which he proposed that we all call ourselves ‘archaeologists with an interest/specialism in the environment’ rather than ‘environmental archaeologists’. I shook my head at the time but I’m warming to it!