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News from the EXPLO Oxford archaeobotany team

Following fieldwork in 2019, the EXPLO team at the University of Oxford have been working on the waterlogged archaeobotanical material from the Late Neolithic site of Ploča, Mičov Grad. This is one of the many exciting sites under excavation by the EXPLO project on the shore of Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia. This work is led by Prof. Amy Bogaard and Prof. Mike Charles, supervising Amy Holguin, a first-year PhD student, with the aim of investigating the subsistence strategies established at the pile-dwelling site. Four cores were extracted for macrobotanical analysis from the vicinity of the settlement during the 2019 EXPLO season, by the palaeoecological coring team led by Prof. André Lotter. In Oxford, we have just finished the preliminary analysis of plant remains from the first of these cores. The samples contain a fantastic array of plant remains including cereals, pulses, oil seed crops and wild gathered foods. What is wonderful about waterlogged assemblages is that a vast range of types of organic material that do not normally survive in charred assemblages can be preserved. This includes for instance leaves, pods, flowers, and fruit fragments. However, this is also what makes waterlogged assemblages particularly challenging to analyse! Thankfully, we are supported by many experienced archaeobotanists on the EXPLO team and received a virtual masterclass, coordinated by Prof. Ferran Antolín and provided by Prof. Stefi Jacomet, who kindly sorted and identified plant remains from one of our samples and posted them to us 800km away. It was great to participate in the Prehistoric Wetland Sites of Southern Europe conference at the end of April, sharing our preliminary results and hearing about the work of our colleagues. It’s exciting to see how our understanding of these assemblages will develop and how this will align with the work of other researchers, in the EXPLO project and beyond.