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Microfossils can embed in dental calculus during life, and result in a unique personal record of past behaviour and environment. Dental calculus is an outstanding archaeological material as it ceases to develop after death and, as an adhering waste material, is unconditionally connected to each individual where it is found. Recovered microfossils can range in size from around 1–100 microns. Examples of microfossil materials that are habitually recovered include phytoliths, spores, fibres, microcharcoal, insect remains, pollen, starch granules and mineral particles. Together, these can provide empirical data on the paleoenvironment as well as behaviour, based on the wide range of materials that were unintentionally or deliberately placed in the mouth including food items, medicines and worked materials. The broad range of materials recovered requires an understanding of or interest in different types of microfossils. Identification of materials is based on personal and public reference materials. A dedicated microscope and clean lab are available for this project while the work will involve collaboration with specialists recovering biomolecular evidence. The POWERFUL PLANTS project uses archaeological evidence, supported by experimental archaeology and ethnographic data, to investigate the social, cultural and behavioural roles of human use of plants before farming. Plants are essential to our physical, psychological and physiological well-being today as they were in the past. They provide us with energy, nutrients, medicines and raw materials. Yet the role of plants before the emergence of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, is virtually unknown largely due to low survival rates on archaeological sites. This project has adopted an interdisciplinary approach to investigate three areas - food, medicine and technology - in which use of plants was pivotal in shaping human trajectories, with implications that are still evident today.

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