Date of Award

December 2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Bettina Arnold

Committee Members

Jean Hudson, Jennifer Haas

Keywords

botanical, Europe, foodways, museum collection, Neolithic, Robenhausen

Abstract

Museum collections excavated from archaeological sites represent an intersection of disciplines and provoke innovative approaches to the study of these material aspects of culture. Botanical collections of food remains in particular, provide an opportunity to interrogate the way in which culinary practices in the past are understood. The circum-Alpine lake dwelling complex of central Europe includes hundreds of archaeological sites dating to the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Age; many of these sites are known for exceptional preservation of organic material due to a waterlogged, anaerobic environment. Robenhausen, located in eastern Switzerland was one of many lake dwellings discovered in the 19th century when these sites first became known to the archaeological community and the general public. Because of this early discovery date combined with a variety of other circumstances, material culture from this site and many others was part of an artifact diaspora which scattered objects from Robenhausen throughout museums in the U.S. and Europe. Artifacts from this site were rediscovered in the Milwaukee Public Museum’s permanent collection in the early 2000s and include over 8000 plant and food remains, most of which are carbonized and have remained intact for over a century since their removal from the site in Switzerland. This thesis uses a combination of approaches including scientific reporting, macrobotanical identification, experimental archaeology, and theoretical interpretation based in foodways research to interpret this collection of botanical remains. In addition, this project digitally reunites the food and botanicals from Robenhausen with those scattered throughout other museum collections and contributes to our understanding of the complex nature of foodways at the Robenhausen site during the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age.

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