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International Conference
Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

(Cracow, Poland: 28th August - 1st September 2002)
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Plant Remains from Tell el-Farkha in the Eastern Nile Delta
(Seasons 2001 and 2002 - Preliminary Results)


BIAX Consult, Onderzoeksbureau voor Biologische Archeologie en
Landschapsreconstructie, Zaandam (Netherlands)


Archaeobotanical results based on nearly 300 samples recovered from the pre- and early dynastic settlement and the cemetery site at Tell el-Farkha are presented.

During the excavations in 2001 and 2002 botanical samples were collected from diverse archaeological contexts, including hearths, fireplaces, grain storage unit (silos), contents of the storage/'cooking' vessels and jars/vessels deposited in the grave chambers. The samples range in volume from c. 0.5 litres to 35 litres. Dry-sieving of all soil samples was carried out in the field laboratory using sieves with hole diameters of 1.0 and 0.5 mm. Plant material was present in c. 75% of the analysed samples. All plant remains are preserved in charred condition.

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) and emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) are the main crop plants. Barley grains were found in almost all samples. The hulled variety of (probably) both two-rowed barley (Hordeum vulgare subsp. distichum) and six-rowed barley (Hordeum vulgare subsp. vulgare) were recorded. The emmer wheat evidence consists mainly of chaff remains, including spiklet forks and glume bases, and only a low number of grains.

Only small numbers of cultivated pulses were found. These were represented by lentil (Lens culinaris) and probably pea (Pisum sativum). Whether two additional pulses, bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia) and grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) were grown as human food or as animal fodder is unsubstantial.

The arable weed flora included Lolium spp. (probably temulentum and other species), Vicia spp, Rumex sp. and Eleocharis sp. A large number of Lolium spp. grains, suggest that these grasses might have been grown as animal fodder. The presence of Acacia seeds might suggest the use of Acacia pods for tanning.

A number of charred fragments of parenchymatous tissue were examined under the scanning electron microscope. Three categories of tuber and/or rhizome tissue were determined: Cyperus sp., cattail (Typha sp.) and bulrush (Scirpus sp). Charcoal samples were collected but have not yet been identified according to species.

The recovery and analysis of botanical remains at Tell el-Farkha are an important source for a better understanding of the site economy and daily (and hereafter) life of its inhabitants. They are of great assistance in answering a range of specific questions. For example, what can we say about the subsistence and diet at Tell el-Farkha during the formative period of the first Egyptian state ? Is there a difference between the samples recovered from settlement and cemetery in plant composition ? Can we trace the changes in cereal production and processing through time ?


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