Carex nutlet project
The nutlets of Carex species (sedges) regularly survive in archaeological samples and the individual species can provide some quite precise ecological information about soil types and water regimes especially in relation to questions about pasture versus meadow. However, many archaeobotanists do little more than categorise them as ‘lenticular’ or ‘trigonous’ based upon their cross-section and do less with them at the interpretative level as it takes a considerable amount of time to attempt more than this. Time is of essence especially in developer-funded archaeology. This project is developing an image gallery aimed at encouraging more precise identification of these nutlets whenever possible. It is by no means intended to replace reference material which remains essential for reliable identification.
The starting point was the reference collection held in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham. This originated from various historical collections by taxonomists working in the then Botany Department at Durham during the earlier decades of the 20th century. Judy Turner, also in the Botany Department, brought these together and, in the late 1970s, shared them with Alison Donaldson, the archaeobotanist in the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (England) laboratory based in the Archaeology Department. Marijke van der Veen took over from Alison and made a major contribution to the overall reference collection, both in methodically boxing and organising, and in adding new material. Following Marijke, Jacqui Huntley continued to add material and produced a database of all of the accessions. With respect to Carex species she has collected a reasonable selection of northern Scandinavian taxa over the years and some of which are present in Great Britain, although occur rarely today.
Other collections consulted include those in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York through Allan Hall, the English Heritage (now Historic England) collection at Fort Cumberland courtesy of Gill Campbell and, some years ago, that in the then Sub-Department of Quaternary Research, Botany School, Cambridge University. Otto Brinkkemper kindly provided helpful advice in the early stages of the project. I am grateful to everyone for their help.