This paper presents the results of an investigation into the preservation status of pollen and other microfossils in the organic sediments at the wetland Mesolithic site of Star Carr. This study assesses the degradation of the pollen record in a profile at the edge of the archaeological site, adjacent to previous pollen work carried out from 1989 to 1991 and using it as a benchmark for comparison. There has been a severe degradation of pollen grains since the earlier work, with the upper peat devoid of pollen and the lower part of the organic profile badly affected. Only the very basal sediments retain well preserved pollen. Comparisons with hydrological and geo-chemical data obtained by other workers during the assessment of the Star Carr site suggest that oxidation caused by drainage and dessication of the organic sediments, perhaps originating in fissures in the drying peat, is a primary cause of the observed severe deterioration of the pollen record. Non-pollen palynomorphs (primarily fungal and algal spores) appear to be better preserved than pollen in the present bio-stratigraphic record, showing little surface degeneration, but are not recorded in the earlier work. The pollen archive in organic sediments at the Star Carr site is now badly damaged. Any further pollen work there should be undertaken urgently but is probably not justifiable.
Robson, Harry K.; Little, Aimee; Jones, Andrew K. G.; Blockley, Simon; Candy, Ian; Matthews, Ian; Palmer, Adrian; Schreve, Danielle; Tong, Emma; Pomstra, Diederik; et al. (Elsevier, 2016-02-17)
This contribution directly relates to the paper published by Wheeler in 1978 entitled ‘Why were there no fish remains at Star Carr?’. Star Carr is arguably the richest, most studied and re-interpreted Mesolithic site in Europe but the lack of fish remains has continued to vex scholars. Judging from other materials, the preservation conditions at the site in the late 1940s/early 1950s should have been good enough to permit the survival of fish remains, and particularly dentaries of the northern pike (Esox lucius L., 1758) as found on other European sites of this age. The lack of evidence has therefore been attributed to a paucity of fish in the lake. However, new research has provided multiple lines of evidence, which not only demonstrate the presence of fish, but also provide evidence for the species present, data on how and where fish were being processed on site, and interpretations for the fishing methods that might have been used. This study demonstrates that an integrated approach using a range of methods at landscape, site and microscopic scales of analysis can elucidate such questions. In addition, it demonstrates that in future studies, even in cases where physical remains are lacking, forensic techniques hold significant potential.
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