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The Botanical Evidence

By Marijke Van der Veen


Most of our knowledge concerning food, diet and agriculture in Roman Egypt is based on documentary evidence (e.g. Schnebel 1925;Crawford 1979) and, to a lesser extent, on art historical evidence (Keimer 1924; Germer 1985; Manniche 1989). There are almost no detailed publications on archaeobotanical evidence from the period, even though the conditions for the preservation of botanical remains are very good in Egypt. There are only four published archaeobotanical reports (Barakat and Baum 1992; Cappers 1996; Newberry 1889; Wetterstrom 1982) and two of these concern grave goods rather than domestic evidence. When the excavations at Mons Claudianus revealed a profusion of botanical remains in the midden deposits, it was recognised that the analysis of these remains could provide information regarding the diet of the inhabitants of the site, the nature of the food supply, the use of plants for fuel and building materials, as well as the nature of the natural vegetation in the vicinity of the site during the Roman period. The writer joined the project in 1990. In this chapter the archaeobotanical date collected over four seasons (1990-1993) is presented. Most of the evidence comes from the deposits in and around the fort of Mons Claudianus itself, but samples were also collected from the nearby Hydreuma and from Barud. The report is organised in the following sections: the methodological issues regarding data collection and sampling are discussed in section 8.2, the results are presented in section 8.3, the formation processes of the archaeobotanical assemblage and the inter- and intra-site variability of the assemblage are discussed in section 8.4. The final section (section 8.5) summarizes the results of the archaeobotanical analysis and offers a reconstruction of the food supply to the fort on the basis of the available evidence.Metadata entry onlyThis paper was published as: Survey and excavation : Mons Claudianus, 1987-1993. Vol. 2: Excavations: part 1 / V.A. Maxfield and D.P.S. Peacock (eds.), Chapter 8. It is available from

Publisher: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale
Year: 2001
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