PhD grants : Archaeological insects from old wells (pits): bio-indicators of agro-pastoral resource management from the Final Tène to the end of Antiquity. (H&L)

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    University of Tours
    Mobility Incoming
    First Stage Researcher (R1) (Up to the point of PhD)


  • Keywords

bioarchaeology, archaeoentomology, agro-pastoral resource, Final Tène Antiquity

  • Profile and skills required

The candidate must have good experience and therefore competences in archaeology and entomology. He/she will therefore have to have developed a network with national archaeology actors, particularly preventive archaeology in order to complete the corpus of sites, but also in entomology and archaeoentomology. He/she must be highly adaptable, being at the interface between humanity sciences and exact sciences.

  • Project description

Over the centuries, the technical environments and traditional agropastoral practices of the farms and villae have shaped the surrounding landscapes and favoured the development of a specificlocal fauna and flora. In archaeology, pits excavations constitutes perfect preservers of perishable materials, which make it possible to generate collections and highly documented databases. Bioarchaeological remains obtained from those pits allow a new understanding of the functioning of the sites and the socio-economic behaviour of the communities. This constitutes a prescription of research promising scientific advances. The bioarchaeological remains that areobtained from pits allow a new understanding of the functioning of the sites and the socio-economic behaviour of the investigated communitiesat a scientific level.

Among the various animal remains from the pits, the insect assemblages associated with the sediments have the primary characteristic of remaining in very good preservation, as the conservation conditions are optimal.

Studying insect remains depends on the way the corpus was constituted. Since no insects can survive in the well itself, some of them were living in the immediate environment around the well and have fallen accidentally during their movements on the ground or in flight. Through their specific diversity and their ecological requirements, insects do indirectly reveal the nature of the biotic and abiotic environments around the site.

On the other hand, species linked to ecosystem services and synanthropes are dependent on anthroposystems at the levels of spaces, farms and the various human activities. Attracted by food resources, manures, waste, decomposition, darkness and humidity, they provide information on the nature of the environments exploited, the plants cultivated, the storage of foodstuffs, the proximity of livestock farms and the co-products used (feces) and living quarters. Moreover, insects may reveal some nature of the use ofwoods.

In this way, insects preserved in the well will be used as indicators of an whole agro-pastoral system, while at the same time providing local information on the evolution of the developments around the wells and their functionalities. By studying different insect assemblages from several sites from the Gallic period and from Antiquity, they will highlight the differences in the exploitation of the environment and of livestock from the Final La Tène to the end of Antiquity. The chronological boundaries are likely to change slightly as the corpus of sites is enriched.

The archaeoentomological analyses will be carried out on the basis of the material already available, extracted according to the appropriate protocols, and coming from different pits whose stratigraphy has allowed the preservation of the remains. The identifications carried out by taxonomic methods (with comparison collections) and molecular methods (DNA) will allow to know the constitution of the assemblages and obtain indications on the environment, the livestock, as well as the human practices. These data will then be subjected to multi-proxy and multivariate statistical processing that will integrate all available bioarchaeological data (palynology, carpology, anthracology, archaeozoology) in order to search for the existence or absence of correlations. At the same time, this will enable to refine understandings of the way insects inform about the organisation of agropastoral practices around the wells.

In order to enlight recent evolution of invertebrate populations in relation with human societies activities and practices , experimental comparison protocols will be carried out with current agrosystems to document the impacts of past practices on entomological biodiversity and thus contribute to a better understanding of the valorisation of contemporary agricultural and food waste management.

This research is also based on multiple collaborations with local agricultural and archaeological actors, including the INRAP (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives) intervention unit for deep archaeological structures.

In consideration of the multidisciplinary aspect and the importance of this subject, this thesis will be based on the large competences of the two laboratories. It is part of the collaboration of the axis 3 'Social practices and cultural areas' of the programme of the Laboratoire Archéologie et Territoires (LAT) of the UMR 7324 CITERES but also in the transversal axis 'Food and health strategies for tomorrow' of the Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte (IRBI UMR 7261).


  • References

- BUCKLAND P.C., 1980 - Insect remains from the well. In I.M. Stead (ed.), Rudston Roman Villa. Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds, 162-167

- BUCKLAND P.C., 1981 - An Insect Fauna from a Roman Well at Empingham, Rutland. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 60, 1-6.

- COOPE G.R. & OSBORNE P.J., 1968 - Report on the Coleopterous Fauna of the Roman Well at Barnsley Park, Gloucestershire. Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 86, 84-87.

- DENFORD S.M., 1980 - Mites from selected contexts from the Roman well. In A.R. Hall, H.K. Kenward & D. Williams (eds.), Environmental evidence from Roman deposits in Skeldergate. The Archaeology of York supplementary series, 14 & The Past Environment of York, 3. Council for British Archaeology, London, 139-141.

- GIRLING M.A., 1989 - The Insect Fauna of the Roman Well at the Cattlemarket. In A. Down (ed.), Chichester Excavations. 6. Philimore, Chichester, 234-241.

- Huchet J. B. - Insectes et archéologie, Les nouvelles de l'archéologie, n°14, juin 2017 : 40-44.

- Liu, M., Clarke, L.J., Baker, S.C., Jordan, G.J. and Burridge, C.P. (2020), A practical guide to DNA metabarcoding for entomological ecologists. Ecol Entomol, 45: 373-385. https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12831

- MORET P., CANTARINO C.-M. L'utilisation des Coléoptères subfossiles dans la reconstruction des paléo-environnements : l'exemple du port antique de Santa Pola (Espagne). Bulletin de la Société Entomologique de France, Société entomologique de France, 1996, 101 (3), p. 225-229. ⟨hal-00723966⟩.

- OSBORNE P.J., 1975 - The Coleoptera from the Roman Well (on the intervallum road, east of the gyrus). Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, 87, 44-46.

- PECREAUX D. 2007 – “Les insectes au service de l’archéologie et de la paléoécologie : l’archéoentomologie et la paléoentomologie”, Rutilans, 10, p. 86-96

- PONEL P., YVINEC J.-H ., ANDRIEU-PONEL V., MARIAN J. L’intérêt archéo-entomologique des anciens puits : le paléoenvironnement du clos-paul à l’époque gallo-romaine, reconstruit par l’analyse des coléoptères fossiles (Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes). Bulletin de l’Associationfrançaise pour l’étude du quaternaire, Association française pour l’étude du quaternaire, 2018, 29 (4),pp.347-361. hal-02048178

- PONEL P., YVINEC JH. 1997 - “L’archéoentomologie en France”. Les Nouvelles de l’Archéologie, 31-44. 68.

- PONEL P., YVINEC JH. 1997 - “L’archéoentomologie en France”. Les Nouvelles de l’Archéologie, 31-44. 68.

- Ruppert K., Kline R. Rahman S. - Past, present, and future perspectives of environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding: A systematic review in methods, monitoring, and applications of global eDNA, Global ecology and Conservation, VoL 17, 2019, Elsevier, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00547


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