23 June, 2013

Report of IWGP 2013

I attend the 16th Conference of the International Workgroup for Palaeoethnobotany (IWGP) from June 16th to 20th.

June 15th: going to Vienna and staying there just for a transit
June 16-19th: joining in the conference
June 20th: surveying some fields of rice and wheat in Greece
June 21-22th: going back to Japan

1. Brief outline of this conference

Many archaeobotanists from approximately 36 countries (mostly from European countries?) came to join in this conference.

During the conference, our programme had been conducted from 9:00 to 20:00 including some coffee breaks and long lunch breaks. Actually this schedule was too much hard for attendees, but we could hear all of presentations in the one same meeting room.

The topics focused on domestication, cultivation or farming, the origins of agriculture, and so on. These topics were mainly about cereals (wheat, barley, rye, foxtail millet and broomcorn millet, and rice), pulses, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Their research fields were mainly based on Europe, America, Africa, South and West Asia, and East Asia (China and Japan, but no Korean Peninsula).

2. My presentation (18:00-20:00, June 19)

I conducted my presentation "Diversity of Plant Food Resources Used at Habitation Sites in Prehistoric Japan: Evidence from Macrobotanical Remains and Starch Granules" in a session "Overseas plant exchanges in East Asia: From prehistory to protohistory". We have just 4 speakers including me.

Here is my abstract.

Human interaction with plant resources in the Palaeolithic (37,000-11,000 years BP) and Jomon periods (11,000-2,900 years BP), Japan, has been clarified during the last decade. The people in those periods were not plain hunter-gatherers, and did use various plant resources around settlements. Plant food processing is fundamental as one of human subsistence strategy. In order to recover plant food consumption of hunting-gathering populations in prehistoric Japan, this paper employed macrobotanical analysis of sediment samples and starch residue analysis of stone tools and potteries from habitation sites in northern, central, and southern areas. Macrobotanical remains mainly show the presence of nuts (Castanea, Aesculus, and Fagus), acorns (Castanopsis, Lithocarpus, and Quercus), bulbs (Lilium, Allium, and others), and beans (Phaseolus and Glycine). Microbotanical results confirm the widespread use of nuts and acorns at all sites, along with bulbs and tubers (Pteridium and others). These integrated results present the comprehensive archaeobotanical evidence of the diversity of plants cultivated or exchanged, processed, and consumed, by hunter-gatherers before rice cultivation in Japan. 

3. Overview of my results

The biggest results of our session were that Japanese researchers presented our recent results in Japanese archaeobotany to archaeobotanists outside Japan, and that many attendees joined in our session to hear our presentations. These things were very great for us, or all of Japanese researchers. 

We know many archaeobotanical researches are conducted in Japan, and by their great achievements, human interaction with plant resources in prehistoric periods has been clarified dramatically in Japan and adjacent areas, especially during the last decade. However, most of attendees in this conference didn't mention any topics in Japanese archaeology excluding our session members.

In my impression by talking with some of attendees, many researchers outside Japan really want to get any information about recent researches conducted in Japan, but they cannot read any papers written in Japanese, even though English abstracts are attached with them.

Indeed many Japanese researchers present their results at the international conferences and write English papers to the international journals, but these are not enough to get information for researchers outside Japan.

I strongly realised this situation after our session as well.

Also, in this conference, I really understood that starch residue analysis is established as one method in many archaeobotanical studies to reconstruct the past human activities as well as phytolith and pollen analyses.

In any Japanese conferences, I and my colleagues are just only speakers of starch residue analysis. In this conference, many speakers showed their starch granules reconstructed from their materials together with archaeological phytoliths and pollens. Their methodologies were not problematic for me in terms of taxonomic identification because these results achieved any contaminated problems, unlike some of starch papers.

Of course, our research conditions are very different from other countries'. But we need to establish methods of starch residue analysis in Japanese archaeology soon.

In this IWGP, I got lots of good results. I specially thank to Dr. Leo Aoi Hosoya, Dr. Katsunori Tanaka, and Dr. Yo-Ichiro Sato for providing me this opportunity.

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