Acorns in human subsistence
The aim of the thesis is to examine the use of acorns in human subsistence and to relate this to the interpretation of acorn remains from archaeological sites. The worldwide archaeological record of acorn finds is first reviewed, and archaeologists' interpretations of past uses of acorns are discussed. The ethnographic record of acorn use is next examined, with emphasis on similarity and variability within and between regions. Particular attention is paid to food-processing and detoxification techniques. An examination of the biological and ecological characteristics of acorns and oak trees follows, with emphasis on those factors which make them a useful resource, and, conversely, those factors which might bias against their use. Factors affecting the availability of acorns, and their nutritional qualities are considered. Interpretations which have been made in the archaeological literature about acorn use are then re-examined in the light of the available archaeological, ethnographic, and biological data. Problems with the nature of the available data, and their use, are discussed, and the potential for a more critical approach to the use and interpretation of such sources of data is examined. Consideration is given to the extent to which taphonomic factors, relating to either cultural or natural processes, may influence the representation and interpretation of acorns in archaeological sites. Finally, the implications that the study of one potentially important wild plant-food resource may have for general models of past human subsistence are discussed.