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Title: A spatial approach to phytolith analysis for the detection of interior and exterior spaces at Songo Mnara, Tanzania
Author: McParland, Hayley Joanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 3882
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis reports on phytolith research in and around a domestic structure at the Swahili stonetown of Songo Mnara, Tanzania, elucidating the use of space at the site on a micro-scale through the development of a methodology for intra-site sampling, and the refinement of a phytolith extraction methodology for tropical environments. This project forms part of a broader programme of excavation at Songo Mnara aimed at exploring use of space within a Swahili stonetown occupied between the late 14th-16th centuries AD. Songo Mnara was part of a network of stonetowns engaged in Indian Ocean trade along the coast of East Africa. The town plan comprises extensive architecture, including stone-built houses and wattle and daub structures of broadly contemporary date. The site's relatively short occupation sequence and its simple stratigraphy make it ideal for spatial analysis. This thesis, employing a phytolith extraction methodology contextualised through a review of current practice, reports on an intensive sampling strategy focused on a wattle and daub house, and opportunistic sampling of external areas and stone built structures. This is one of the most comprehensive spatial studies of an archaeological structure to date. In addition, the thesis develops an ethnographic reference collection, and a methodology for recovery of phytoliths in tropical environments. Preservation of phytoliths was variable, with significant local challenges including higher pH and a sandy sediment matrix. It was, however, possible to distinguish between interior and exterior spaces, and to identify certain plant-based activity areas. Discussion of these results is framed within a comprehensive assessment of visibility and potential of phytolith analysis in this environment, considering that production of diagnostic phytoliths and subsequent deposition into the domestic contexts explored, may be limited.
Supervisor: Wynne-Jones, Stephanie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available