Oysters and Other Marine Shells from Excavations at the Old Methodist Chapel and Greyhound Yard, Dorchester

Please click on the link below to download a copy of the oyster and other marine mollusc shells report for excavations at Greyhound Yard in Dorchester, England.

Winder, J. M. (1993) Oyster and other marine mollusc shells, in Excavations at the Old Methodist Church and Greyhound Yard Dorchester, 1982-1984, (eds. P. J. Woodward, S. M. Davies and A. Graham), Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Monograph Series Number 12, Series Editor J. Draper, pp 347 -348.

Permission to use this published report has kindly been granted by Dorset County Museum where it is possible to purchase copies of the full publication.

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The Marine Mollusca in “Redeemed from the Heath – the archaeology of the Wytch Farm Oilfield (1987-90)

Please click on the link below to download a PDF of the report which describes the analyses of edible molluscan remains found in midden deposits on the south shore of Poole Harbour in Dorset, England, with suggestions for the localities being exploited for these shellfish.

Winder, J. M. (1991) Marine Mollusca, in Redeemed from the Heath – the archaeology of the Wytch Farm Oilfield (1987-90), eds. P. W. Cox and C. M. Hearne, Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Monograph Series Number 9 for B. P. Exploration and its partners in the Wytch Farm Development, pp 212-216.

Permission to use this published report has kindly been granted by Dorset County Museum where it is possible to purchase copies of the full publication.

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The Oysters in Excavations at Poole 1973-1983

Please click on the link below to download a PDF copy of the full oyster shell report from excavations in the town of Poole, Dorset, England, in which the oyster studies established

  1. A substantial industry, as indicated by large middens, developed at Hamworthy and Poole in the Saxon and early Conquest period. This industry could well have affected the choice of the site of Poole itself.
  2. Studies of the shells can prove that deposits represent an industry rather than casual exploitation of natural resources.
  3. Poole oysters are distinctive and can be distinguished from oysters from other localities. Ultimately it may be possible to establish the marketing area of these oysters.
  4. Statistical analyses can establish the original environment from which the oysters were obtained. In the case of Poole, comparisons of modern and archaeological samples can distinguish between oysters from within the muddier environment of Poole Harbour and the cleaner conditions in Poole Bay.

Winder, J. M. (1992) The Oysters, in Excavations at Poole 1973 – 1983 by Ian P. Horsey, Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Monograph Series Number 10, Series Editor Jo Draper, pages 194 – 200.

Permission to use this published report has kindly been granted by Dorset County Museum where it is possible to purchase copies of the full publication.

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Late Saxon & Conquest-Period Oyster Middens

Please click on the link below to download a PDF file of the publication in which the late Ian Horsey and I investigated the date and nature of oyster shell midden deposits excavated from beneath the waterfront of Poole in Dorset, England, utilising radio-carbon dating techniques.

Horsey, I. P. and Winder, J. M. (1992) The Late Saxon and Conquest-Period Oyster Middens, in Excavations at Poole 1973-1983 by Ian P. Horsey, Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Monograph Series Number 10, Series Editor Jo Draper, pp 60-61.

Permission to use this published report has kindly been granted by Dorset County Museum where it is possible to purchase copies of the full publication.

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Oyster shells from archaeological sites: a brief illustrated guide to basic processing

An ancient Saxon period oyster shell (Ostrea edulis Linnaeus) the spat of which originally settled on the shell of a Sting Winkle, Ocenebra erinacea (Linnaeus), which survives attached to the heel of the mature oyster.

An ancient Saxon period oyster shell (Ostrea edulis Linnaeus) the spat of which originally settled on the shell of a Sting Winkle, Ocenebra erinacea (Linnaeus), which survives attached to the heel of the mature oyster.

Oyster shells from archaeological sites: a brief illustrated guide to basic processing

Important notes

This manual (which can be downloaded via the links below) describes a simple way of recording details of the macroscopic appearance in oyster shells recovered from archaeological excavations, with a view to quantifying their natural and man-made characteristics, to understand about their exploitation, and enable comparisons to be made between oyster shell samples within the various contexts of a single site, or between samples from different sites, and different periods. It describes a recording method which was devised in 1975, and finally written up and published informally on-line in 2011.

The method was designed to be easily learnt and used by non-specialists. This means that it is also easy to miss-apply. Originally, the technique was taught side-by-side with the expert in a training session so that checks were possible while recording was in progress, and the accuracy of the trainee’s independently-obtained results could be determined by carrying out statistical tests for comparability between the results of the expert and the trainee for selected samples. This ensured consistency of results.

I would like therefore to urge caution in the use of the manual at the present time on four fronts:

  1. Before commencing full recording of the archaeological oyster shells, question whether the samples are valid for further study. Do the samples comply with the standards and requirements outlined in Campbell (2015, 2017)?
  2. In recognition of the development of other approaches to studying archaeological oyster shells during the 45 years since this methodology was first devised, and in particular the advancement in technological methods of analysis, is this recording technique the most appropriate to use?
  3. Given the importance of comparability between samples both spatially on an intra-site and inter-site basis, and temporally between historical periods, what quality control measures are in place to ensure accuracy and consistency of the recording? Can the results be trusted in comparisons between samples recorded by different individuals?
  4. Finally, an editorial correction regarding the names of the dimensions being measured. The measurement from the umbo to the ventral margin which is termed maximum width in the manual is more correctly called the maximum height. This was corrected in Winder (2017).

About the handbook

  • Oyster shells from archaeological sites: a brief illustrated guide to basic processing is included in this post as a free downloadable PDF file. See below.
  • It is a starter’s guide to handling oyster shells (British Native Oyster, European Flat Oyster, Ostrea edulis Linnaeus) from archaeological excavations.
  • This handbook can be used in conjunction with other postings both on Oysters etc. and Jessica’s Nature Blog that provide more information about various characteristics of oyster shells, and surviving evidence of their infestation and encrustation by marine invertebrate epibiont organisms.
  • The guide provides useful information for recognising observable macroscopic details. It suggests some simple methods for processing archaeological oyster shells that may be useful for collecting and collating data,  in both a qualitative and quantitative way, prior to further statistical analyses and interpretation.
  • Thirty Figures with 63 colour photographs illustrate the topics discussed.
  • Sources of information are provided in a bibliography; and relevant textbooks are recommended.

Click here for PDF file Oyster shells from archaeological excavations: a brief illustrated guide to basic processing.24MB

OYSTFORM3

N.B. The large file size means that it may take quite a while to download – depending on the speed of your internet connection. You may need to be patient.

If you have a problem with downloading the document, please contact me via winderjssc@aol.com, and I will try to send the file to you by e-mail or other means.

REFERENCES

Campbell, G. (2008) Beyond means to meaning: Using distributions of shell shapes to reconstruct past collecting strategies, Environmental Archaeology, Vol. 13 No.2, 111-121.

Campbell, G. (2010) Oysters ancient and modern: potential shape variation with habitat in flat oysters (Ostrea edulis L.) and its possible use in archaeology, MUNIBE Supplemento-Gehigarria, No. 31, Donostia-San Sebastian, D.L. SS-1055-2010, 176-187.

Campbell, G. (2015) “What do I do with all these shells?” Basic guidance for the recovery, processing and retention of archaeological marine shells, in Quaternary International 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.205.09.013, 1-8

Campbell, G. (2017) Chapter 16 The collection, processing and curation of archaeological marine shells, in Molluscs in Archaeology: methods, approaches and applications, ed M. J. Allen, Studying Scientific Archaeology No. 3, Oxbow, Oxford and Philadelphia, 273-288

Somerville E., Light, J., and Allen M. J. (2017) Marine molluscs from archaeological contexts: how they can inform interpretations of former economies and environments, in Allen, M. J. (ed.) Molluscs in Archaeology: Methods, approaches and applications. Studying Scientific Archaeology 3. Chapter13, 214-237.

Winder, J. M. & Gerber-Parfitt, S. 2003. The oyster shells. In Malcolm, G. & Bowsher, D. with Cowie, R. (eds.), Middle Saxon London – Excavations at the Royal Opera House 1989–99, 325–332. London: Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 15

Winder, J. M. (2011) Oyster shells from archaeological sites: a brief illustrated guide to basic processing https://oystersetcetera.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/oyster-shells-from-archaeological-sites-a-brief-illustrated-guide-to-basic-processing/

Winder, J. M. 2017 Oysters in Archaeology. In Allen, M. J. (ed.) Molluscs in Archaeology: Methods, approaches and applications. Studying Scientific Archaeology 3. Chapter 14, 238-258, Oxford, Oxbow Books

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGICAL OYSTER SHELLS, Archaeological shells, Epibiont evidence, Infestation damage, OYSTER SHELL VARIATIONS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hello world!

This new blog is about the variations that can be observed in the shells of edible marine molluscs – such as oysters, cockles, winkles and whelks – and how these differences can help us understand the way that marine shellfish resources were exploited in the past. It will look at seashells from archaeological excavations and also from modern mollusc populations. It will mostly be about the European Flat Oyster (British Native Oyster) Ostrea edulis Linnaeus.

Oysters etc. will draw on studies I have made over the past thirty years – during which time I have examined and recorded the measurements and macroscopic details of many thousands of oyster shells and analysed the resulting quantitative and qualitative data. The research has mostly been undertaken on archaeological material from sites in southern England dating to the last two thousand years.

I will summarise the published and the unpublished reports I have compiled and give full references to the work. Where possible, I will make pdf files of unpublished reports available.

My main aim is to share the knowledge I have acquired about understanding the lives of  people in the past through the study of oyster and other marine mollusc shells; and to provide information for anyone wanting to undertake similar research in the future.

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