Researchers from the University of Bristol and the British Museum, in cooperation with Oxford Archaeology East and Canterbury Archaeological Trust, have, for the very first time, recognized making use of birch bark tar in middle ages England – using which was previously believed to be restricted to prehistory.
Birch bark tar is a made item with a history of production and use that reaches back to the Palaeolithic. It is extremely sticky, and is water resistant, and likewise has biocidal properties suggest that it has a vast array of applications, for instance, as a multipurpose adhesive, sealant and in medicine.
Archaeological proof for birch bark tar covers a broad geographical variety from the UK to the Baltic and from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia.
In the east and north of this variety there is continuity of usage to modern-day times but in western Europe and the British Isles using birch bark tar has usually been considered as restricted to prehistory, with progressive displacement by pine tars during the Roman period.
The new identifications, reported today in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, originated from 2 early medieval sites in the east of England.
The very first was a small swelling of dark material discovered in a kid tomb of the Anglo-Saxon duration (440-530 AD) in Cambridge (evaluated by the Organic Geochemistry System, University of Bristol, for Oxford Archaeology East).
The other tar (analysed by researchers at the British Museum) was discovered finishing the interior of a ceramic container related to a 5th-6th century cemetery site at Ringlemere in Kent.
The kid in the Cambridge Anglo-Saxon duration grave was likely a woman, aged seven to nine years of ages, and she had a variety of grave goods, consisting of brooches and beads on her chest, and a variety of artefacts, consisting of an iron knife, a copper alloy girdle wall mount and an iron ring, together with the dark lump of product, all contained within a bag hanging from a belt at her waist.
The various contexts of the discovers indicate varied applications of the material.
From pathological signs on the kid skeleton, the group surmise that the birch bark tar may have been used for medicinal functions as birch bark tar has a long history in medication, having antibacterial properties.
The tar in the ceramic vessel from Ringlemere may have been utilized for processing the tar or sealing the container.
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Both of the tars were found to contain fatty material, possibly included to soften the tar, or, when it comes to the container could suggest multiple usages.
Dr Rebecca Stacey from the British Museum’s Department of Scientific Research study stated: “The production and usage of birch bark tar is well understood is well known from prehistoric times but these finds show either a much longer continuity of use of this product than has actually been recognised prior to or possibly a reintroduction of the technology in eastern areas at this time.”
Dr Julie Dunne, from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, added: “These outcomes provide the very first recognition of birch bark tar from early medieval archaeological contexts in the UK.
” Remarkably, they are from two different contexts, one in a ceramic pot, which recommends it may have been utilized to process birch bark into tar and the other as an ‘unidentified’ lump in a child grave of the Anglo-Saxon duration. The pathological signs on the child skeleton suggests the birch bark tar might have been utilized for medicinal purposes.”
Dr Ian Bull, also from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, stated: “This is an excellent example of how cutting edge chemical analyses have actually had the ability to re-characterise an otherwise ordinary item as something of extreme historical interest, offering possible insights into medical practices in the Middle Ages.”.
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