Finds of Lithospermum Nuts at Archaeological Sites in Ukraine

Keywords: paleoethnobotany, Lithospermum officinale L. and Buglossoides arvensis (L.) I. M. Johnston [syn. Lithospermum arvense L.] nuts, Trypillia culture, Ukraine

Abstract

Lithospermum officinale L. and Buglossoides arvensis (L.) I.M. Johnston [syn. Lithospermum arvense L.] nuts were found among the fossil grains and seeds in the materials of various archaeological cultures of the territory of Ukraine. These finds have attracted the researchers’ attention for their large number, which sometimes reaches tens of thousands. Why were our ancestors interested in these small, unattractive plants? They have neither brightly fragrant flowers, nor edible fruits.

The oldest and largest find, more than 40,000 nuts of Lithospermum officinale L., was found in two pots from Trypillia settlement Ozhevo-Ostriv (the last phase of ВІ — В / I stages, Cucuteni A4) dated by the last third of the 5th millennium BC. For what purpose was such a number of nuts collected? In the article there is data on the finds of gromwell nuts in Europe and the reasons for their gathering. There are several of them: the usage of nuts for future crops and preparation of plants roots with red coloring; making beads from nuts; the usage of nuts in herbal medicine as diuretics, anesthetics and as an aphrodisiac. For what purpose was a large number of nuts collected by the residents of Trypillia settlement Ozhevo-Ostriv? The ancient population may have used nuts as a folk remedy and as a dye. However, the laying of vessels with nuts under the platform No. 4 at the Ozhevo-Ostriv settlement did not imply such household usage. Probably, these nuts were collected and placed in vessels for ritual purposes and they should be considered as ritual items.

The finds in materials from other archaeological cultures are less numerous. It is possible that gromwell nuts were used as herbal medicine or as a dye.

The gromwell nuts are also of interest to modern researchers. Thanks to recent studies by K. Pustovoytov and S. Riehl, the possibility of using biogenic carbonate from the shells of nuts for radiocarbon dating has been established. Thus, the biogenic carbonate of the nut shell is a new source of chronological information. The same researchers established the relationship between the isotopic composition of oxygen from the biogenic carbonate of nuts and climatic conditions.

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2021-09-23
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