The contribution of insect remains to an understanding of the environment of Viking-age and medieval Dublin
By Eileen Reilly
Medieval Dublin IV (2003)
Introduction: This paper examines the important contribution that sub-fossil insect remains can make to an understanding of the environment of Viking-age and medieval Dublin. The study of insect remains is one aspect of the increasingly important area of environmental archaeology and can contribute to a more holistic understanding of archaeological contexts. Environmental archaeology seeks to use other scientific disciplines to answer classic archaeological questions of the ‘why, how and what’ of prehistoric and historic human activity. Environmental archaeology has a particularly significant role to play in the interpretations of urban sites because the matrix of these sites is made up primarily of organic remains – plants, wood, insects, animal bone, shell.
So what of insects in particular? What can they tell us about the prevailing micro- and macro-level environmental conditions in Dublin during the Viking and medieval periods? About the use of structures at a macro-level? About the use of domestic space within structures? About the use of hinterland resources? About the seasonality of that use? And about the hinterland itself and the nature of the landscape around the town? The study of insects can contribute to the answer to all of these questions, particularly as part of an integrated environmental/archaeological strategy, and a number of case studies will be presented in this paper to illustrate this.