Cultivating Societies

Cultivating Societies Archaeological Database

Assessing the evidence for agriculture in Neolithic Ireland

Prior to the initiation of this project by Dr Nicki Whitehouse (Queen’s University Belfast) and colleagues, relatively little was known about the earliest agriculture in Ireland. The research, funded by INSTAR (Irish National Strategic Archaeological Research), focuses on the development of crop farming within the wider context of landscape change for the duration of the Neolithic period (4000–2500 cal. BC).

An integrated database of collated records of archaeobotanical data sourced from published and unpublished reports (including commercial, state and academic sectors) forms the basis of the study of the origins and spread of Neolithic crops in Ireland.

Sue Colledge's involvement in the project has been to advise on data management and database design in collaboration with Dr Meriel McClatchie (RA for the project).

The success of the project is attested by the increase in the numbers of Neolithic sites with recorded finds of domestic crops in comparison with what was previously known (e.g., before only 10 were recorded in publications and by the end of 2010 - when the third period of funding elapsed – there were 40 database sites at which domestic taxa had been identified). These data are integrated with several hundred 14C dates, including 191 new dates on cereal grains and other short-lived species that were funded by the project, which define the chronological context to the study of the spread of farming in Ireland.

Sue continues to work with the Cultivating Societies project; Dr McClatchie and Sue are integrating the Irish records with archaeobotanical data from European Neolithic sites that were collated during the AHRC funded Origins and spread of Neolithic plant economies in the Near East and Europe project (PI: Stephen Shennan) and analysis of the two data sets will form the basis of papers in the near future.

Related outputs

  • Cultivating Societies Database
  • McClatchie, M., Whitehouse, N., Schulting, R., Bogaard, A. and Barratt P. 2009. Cultivating societies: new insights into agriculture in Neolithic Ireland. In E. Danaher, J. Eogan and M. Stanley (eds), Dining and dwelling, 1–8. Archaeology and the National Roads Authority Monograph Series No. 6. National Roads Authority, Dublin,
  • Whitehouse, N., McClatchie, M., Barratt P., Schulting, R., McLaughlin, R. and Bogaard, A. 2010. INSTAR – Cultivating societies. Archaeology Ireland 24(2), 16–9.


Project Member:

Project Partners:

  • Queens University Belfast: Nicki Whitehouse, Meriel McClatchie, Phil Barratt, Rowan McLaughlin
  • Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford: Rick Schulting, Amy Bogaard


Further information:

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