Why Grass Cuts

Phytoliths and Their Use in Historic Soil Sample Analysis

This exciting project, undertaken in collaboration with York University, produced a pilot study using new scientific techniques that analyse the preservation of grasses and other plant material in historic soil samples taken from excavations. A first for the UK, gave new interpretations to urban contexts, building on the rare survival of environmental deposits in York.

The project not only provided us with unique information taken from the soil excavated at Coppergate over 40 years ago for exhibitions in the future, but also delivered family friendly material and events which aids with understanding and access. In December 2015, Hayley McParland from the University of York delivered a unique event at DIG, an Archaeological Adventure, as part of the Arts Council England Funded Vespertine programme.

Vespertine#7 Seeing the Unseen showcased the exciting and ground-breaking archaeological research by Hayley. Phytoliths; the skeletons of cells that allow identification of plants from 1000s of years ago, giving us vital information about our history, were transformed into 3-D printed sculptures, light projections and festive decorations. The evening also included a talk from Hayley as well as contributions from filmmaker Martha Jurksaitis, makers Stuart Childs & Zoe Eady, video designer Joss Sessions, pop band Being 747 and York St John’s Converge group.


Project Reports

PhytoArkive Project General Report by H. McParland