Feeding Anglo-Saxon England (FeedSax)

The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution

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Running from 2017-2022, and based at the Universities of Oxford and Leicester, ‘Feeding Anglo-Saxon England’ or FeedSax for short, was a major European Research Council-funded project led by Principal Investigator Professor Helena Hamerow (School of Archaeology), which assembled large bioarchaeological datasets to investigate time-honoured questions about the development of early medieval field systems. 

Deposition of the data archive had been pre-arranged at the outset with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), but there was one thing we had not anticipated.Thanks to new kit at the Institute of Archaeology, we were able to take a multitude of high-quality microscope photographs of charred cereal grains, as a record of these ‘ecofacts’ prior to their destruction for biomolecular analysis. This was a remarkable step up from our older protocol, of bulk-scanning the grains with a flatbed scanner, and created images of such a high quality that they could be used in future studies to analyse grain morphology, as well as providing a record of the materials used. The problem was that this collection of over 6,500 photographs, weighing nearly 60 gigabytes, had not been factored into our original deposition plan with the ADS.

The SDS came to the rescue, offering long-term storage for the photographs, and an excellent visual interface, allowing this collection not only to be consulted by those reading FeedSax publications and interested in inspecting the grains we had analysed, but also to be used in future research. Better still, the SDS enabled us to link our two digital archives, providing each photograph with a DOI that is cross-referenced in our ADS database.

It was a great pleasure working the SDS team: Catherine provided friendly and efficient support for a smooth and timely migration of our files. The FeedSax team is very grateful to the SDS for allowing this unique and important photographic collection to be preserved and shared on such a user-friendly and openly accessible platform, maximising the value of our hard-won research outputs.

Dr Mark McKerracher

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Oxford