This little non-pollen palynomorph (things that are found on pollen slides, which are not pollen grains) from an archaeological site in the East Midlands, UK, drew my attention the other day. I’ve seen it before, and I need to check back through old reports to see where exactly.  It’s a wonderful little thing that can tell us about both the local environment and also the wider climate.

It is a spore (technically an ascospore) from a genus of fungi that’s primarily found in southern Europe, in particular from areas with mild winters (Jaklitsch et al 2015). So when we find it in archaeological or palaeoecological samples in the UK it is giving us an indication of  warmer climatic conditions, or at least a more sustained period of warmer winters.

Archaeologically it has been found in Roman deposits from the Netherlands (van Geel et al 2003) and from Modena, Italy (Bosi et al 2018) – and I’m sure I’ve seen it in other samples from the UK, I must dig out those reports…

In terms of helping us to understand local conditions, it grows on partly decayed bark (Jaklitsch et al 2015). So when it is found in conjunction with wooden objects it can give us more of an idea of how people were using woodland products in the past

The link to the report will follow in due course.


Bosi, G, Labate, D, Rinaldi, R, Montecchi, M C, Mazzanti, M, Torri, P, Riso, F M, Mercuri, A M, 2018 A survey of the Late Roman period (3rd-6th century AD): Pollen, NPPs and seeds/fruits for reconstructing environmental and cultural changes after the floods in Northern Italy, Quaternary International, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2018.02.002

Jaklitsch, W M, Fournier, J, Dai, D Q, Hyde, K D, and Voglmayr, H, 2015 Valsaria and the Valsariales, Fungal Diversity, 73(1): 159–202.

van Geel, B, Buurmanb, J, Brinkkemper, O, Schelvis, J, Aptroot, A, van Reenen, G, and Hakbijl, T, 2003 Environmental reconstruction of a Roman Period settlement site in Uitgeest (The Netherlands), with special reference to coprophilous fungi, Journal of Archaeological Science, 30(7), 873–883.