Although the earliest work with insects from archaeological contexts dates back to was work on Egyptian mummies in the early nineteenth century, they were not widely used in archaeological interpretation until an effective technique for concentrating their remains was developed during the 1960s by Coope and Osborne at the University of Birmingham in England. Whilst most of their research centred upon climate and environment during the Late Quaternary, Osborne in particular began to examine assemblages from archaeological sites, and his work was expanded by Kenward, initially concentrating upon Roman and early medieval deposits in the city of York and later by Robinson at Oxford, whose main interest is in the late Holocene history of the Thames valley. Funding from the Leverhulme Trust in the UK allowed Buckland to examine the origins of the insect faunas of the Atlantic islands and this work has continued until recently. Initially research was concentrated upon the Coleoptera (beetles), but Kenward added identifications of Hemiptera (true bugs), and Skidmore and Panagiotakopulu Diptera (true flies). Panagiotakopulu has also worked closely with ectoparasite remains from archaeological sites. Although identification work still relies heavily upon the availability of extensive reference collections, the development of an extensive computer-based database, BUGS, of habitat, distribution and the fossil record of Quaternary insects has made interpretation considerably easier. In Scandinavia, early work was pioneered by Henriksen and later Lindroth. More recently Lemdahl has worked extensively on Lateglacial into Holocene natural assemblages and, in association with Hellqvist, has also examined archaeological contexts. Apart from Ponel’s work in France, there has been little recent research elsewhere in Europe, and most published work concerns natural assemblages. Similarly apart from Bain’s work on post-Columbian assemblages in the eastern US and Canada, and some work by Elias in the mid-West, insects have rarely been utilised in site interpretation in the Americas and, apart from Egypt, Africa, Asia and Australasia have fared even worse. Part of the reason behind this is the scattered nature of published results, and the frequent failure of archaeologists to cost scientific aspects of work upon their sites into project design. This paper attempts to outline some of the evidence which has been obtained from the study of insect remains, as well as to outline the methods used to concentrate the fossils. The fairly extensive bibliography allows access to the published literature, particularly that relevant to the Scandinavian World.
Oslo: University Museum of Cultural Heritage , 2004, 1. 353-375 p.