Powerful Plants

The Power of Plants as Food, Medicine and Raw Materials Before Agriculture
Awarded by the ERC. Funded by the UKRI Horizon Europe Guarantee Fund
Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow

The POWERFUL PLANTS project is based on the premise that complex use of plants, as food, medicine and raw materials was defining in social, cultural, behavioural and technological development in human evolution. Plants are essential to our physical, psychological and physiological wellbeing providing us with energy, nutrients, medicines and raw materials. The depth of the human connection to plants suggests this has always been the case. Yet little is known about the role of plants before the emergence of agriculture around 10,000 years ago.

This project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach combining archaeology, archaeobotany, experimental archaeology, ethnography and ecology and neuroscience (all linked)  to investigate three areas – DIET AND HEALTH, MEDICINE AND THE MIND, and TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY – in which use of plants was pivotal in shaping human trajectories, with implications that are still evident today.

Front page image: Silybum marianum, milk thistle. Image taken at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in 2019, also present in the Lower Palaeolithic site here 790,000 years ago. Highly effective in treating liver disorders and poisoning. Silybum marianum