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Written by Dr. Alexandra Livarda.

The priorities of the environmental team during the first excavation season were to devise and implement a systematic soil sampling strategy and create the installations for the processing of samples. Systematic sampling allows detection of both presence and absence patterns across space and time, and therefore, reliable identification of any activity areas. In total 104 bulk soil samples were collected from all excavated units, excluding the top soil layers. The samples were processed in a York-style flotation machine, adapted to recycle water in an attempt to minimize wastage and respect the limited water resources of the area. A 1mm aperture mesh was used to retain the heavy residues while the flots were being collected in a very fine piece of cloth.

Forty-seven of the heavy residues were sorted in their entirety for all categories of material during the April-May 2011 field season. Most samples had small numbers of animal bone and shells fragments and worked flint/stones. In addition, 40 of the samples contained small amounts of charcoal fragments. Also, 17 small beads of various colors (black, white, grey and green) were found in 12 samples.

Processing of the flots was carried out at the University of Sheffield during the summer (2011) and their analysis is ongoing. The preliminary results indicated the sporadic presence of plant macrofossils in 47 samples, including cereals, such as bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), possibly pea and wild species, mainly grasses (Poaceae) and mineralised seeds of Lithospermum sp.

In our YouTube Channel you can see how Alexandra Livarda built the flotation machine in Erbil.