(View exact match)beetleCATEGORY: fauna
DEFINITION: Any member of the insect order Coleoptera, with at least 250,000 species (the largest order in the animal kingdom), characterized by their special forewings, which are modified into hardened wing covers (elytra) that cover a second pair of functional wings. The order includes some of the largest and smallest insects and is the most widely distributed insect order. Beetles can be found in all environments except Antarctica and the peaks of the highest mountains. Most feed either upon other animals or upon plants, but some eat decaying matter. Many beetles are very dependent on particular features of their environment; some, for example, live only in the bark of a particular tree. It is this particularity that makes beetles useful for reconstructing ancient environments. Parts of the tough beetle exo-skeleton may be well-preserved in acidic or waterlogged conditions (as in peats silts and lake clays). The temperature preferences of beetles may be determined from the fossils making it possible to reconstruct climatic changes. Beetles can also be used to investigate changes in vegetation living conditions and food-storage problems.
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Atlantic periodSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Atlantic phase, Atlantic climatic period
DEFINITION: In Europe, a climatic optimum following the Boreal, the warmest period of the Holocene. This period was represented as a maximum of temperature and evidence from beetles suggests it being warmer than average for the interglacial. It seems to have begun about 6000 BC, when the average temperature rose. Melting ice sheets ultimately submerged nearly half of western Europe, creating the bays and inlets along the Atlantic coast that provided a new, rich ecosystem for human subsistence. The Atlantic period was followed by the subboreal period. The Atlantic period, which succeeded the Boreal, was probably wetter and certainly somewhat warmer, and mixed forests of oak, elm, common lime (linden), and elder spread northward. Only in the late Atlantic period did the beech and hornbeam spread into western and central Europe from the southeast.KhepriCATEGORY: deity
DEFINITION: The ancient sun god, conceived as a great scarab beetle rolling the sun across the heavens, whose cult was centered at Heliopolis. This deity is sometimes depicted in tomb painting and funerary papyri as a man with a scarab as a head or as a scarab in a boat held aloft by Nun. This was just one of the sun god's manifestations: Khepri was the morning form, then Re-Harakhty, and Atum, the evening form.elm declineCATEGORY: term; chronology
DEFINITION: A phase in the history of northern European vegetation recognized through pollen analysis and dated by radiocarbon as c 4000 BC. It marked a sudden and marked decline in elm pollen in contrast to other tree pollens. In some areas it was accompanied by a drop in frost-sensitive species such as ivy and mistletoe, while in many others it coincided with the appearance of plants associated with human settlements (plantain and nettles). It is now attributed to disease from beetles causing Dutch elm disease though other explanations for the decline include climatic change and human interference.flotationCATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique developed to assist in the recovery of plant, insect, and molluscan remains from archaeological deposits; a method of screening in which minute pieces of flora are separated from the soil by agitation with water. The technique works on the principle that organic material such as carbonized seeds, snail-shells, and beetle wing-cases have a lower specific gravity than inorganic materials such as soil and stone, and will thus float on the top of a suitable liquid medium while the rest will sink. Water is commonly used for flotation, though there are disadvantages since it has a fairly low specific gravity and heavier material such as fruit stones will sink. Other media have been used, such as carbon tetrachloride solution or zinc chloride solution. Flotation of samples by hand is called wet sieving. Samples of material are slowly poured into water, any lumps are broken up, and the flot is drawn off with a sieve. The method is more controlled than flotation by machine, and the recovery rate is better. For large-scale excavations, machines are used. Operating principles vary: samples are poured into a large container of water, or water and paraffin, which is agitated by air injection or by currents of inflowing water. The addition of a floculating agent increases surface tension, though not all machines are 'froth flotation' machines. The flot is carried off the surface through a mesh, or series of meshes to allow preliminary sorting. Samples retrieved are sent away for specialist identification and analysis by an archaeobotanist.insect analysisCATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Any studies of insect remains in an attempt to reconstruct past environments. Pollen analysis and molluscan analysis can reveal information on climate, the environment and, sometimes, the activities of man. Insect remains are usually found in the form of the exoskeleton, parts such as the wing-cases of beetles, and they always come from anaerobic deposits such as ditches, wells, pits, and peat bogs; many of the parts of insects that are species-distinctive do not survive in archaeological deposits. They can be separated from the soil sample by flotation. Insects respond more quickly than plants to climatic change, and may therefore assist in the identification of micro-climatic phases. Insects also have habitat preferences, which is helpful in identifying specific environments.scarabCATEGORY: fauna
DEFINITION: An image or representation of a dung beetle (Scarabaeus sacer), very common in ancient Egypt, especially on the Egyptian stamp seal, in use from the Middle Kingdom (1938-c 1600? BC). The dung beetle was held sacred by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of the motive power of the sun, which was equated with the beetle's ball of dung. It figured frequently in jewelry and other art forms but is best known as the standard form of Egyptian stamp seals. These are made of stone or faience in the shape of a beetle resting on a flat base, the underside of which is carved with a distinguishing inscription in hieroglyphs and the name and titles of the owner. The back of the seal was the dung beetle form. Scarabs were perforated lengthwise and were worn around the neck of as a finger ring, serving as amulet as well as seal.