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Department of Archaeology


Phytolith Analysis

Identifying the plants utilised in weaving from this period is difficult. At some sites such as Ohalo I there are exceptionally good preservation conditions, but these sites are found mainly in the more temperate south. Some suggestions for the plants utilised have been made based on impressions or pollen (see Adavasio et al., 1997 and Soffer et al. 2000b) but an alternative methodology to macro-remain analysis is needed. This project suggests phytolith analysis as the alternative.

Phytoliths are inorganic structures created throughout the lifetime of the plant through the deposition of silica within and between the cells. They are deposited in the soil through the decay or burning of plant matter (Piperno, 1988, 2006; Thomson and Rapp, 1989; Ball et al., 1999). Phytolith analysis to look at weaving has been suggested by Hurcombe (2000) and carried out at sites such as Chatalhoyuk (see Rosen, 2005; Wendrich, 2005; and Ryan, 2011). Because phytoliths preserve better than macrobotanical remains due to being composed of inorganic silica they can be found at sites without special preservation conditions.

Phytolith reference collections have tended to focus on species of economic importance and so the first stage of this project, presented here, is to look at the species that may have been utilised in the Eurasian Upper Palaeolithic and create a phytolith reference collection. The images created in this process can be seen at the bottom of this page and can be used as reference for future analysis.




Updated: 2012-08-15. First published: 2012-08-15.
Copyright © 2012--2012 Lila Janik and Jennifer Bates
Information provided by Lila Janik and Jennifer Bates