Application of phytolith analysis in archaeobotanical and geoarchaeological studies: Introduction, methods and case studies
The spectra of scientific tools, which facilitate the understanding of human and environment interactions is ever growing. The identification of plant remains is essential in the processes of reconstructing the everyday life of past human societies. Archaeobotany as a discipline, covers the assessment of various plant remains, among which plant opal particles have their own special role. The analysis of plant opal particles – also known as phytoliths – covers the recovery, identification and interpretation of these micro-archaeobotanical remains. Data retrieved through the analysis of phytoliths can add information both to the environmental reconstruction and to man and plant interactions. Since these microscopic remains are recovered from the embedding material, such as sediments, soils or anthropogenic sediments, the recognition of taphonomical properties is also inevitable. The methods of geoarchaeology are also capable to provide further evidence on sediment formation occurring due to the impact of human activity. Throughout the history of mankind one of the most important influencing factors was the relation between man and plants. With the scientific tools of archaeobotany and geoarchaeology we are able to reconstruct plant utilisation practices. Based on the revealed information package the plant-based agricultural preferences of certain cultures and geographical regions can be defined.
In this talk the main focus will be on presenting and discussing the role of phytolith analysis within archaeobotany. The introduction is followed by brief overview of selected case studies with the aim to highlight the potential of phytolith analysis in archaeological research.