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Eager:Linking Archaeological Starch Residues With Ancient Behaviors


<p>At this juncture in time, archaeobotanical studies of starch grain microfossils from food plants are being undertaken, and starch remains are being successfully recovered in highly variable archaeological contexts worldwide. Despite the widespread use of this type of analysis, it is unknown why some plant tissues may adhere to stone tools with more tenacity than others, or if some residues might be erased from the surfaces of tools by subsequent use in the processing of different plant foods. This project, Lead Scientist Dr. Linda Perry in association with GMU PI Dr. Luzzader-Beach , will address these issues through a series of experiments and residue analyses involving the construction of lithic tools and the processing of modern plant materials was developed. The experiments will test whether or not patterns of archaeological starch residues can be used to interpret the long-term history of an artifact, or if the residues we encounter are simply vestiges of the final use of the tool. Analyses will be completed on the plant residues deposited on lithic artifacts used to complete basic plant processing techniques of global range and significance including peeling and slicing, grinding, and stone boiling. These processing and cooking techniques will be applied to roots, tubers, and grains both singly and in succession. The modern experimental data will then be compared with archaeological data from two Icelandic sites to test the applicability of the studies to real-world archaeology. If starch signatures can, in fact, be interpreted in terms of quantities or qualities of foods processed, they will yield insight into the relative importance of different foods in the ancient diet. Further, the study of different morphological types of plant materials such as roots, tubers, or seeds will assist in the interpretation of starch assemblages derived from plants with similar physical characteristics. Thus, data resulting from the proposed research will prove useful in the construction of more complete analyses of archaeological starch assemblages as well as by providing insight into the behavioral significance of a range of patterns of ancient residues worldwide.</p>

Luzzadder-Beach, Sheryl; Perry, Linda
George Mason University
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