image/svg+xml83 IX/1/2018 InterdIscIplInarIa archaeologIca natural scIences In archaeology homepage: http://www.iansa.eu Thematic review Microscopic Analysis of Starch Grains and its Applications in the Archaeology of the Stone Age Jaromír Kovárník a* , Jaromír Beneš a a Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Palaeoecology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Na Zlaté stoce 3, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic 1. Introduction Archaeobotany ofers a series of analytical methods ( e.g. Evans, O´Connor, 1999). These various methods can be sorted according to the function and character of material studied, which may include seeds, stones of fruit, wood, charcoal and other botanical macro-remains on the one hand, and a large group of botanical microremains on the other (Jacomet, Kreuz, 1999). Integrated archaeobotanical approaches, which combine analyses of several biological indicators, began in the 1970s (Scott and Lewis, 1981; Cummings, 1994) and have become widespread due to their efectiveness as a tool for understanding the past environment, human diet, and the function of particular archaeological objects (Pető et al. , 2013; García-Granero et al. , 2015). The analysis of starch grains is a suitable, though still rather uncommon, archaeobotanical technique in archaeological research. However, starch grain analysis has been employed in archaeological research for more than the last two decades. Starch grains are part of the group of plant microremains that includes phytoliths, pollen, spores and other non-pollen” objects. Examination of these plant remains can elucidate changes in the environment, both natural and anthropogenic (Lentfer et al. , 2002; Evans, Ritchie, 2005; Roosevelt, 2016). Starch occurs as insoluble, semi-crystalline granules in plant tissue that store energy in specifc parts of the plant, such as seeds, roots and tubers (storage organs) (Hardy et al. , 2016), and as transitory starch, which is usually not recovered or identifed in samples. The analysis of starch grains is connected with investigations into plant use and plant processing in the past and also the composition of the herbaceous component of the human diet (Barton, White, 1993; Hall et al. , 1989; Fullager et al. , 1998; Henry et al. , 2014; Corteletti et al. , 2015; Tromp, Dudgeon, 2015; Shillito et al. , 2018; López, 2018; Primavera et al. , 2018). This technique is also suitable for research into the use and function of artefacts and for deciding issues of plant domestication and vegetation history (Loy et al. , 1992; Hardy et al. , 2009; Denham et al. , 2003; Fuller et al. , 2014; López, 2018, Cagnato, 2018; Albert et al. , 2018). Volume IX ● Issue 1/2018 ● Pages 83–93 *Corresponding author. E-mail: jkovarnik@jcu.cz ARtiCLe iNFo Article history Received: 22 nd August 2017Accepted: 11 th September 2018 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.24916/iansa.2018.1.6 Keywords: archaeobotanystarch morphologyamylaseamylopectinesoildental calculusgrinding stonesplant subsistenceStone Age ABStRACt Archaeobotanical micro-residuals are today a major focus in artefactual and bioarchaeological investigations. Though starch grains analysis may be regarded as marginal, it can be a useful analysis for archaeological research, being a method suitable for the investigation of stone artefacts and ceramic vessels. Soil samples and dental calculus can also be examined. Through the use of various extraction methods it is possible to answer questions of diet composition and purpose of stone tool use. As documented in recent studies examining the composition of the human diet, starch grain research should be one of the main areas of archaeobotanical investigation. Its applicability can be seen in studies where it is useful to defne the role of plants in human subsistence. New evidence of plant use in archaeological contexts in the Stone Age, beginning in the Palaeolithic and ending in the Neolithic, has been presented in recent papers. Current archaeological studies, including those using starch grain analyses, have particularly indicated the higher ratio of plants in the diet during the Palaeolithic period.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2018 ● IX/1 ● 83–93 Jaromír Kovárník, Jaromír Beneš: Microscopic Analysis of Starch Grains and its Applications in the Archaeology of the Stone Age 84 However, damaged starch grains can hinder the use of this particular technique. The results from starch grain analysis are suitable as complementary analyses to other techniques, such as palynology, phytolith analysis or plant macroremains (García-Granero et al. , 2015; Pestle, Lafoon, 2018). The examination of starch grains has improved along with improvements in microscopic technique. Antonia van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) was the frst scientist to publish an illustration of starch grains. This Dutch scientist and microscopist engaged in the observation of natural materials and created a record of the starch grains of common species of plants such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, beans, peas, rice and corn (Hogg, 1854; Britannica, 2016). The work of Fritzche continued that of Leeuwenhoek. He also recognized the potential of the heterogeneity of starch grains and its use for determining the genus and species of plants. It was only a short step towards the creation of taxonomic keys and atlases (Torrence, Barton, 2006). The German botanist and cofounder of cell theory, Matthias Jakob Schleiden (1804–1881), created a key with his own classifcation based on starch shape and hilum position. Karl Wilhelm von Nägeli (1817–1891) continued the study of the structure of starch (Britannica, 2016; Torrence, Barton, 2006). This Swiss botanist built on the work of J. M. Schleiden and created a modifcaton of the starch-grain sorting system (Britannica, 2016), among others we could mention, such as Henry