MPI-SHH Project Members

Key External Project Partners

  • Michael Berthaume (Max Planck Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology)
  • Ellen Schulz-Kornas (Max Planck Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology)
  • Shira Gur Arie (Research Group on Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology, Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology)

Project Funding

This project is funded by the Max Planck Society.

Acknowledgements

We thank Roman Wittig, and field assistants at Taï National Park for collection of samples. We also wish to acknowledge the Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique and the Ministère de l’Environnement et des Eaux et Forêts of Côte d’Ivoire, the Office Ivorien des Parcs et Reserves, the Director of the Taï National Park for permission to conduct this research. We are grateful for support by the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Phytolith taphonomy

Phytoliths are increasing valuable for their ability to survive in a wide variety of preservation contexts, unexplained factors are believed to impact phytolith representativeness in certain environments.
<p>Phytolith taphonomy: Grass long-cell phytolith</p> Zoom Image

Phytolith taphonomy: Grass long-cell phytolith

Food plants often contain phytoliths (robust glassy silica particles) composed of plant opal. As phytoliths often survive the process of being masticated, digested and subsequent decay in soil, they are a valuable marker for identifying food when little other evidence has survived. Phytoliths have become important for addressing questions about early agricultural systems, trade and domestication. Although phytoliths often survive breakdown, they are damaged by a variety of poorly understood processes.

Unfortunately, there is limited information on how mastication and digestion alter phytolith size, shape or internal properties. The project aims to answer this question by examining the processes that alter phytolith size, shape or internal properties. Modelling how phytoliths deform and fracture will enable researchers to better understand phytolith assemblages.

Related Publications

Cabanes, D., Shahack-Gross, R., 2015. Understanding fossil phytolith preservation: The role of partial dissolution in paleoecology and archaeology. PLoS ONE. 10, e0125532.

Leonard, C., Vashro, L., O’Connell, J.F., Henry, A.G., 2015. Plant microremains in dental calculus as a record of plant consumption: A test with Twe forager-horticulturalists. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 2, 449–457.

Power, R.C., Salazar-García, D.C., Wittig, R.M., Freiberg, M., Henry, A.G., 2015. Dental calculus evidence of Taï Forest Chimpanzee plant consumption and life history transitions. Scientific Reports. 5, 15161

 
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