The decomposition of starch grains in soils: implications for archaeological residue analyses

Haslam, M. (2004) The decomposition of starch grains in soils: implications for archaeological residue analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science, 31 12: 1715-1734. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2004.05.006


Author Haslam, M.
Title The decomposition of starch grains in soils: implications for archaeological residue analyses
Journal name Journal of Archaeological Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0305-4403
Publication date 2004-01-01
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.jas.2004.05.006
Volume 31
Issue 12
Start page 1715
End page 1734
Total pages 20
Editor J. Grattan
K. Butzer
Place of publication UK
Publisher Academic Press
Language eng
Subject C1
430200 Archaeology and Prehistory
780107 Studies in human society
Abstract Recent research involving starch grains recovered from archaeological contexts has highlighted the need for a review of the mechanisms and consequences of starch degradation specifically relevant to archaeology. This paper presents a review of the plant physiological and soil biochemical literature pertinent to the archaeological investigation of starch grains found as residues on artefacts and in archaeological sediments. Preservative and destructive factors affecting starch survival, including enzymes, clays, metals and soil properties, as well as differential degradation of starches of varying sizes and amylose content, were considered. The synthesis and character of chloroplast-formed 'transitory' starch grains, and the differentiation of these from 'storage' starches formed in tubers and seeds were also addressed. Findings of the review include the higher susceptibility of small starch grains to biotic degradation, and that protective mechanisms are provided to starch by both soil aggregates and artefact surfaces. These findings suggest that current reasoning which equates higher numbers of starch grains on an artefact than in associated sediments with the use of the artefact for processing starchy plants needs to be reconsidered. It is argued that an increased understanding of starch decomposition processes is necessary to accurately reconstruct both archaeological activities involving starchy plants and environmental change investigated through starch analysis. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keyword Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Archaeology
Anthropology
Starch Grains
Soil
Residue Analysis
Taphonomy
Transitory Starch
Scanning Electron-microscopy
Stone Tool Function
Microbial Enzyme-activities
Potato Ipomoea-batatas
Lolium-temulentum L
North-east India
Beta-vulgaris L
Organic-matter
Amylase Activities
Corn Starch
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: 2005 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Social Science Publications
 
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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 14:25:51 EST