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    ABSTRACT: This paper summarizes phytolith analyses from four pre-Columbian agricultural raised-field sites of the coastal savannahs of French Guiana—Savane Grand Macoua, Piliwa, Bois Diable and K-VIII—and carbon isotope analyses from the first-named site. The combined phytolith and 13C isotope analyses evidence the transformation of the landscape from a relatively homogeneous wetland vegetation comprised of a mixture of C4 and C3 plants (the latter including Cyperaceae and other herbaceous monocots such as Marantaceae and Heliconia, Oryzoideae grasses, and other plants typical of frequently flooded areas) to the construction of raised fields that were dominated by C4 plants (maize and other Panicoideae grasses). Our analysis proves the utility of phytoliths for tracing the agricultural history of landscapes, showing that, as in other parts of the Central and South American lowlands, maize (Zea mays) was one important crop cultivated in raised fields. We also estimated the productivity of raised-field agriculture, showing that in combination with other subsistence activities, it certainly had the capacity to sustain sizeable populations.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Journal of Archaeological Science
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    ABSTRACT: Phytolith reference collections are a fundamental prerequisite for accurate interpretation of fossil phytolith assemblages used in reconstructing vegetation histories. As part of a multi-disciplinary research project studying Late Holocene landscape transformations associated with pre-Columbian raised field complexes in the coastal savannas of French Guiana, phytolith production in selected plant species with high environmental and economic significance native to the region was examined. A total of 49 families, 92 genera, and 108 species were analysed. Phytolith abundance in each specimen was rated qualitatively and morphotypes described following modern standards of nomenclature. Of the 92 non-Poaceae species tested, 37 contributed phytoliths that are diagnostic to at least the family level. Two of these are newly-discovered phytolith morphotypes isolated from Protium guianense (Burseraceae) and Thelypteris confluens (Thelypteridaceae [Pteridophyta]) which have not been described previously. This work represents the first systematic undertaking to establish a phytolith reference collection of French Guiana flora. Results reinforce the usefulness of phytolith analysis for distinguishing ecologically significant taxa, and therefore major vegetation formations. The creation of a comprehensive reference collection for French Guiana improves taxonomic resolution and has provided the necessary ground work for the interpretation of palaeoevironmental and archaeological records in the region.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Quaternary International
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    ABSTRACT: The relationship between bone mineral density and archaeological bone survivorship has played a critical role in zooarchaeological and taphonomic studies in recent decades. Numerous studies have suggested that higher-density skeletal element portions survive more frequently than lower-density element portions when archaeological assemblages are affected by some taphonomic processes. Interpretations of density mediated destruction have become commonplace in the archaeological literature, and are often used to explain the absence of certain bone elements and element parts in zooarchaeological assemblages. This study explores the effects of rockfall on bovid elements in varied environmental conditions and the differential survivorship of their element parts, and has implications for understanding the taphonomic processes through which bones are subjected to dynamic loading. Actualistic rockfall experiments conducted on twelve samples of frozen, fresh, and semi-dried bovid bones reveal that the generally low-density epiphyseal ends of bone elements resist fracture and analytical deletion with more frequency than the higher-density diaphyses. This evidence suggests that bone density does not correlate with likelihood of breakage or effective archaeological “destruction” when rockfall and other processes that result in dynamic impact are in action. While this research does not question the relationship between bone mineral density and the likelihood for archaeological survivorship as the result of some taphonomic processes, it presents one specific set of taphonomic processes that result in the differential survivorship of low density bone elements parts and the fragmentation and destruction of higher density element parts. This research presents evidence that shows that dynamic impact is a process capable of fragmenting and sometimes destroying high-density elements while low-density elements survive.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2012 · Journal of Archaeological Science
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