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Starch residues on pounding implements from Jinmium rock-shelter

A Closer Look: Recent Australian Studies of Stone Tools
Richard Fullagar (ed.) 1997
Sydney University Archaeological Methods Series 6
Grinding and pounding
stones from Cuddie
Springs and Jinmium
Judith Field
School of Archaeology
The University of Sydney
Richard Fullagar
Division of Anthropology
Australian Museum
Richard Fullagar
In Australia, grinding and pounding stones have been studied less extensively than flaked stone
artefacts, despite much recent work on certain artefact types (for example, Smith 1985, 1986,
1988, 1989; Veth et al. 1997; Gorecki et al. 1997; Kamminga 1981; Hall et al.1989). McCarthy’s
study remains the only synthesis of non-flaked Aboriginal stone implements, and is useful simply
because it emphasises the range of tasks and multi-functional tools which might be encountered
archaeologically. In this paper, we briefly review the range of non-flaked implements;
morphologically distinct pounding and grinding implements; and functional evidence for food
processing. We argue that use-wear/residue analysis is crucial for understanding grinding and
pounding implements, and that interpretations of function are not necessarily independent of tool
design. We present a case study with descriptions of implements from two Australian
archaeological sites: Cuddie Springs, an open site in semi-arid, south-eastern Australia; and
Jinmium, a rock shelter in monsoonal, tropical north-western Australia. We summarise results of
use-wear and residue analysis on tools from these two sites, and distinguish those implements
associated specifically with processing plant foods.
The Cuddie Springs excavations revealed a range of sandstone, phyllite, quartzite and other
metamorphic stone implements, some with smoothly ground, polished surfaces and traces of starch
and phytoliths (Fullagar and Field 1997). These grinding and pounding stones have been found
with flaked stone artefacts, ochre, charcoal and bones in association with dates spanning the last
30,000 years. In the older levels they are contemporary with extinct fauna. The Jinmium site
contained sandstone grinding implements, waterworn quartzite cobbles with traces of use from
processing starchy plants, probably tubers, and also ground mudstone artefacts (Fullagar et al.
1996). The antiquity of initial human occupation at Jinmium, as indicated by both rock art
sequences and dated sediments, remains uncertain. Initial thermoluminescence ages spanning
100,000 years are contradicted by optical dates and alternative interpretations which suggest
human occupation may span only the last 10,000 years (Roberts et al. in press). However, Tacon
et al. (1998) suggest production of engraved cupules at Jinmium could be as early as 40,000 years.
Further dating of sediments and rock art at Jinmium are in progress.
Our primary concern in this paper is the functional interpretation of archaeological artefacts, many
of which are small fragments. The case studies demonstrate how use-wear and residues
complement technological analyses to assign a function to grinding stone fragments, unmodified
cobbles and other artefacts. Many of the artefacts were used to process particular plant foods , and
provide evidence for understanding prehistoric diet (cf. Edwards and O’Connell 1995).
Australian grinding and pounding implements
In Australia, grinding and pounding have been associated with the processing of many materials,
including ochre (McCarthy 1967), bone artefacts (McCarthy 1967:57,68), shell artefacts
(McCarthy 1967; Attenbrow et al. this volume), wooden artefacts (for example, McCarthy
1967:58,68, 70,78), stone artefacts (for example, whetstones for shaping edge-ground axes,
McCarthy 1967:67), small animals (Yohe et al. 1991), tubers and fibrous roots (Kamminga 1982;
Hall et al. 1989), seeds and nuts (McCarthy 1967:55ff,59; Cane, 1989; Jones & Meehan, 1989; see
references in Smith 1988:105), and preparation of many other products (for example, medicines,
drugs and resins for hafting or fixatives). Grinding was also a mechanism in some rock art
engravings (McCarthy 1967:61; Flood 1977). Grinding and pounding stones are still sometimes
used by Aboriginal people, and stone raw material types range from very hard rocks, like quartzite,
to loosely cemented sandstones.
The classification of McCarthy (1967:43-72) which covers the range of non-flaked Aboriginal
stone implements, is divided into nine main classes based primarily on known or presumed
function. Most of these implements were manufactured by grinding or pounding, and were used to
process food or craft products. Implement types such as missile stones or basket weights, might be
impossible to identify archaeologically because they bear no manufacturing marks. Other types
Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
such as ritual implements depend for identification of function on ethnographic information. The
nine main classes of McCarthy (1967) include three classes which explicitly refer to “percussion
stones”, “abrading stones” (which includes grinding stones), and a multifunctional class of
“percussion and abrading implements” (which includes mortars). He highlights the fact that
Aboriginal implements are often not function-specific, hence the multifunctional class “percussion
and abrading implements”. This is illustrated by ethnographic examples, including an Aranda man
grinding an axe blade on a seed grinding dish. Other examples include the expedient use of stones
presumably picked from the ground nearby and used for some ad hoc task like pounding
bloodwood gum.
Smith (1985, 1986, 1988, 1989) revised McCarthy’s classification to provide categories more
suitable to the archaeological identification of grinding and pounding implements: “millstones”,
“mullers”, “mortars”, “pestles” and “amorphous”. Implements which were carefully quarried,
designed, shaped and maintained are easily classifiable: for example, the large tabular slabs of
sandstone manufactured into the grooved millstones for seed grinding from Late Holocene sites
(Smith 1985, 1987). The lower seed grinding stones were shaped by flaking and pitting (see
Mulvaney, this volume), and the smoothed concave surfaces are a consequence of use. The upper
stones (mullers) have one or more facets with convex surfaces which are associated with a rocking
motion while grinding the seeds. Other grinding implements or fragments have a less distinctive
shape, and flat surfaces which would be classified as “amorphous”, although they may still have
been used for processing seed (see Veth et al. 1997; and Gorecki et al. 1997 for a critique of
Smith’s classification).
Percussion produces a form of use-wear with pitting and a rough surface. Depending on the stone
type and the plants processed by these activities, polish may form at various stages of development
(Fullagar 1991), but pounding is unlikely to permit extensive polish development unless the
material is very soft and siliceous, like sago palm (Fullagar 1989) or ferns roots (Hall et al. 1989).
Pounding stones for processing nuts or tubers may be unmodified stones selected for their size,
and they have been documented throughout Australia from the temperate and arid zones to the
monsoonal tropics. Stones used for grinding siliceous materials, like grass seeds, will sustain a
polish from use which is much more developed than on stones used for pounding. Distinctive
residues on stone tools include phytoliths and starch grains, which can indicate what plant taxa
were processed (Fullagar and Field 1997; Kealhofer et al. in press). While pounding of nuts,
tubers, other plant and animal materials might be seen as an early adaptation of humans, the
manufacturing of grinding dishes (see Mulvaney, this volume) and the grinding of seeds are
thought to be more complex, relatively more recent innovations, and restricted to the arid and
semi-arid zones (Tindale 1977; Smith, 1989; Balme, 1991; Fullagar and Field 1997).
Cuddie Springs
Cuddie Springs is an open site in semi-arid, central northern New South Wales and has a record of
human occupation overlapping with a suite of extinct fauna (Dodson et al., 1993; Furby, 1995).
The grinding stones are present in six analytical archaeological levels spanning at least 30,000
years, and about forty of these implements have been analysed (Figures 1-4). These artefacts have
been examined microscopically for traces of use, including residues and polish (Fullagar & Field,
1997). The artefacts have a range of morphologies including single or double sided grinding
surfaces, each with convex, flat or concave cross-sections (Figures 1-4; Table 1). Sampling and
analysis of residues on the used surfaces have identified functions which include animal (rare) and
plant (common) processing (Furby, 1995). Specific taxonomic identification of processed plant
materials is not yet possible, though we are currently analysing phytoliths, starch grains and other
tissues. Residues and polish on some grinding surfaces suggest processing of starchy, siliceous
plants prior to 28,000 years ago. Likely candidates include seeds or sporocarps from fern
(nardoo), acacia, grass, chenopods and other shrubs (Fullagar & Field 1997).
Of interest is the range of implements as inferred from the design and morphology of fragments.
Pounding implements include hammerstones, mortars and pestles (for example, CS957,
archaeological level 4; CS5000, archaeological level 5). Fragment CS5000 (Figure 4A), has a
circular pitted surface which is interpreted as an anvil or mortar. The cross-section of grinding
stone fragments is difficult to interpret, although even very small pieces often are clearly concave,
Richard Fullagar
flat or convex. Many (n=23) have grinding surfaces on two sides with concave, convex, flat or
uneven opposing surfaces. Others (n=10) have a single surface, concave (n=2), convex (n=1), flat
(n=5) or uneven (n=2). A significant proportion have one or two flat surfaces (23 out of 33),
including five fragments with opposing flat surfaces. Some with flat grinding surfaces may be
classifiable as mullers at some stage in their use-life, because of an opposing, distinctive convex
morphology. Others classifiable as undiagnostic or “amorphous” (using the terminology of Smith
1985, 1986, 1988), have flat surfaces with distinct plant residues (starch grains and phytoliths),
and polish development consistent with grinding siliceous plants. These thin sandstone fragments
with flat surfaces are likely to be part of lower grinding slabs.
Design considerations are important in distinguishing pounding and grinding. Fragments of a
sandstone grinding dish are suggested by a concave surface, thinner towards the centre, with the
circular outer rim intact (for example, Figure 1E). The thinnest part of the fragment CS6034 is less
than 1 cm thick and the material is sandstone, characteristics which together would be unsuitable
for any kind of pounding action. Limited grinding and pounding experiments with similar
sandstone support this inference. Morphologically, fragment CS6034 fits within Smith’s class of
grinding dish or millstone fragment. Use-wear and residue analyses further support this
interpretation with evidence of starchy siliceous plant processing. Sandstone fragments with
ground concave surfaces are therefore likely to be upper stones (for example, Figure 4H).
Use-wear and residue studies suggest siliceous and starchy plant processing, and several
implements are likely to be multifunctional. It is highly significant that at Cuddie Springs there is a
range of morphological classes which in turn suggest a range of processing techniques and,
perhaps, a variety of exploited plants. Beth Gott (personal communication) suggests that in historic
times about 15 plant families and 50 species of seed were processed for food by Aborigines in the
northwestern plains of NSW. Further studies of residues (starch and phytoliths) and wear pattern
variability (particularly more controlled experiments) are in progress. Preliminary analyses
indicate that processed plants include grass seeds.
The Jinmium rock-shelter is located in the north west of the Australian continent in the east
Kimberley region. The site lies on undulating sands which slope gently towards the Coornamu
swamp and Sandy Creek (see Atchison and Fullagar, this volume). The climate is characterised by
a semi-arid regime with a monsoonal rainfall pattern, that is a distinct wet season between
December and April. The archaeological record was investigated by excavation of four 1 m x 1 m
pits in spits within natural stratigraphic units (Fullagar et al., 1996). The lithic finds include
flaked stone, grinding stones, unmodified quartzite cobbles and sandstone rubble. Of interest here
are three quartzite cobbles, one grinding stone (Figure 5), and two ground mudstone fragments
(Figure 6).
In Unit 1, three water-worn quartzite cobbles with no macroscopic traces of human modification
were found. A relatively high frequency of starch grains were visible microscopically and
measured by counting numbers of starch grains. Plant remains that are typical residues of seed
grinding, that is phytoliths and/or oxalate crystals were not found on these implements. The
potential for integrating phytolith analysis with use-wear and residue studies has been recently
demonstrated by Kealhofer et al. (in prep.). A study by Atchison (1994; Atchison & Fullagar, this
volume) has demonstrated that residues collected from the surface of the cobbles have a higher
frequency of starch grains than in the surrounding sediment. The presence of starch grains together
with the absence of phytoliths and oxalate crystals eliminates grasses, water lily, palm and some,
but not all tubers. The morphology and use-wear on these utilised cobbles contrast with traces on
mullers, which have a convex and highly polished surface with abundant starch (Figure 5).
Phytoliths on this muller have yet to be analysed, but the polish suggests grass seed processing.
Some cobbles have traces of percussion damage with minimal or no polish development,
suggesting use as hammerstones or as pounders for the production of circular engravings/cupules
which are present at the site. Further experiments will be required to assess whether such a
distinction is possible.
Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
Two small, tabular mudstone pieces with extensive grinding were recovered from Unit 1
(Figure 6). These pieces fit together and appear to be part of an artefact which has been ground on
opposing surfaces into a circular shape, with remnants of a hole chipped in its centre. Extensive
microscopic study failed to find any residues or traces of use, apart from mudstone debris
accumulated in the course of grinding and shaping the artefact. Given the excellent preservation of
organic residues (including seeds and microscopic starch grains), it is likely in this case that the
absence of any traces of use is real evidence that the artefact was not an implement for processing
food or craft products. Given the careful shaping and delicate grinding facets, it may be a
fragment from a broken ornament.
Use-wear and residue analysis provides a method for identifying tool function in cases where the
tools have not been altered or shaped. For example, quartzite cobbles from Jinmium have not
been shaped or modified by people, but have distinctive wear marks and residues which suggest
the pounding of tubers. Use-wear and residues are potentially helpful for interpreting fragments or
broken pieces (the amorphous grinding stones in Smith’s classification) and implements which fit
into more than one morphological class. For example, many of the grinding stone fragments from
Cuddie Springs have traces of use which are distinctive of processing siliceous starchy plant
materials, including grass seeds. Use-wear and absence of residues can suggest a non-utilitarian
function for implements, as for the the mudstone fragments from Jinmium. In each case, design
and other contextual information must be considered in interpreting tool functions.
Identification of technologies for processing tubers and seeds is important, particularly when other
archaeological evidence of plants is rare or absent. At Jinmium in tropical northwestern Australia,
evidence of seed grinding is preceded by evidence of tuber pounding, though sample size is small.
Tubers provide much higher returns for much less labour, compared with seeds, and perhaps the
later addition of seed processing is indicative of dietary stress. Inadequate temporal and climatic
data limit interpretations at Jinmium. However, at Cuddie Springs, a large sample of grinding and
pounding stones in a palaeoecological context support a model which relate seed grinding to
increasing climatic and dietary stress (Fullagar and Field 1997).
Typological and contextual analyses (Smith 1985, 1988; Balme 1991, 1995) have indicated that
widespread wet milling of grass seeds is associated with distinctive implement morphologies, and
that intensive seed grinding of this kind was a Late Holocene phenomenon. The new data from
Cuddie Springs challenges this scenario, and indicates a much earlier seed grinding economy. The
origins of seed grinding have been related to resource stress (White and O’Connell, 1982),
induced by higher aridity and perhaps associated with megafaunal extinctions. Edwards &
O’Connell (1995) have argued that the shift to seed exploitation may have been a product of
resource depletion, that is they will only be exploited when other higher ranked resources become
scarce. A model has been developed by Field (Furby 1995; Fullagar and Field 1997), in an
attempt to explain the development of seed grinding in the semi-arid margins prior to the Last
Glacial Maximum. Initial exploitation of plants was expedient and there may have been no formal
equipment for the processing of seeds as a periodic supplement during visits when other resources
were scarce. In the semi-arid zones plant foods become more important periodically, depending
on the availability of water and extent of droughts. After about 30,0000 years ago, climatic
changes induced a shift to more extensive grasslands around Cuddie Springs. At the same time,
faunal records suggest a drop in the number of browsing animals. To survive in increasingly arid
areas, people were pressured to adopt more efficient techniques for harnessing fewer resources
while at the same time maintaining their commitment to sites of significance and the associated
cultural and spiritual ceremonies. More refined use-wear and residue studies have the potential to
test this scenario by identifying specific plants being processed.
Ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological studies will be important for understanding the potential
range of plants that were exploited for food, the spectrum of morphologies of different types of
processing tools, and the context of tool-use. Integration of phytolith analysis with use-wear and
Richard Fullagar
residues for the Cuddie Springs artefacts is in progress and will provide a basis for identifying
particular plant taxa (cf. Kealhofer et al. in prep.).
Use-wear and residue studies, integrated with tool design and artefact morphology, provide the
key for better understanding the specific function of grinding and pounding stones. Plant food
processing can be identified by microscopic analysis. It is also possible to test whether fragments
with ground surfaces are ornamental, rather than used to process some food or craft product. As
larger assemblages are excavated from Cuddie Springs, Jinmium and other sites, we expect to
recover more reliable information on the history of plant food processing and palaeodiets in
different environments. Extensive reference collections (phytoliths and starch grains), and more
replicative and controlled experiments are required to fully understand the nature of use-wear and
residues on pounding and grinding stones.
We would like to thank Biddy Simon, Paddy Carlton and others from Marralam, the local
Mirriuwung-Gajerrong people, Waringarri Aboriginal Corporation, Essie Coffey, Garry Lord, Ted
Fields and the Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council. Jim Allen, John Dodson, Les Field and
Lesley Head have provided continuing support, discussion and critical comment. Funding has
been provided by the Australian Research Council, AIATSIS, UNSW, The Australian Museum,
National Geographic and the University of Wollongong. Figures 5C and 6 are reproduced from
Fullagar et al. (1996) with permission of the authors and Antiquity. Figures 1A,E,F and 2C are
reproduced from Fullagar and Field (1997) with permission of the authors and Antiquity.
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Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
Figure 1: Grinding implements from Cuddie Springs from Units 1 and 2. (Illustrations:
Drahos Zak).
Richard Fullagar
Figure 2 Grinding and pounding implements from Cuddie Springs from Archaeological level
4 (Illustrations: Drahos Zak).
Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
Figure 3 Grinding implements from Cuddie Springs from Archaeological level 4
(Illustrations: Drahos Zak).
Richard Fullagar
Figure 4 Grinding and pounding implements from Cuddie Springs from Archaeological
levels 5 and 6 (Illustrations: Drahos Zak).
Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
Figure 5 Quartzite cobbles from Jinmium, Unit 1 with starch residues, probably used for
pounding starchy tubers. Scale = 10 mm. (Illustration: Drabs Zak).
A: C1/III, Spit 23C; B: C1/III Spit 25 (Tool 3 in Atchison & Fullagar this volume); C: C1/III
Spit 25 (Tool 2 in Atchison & Fullagar this volume); D: C1, Surface (Tool 1 in Atchison &
Fullagar this volume).
Figure 6 Quartzite cobbles from Jinmium, Unit 1 with starch residues, probably used for
pounding starchy tubers. Scale = 10 mm. (Illustration: Drabs Zak).
Richard Fullagar
Table 1 Morphology and summary data for grinding and pounding implements from Cuddie
abrasion, 3
anvil, 4
bone, 2
Cuddie Springs, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11,
12, 14
diet, 2
edge-ground axe, 2, 3
engraving, 2, 5, 8
fern, 3
flaking, 3
grass, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
grinding, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14
gum, 3
hammerstone, 4, 5
Jinmium, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13
Kimberley, 4
megafauna, 6
millstone, 3
mortar, 3, 4
mudstone, 2, 4, 5
muller, 3, 4, 5
nuts, 2, 3
Grinding and pounding stones from Cuddie Springs and Jinmium
ochre, 2
oxalate crystals, 5
palm, 3, 5
percussion, 3, 5
pestle, 3, 4
phyllite, 2
phytolith, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
pitting, 3
plant food, 2, 6
polish, 3, 4, 5, 7
pounding, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 13, 14
quartzite, 2, 3, 4, 5
residue, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
resin, 2
rock art, 2
roots, 2, 3
sandstone, 2, 3, 4
Sandy Creek, 4
seed, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
siliceous plant, 3
smoothing, 3
starch grains, 3, 4, 5, 6
tuber, 2, 3, 5, 13
use-wear, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
water lily, 5
wet milling, 6
wood, 2
... At the Leiden Faculty of Archeology, the labs and consumables were consistently sampled separately during this study, and no modern starches were detected. The protocol was applied after Pagán-Jiménez (2007), and further modified based on (Atchison and Fullagar 1998;Barton et al. 1998;Pearsall et al. 2004;Zarrillo et al. 2008). In an attempt to retain macrotrace data, all artifacts except sample 4 were left to "soak" in ultra-purified water in separate, new plastic bags for less than 5 min. ...
... The sample with solution was agitated and mixed using an ultrasonic bath for at least 1 min. Next, ancient starches were separated from other particles using a centrifuge operated at 2500 rpm for 8 min (procedure modified from Atchison and Fullagar 1998;Barton et al. 1998;Pagán-Jiménez 2007;Pagán-Jiménez et al. 2015;Pearsall et al. 2004). The supernatant (liquid lying above the solid residue) was decanted into new centrifuge vials. ...
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Archaeobotanical investigations in central Nicaragua are absent and preservation of organic remains is poor; therefore, we have applied starch analyses to samples from fragments of clay vessels excavated from layers dated to cal 1224 and 1391 CE at the Barillas site, Nicaragua. The approach to this dataset reveals the ways people interacted with edible plants in southern Central America. The scarcity of griddles recovered from ancient Nicaraguan archeological contexts has previously co-determined narratives on human mobility or cultural influence from the Mesoamerican culture area, due to the debatable presumption that this type of artifact necessarily entangles production and consumption of maize tortillas. In this article, we present results demonstrating evidence for the use of several starchy plants. The reconstructed culinary practices are vital for disentangling human-plant interrelationships and challenge earlier conceptions of ancient foodways in Central America. This research constitutes the first starch analysis in Nicaragua and the recovered plant remains belonging to manioc (Manihot esculenta Crantz), chili pepper (Capsicum sp.), and maize (Zea mays L.) have provided empirical evidence of ancient foodways. Concomitantly, these results have invalidated the preconception that griddles were tools used exclusively for the production of maize tortillas.
... The samples from this analysis (~0.214 g each) come from sediment obtained from dry-scraping the used surfaces of the griddle fragments. The procedures we followed were primarily after Pagán-Jiménez (2007), and we included slight modifications based on Atchison and Fullagar (1998), Pagán-Jiménez et al. (2015), Pearsall et al. (2004), Zarrillo (2012), and Zarrillo et al. (2008). The starch extraction protocol first called for us to lightly wash each artifact with distilled water. ...
... We transferred sediment samples from the griddles to the labs at Leiden University and subjected them to a flotation procedure to separate starches from the rest of the material. We applied this part of the procedure primarily after Pagán-Jiménez (2007) and modified from Atchison and Fullagar (1998), Barton et al. (1998), Dickau (2005), Henry et al. (2016), Pearsall et al. (2004), Perry (2010), Therin et al. (1999), Zarrillo (2012), and Zarrillo et al. (2008). We prepared a solution of heavy-liquid cesium chloride (CsCl) to 1.79 g/cm 3 and subsequently added it to each vial. ...
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Late precolonial (c. 800–1500 CE) culinary practices in the northern Caribbean have received limited investigations. Determining foodways has been integral for the study of cultures, yet there has never been a comparison of foodway dynamics in the Caribbean between the Greater Antilles (the presumed origin of people who migrated into The Bahamas) and the Bahama archipelago. The objective of our study was to analyze microbotanical residues (starches) extracted from 45 clay griddles (food preparation platters) to illuminate a partial view of the phytocultural repertoire of this region and explicate variations of the identified culinary practices. The griddles were excavated from three archaeological sites: El Flaco and La Luperona in northwestern Dominican Republic and Palmetto Junction on the western coast of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands. Regarding the production of plant-based food on griddles, our produced data suggests that the people who lived at El Flaco focused on the production of maize (Zea mays L.) derivatives, La Luperona residents prepared guáyiga/coontie/zamia (Zamia spp.) food products, and Palmetto Junction ostensibly had a focus on the production of manioc (Manihot esculenta Crantz) based foods. This survey of foodways has exposed particular cultural niches, different adaptation strategies, and associated culinary practices.
... However, it seems that starches found in soil surrounding an artifact are more related to transference from the artifact (Pagán-Jiménez et al., 2015;Pearsall et al., 2004). Consistently throughout experimental and archaeological studies, starch grain frequencies in sediment samples are considerably less than those recovered from artifact surfaces (Atchison and Fullagar, 1998;Barton et al., 1998;Haslam, 2004;Loy et al., 1992;Piperno et al., 2009;Therin, 1998). ...
... The objective for this part of the protocol was to separate the starch grains through flotation and isolate them from other particles. The following protocol was applied to this study after Pagán-Jiménez (2007), (modified from Atchison and Fullagar, 1998, Barton et al., 1998, Pagán-Jiménez et al., 2015, Pearsall et al., 2004. Once the samples were completely dried a heavy-liquid solution of CsCl and ultra-purified water, prepared to 1.80 g/cm 3 density was added. ...
... Control samples are essential to help assess whether a residue is likely to be use-related. In this study, extractions taken from adjacent non-worked surfaces served as control samples 53,54 . ...
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Insects form an important source of food for many people around the world, but little is known of the deep-time history of insect harvesting from the archaeological record. In Australia, early settler writings from the 1830s to mid-1800s reported congregations of Aboriginal groups from multiple clans and language groups taking advantage of the annual migration of Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) in and near the Australian Alps, the continent’s highest mountain range. The moths were targeted as a food item for their large numbers and high fat contents. Within 30 years of initial colonial contact, however, the Bogong moth festivals had ceased until their recent revival. No reliable archaeological evidence of Bogong moth exploitation or processing has ever been discovered, signalling a major gap in the archaeological history of Aboriginal groups. Here we report on microscopic remains of ground and cooked Bogong moths on a recently excavated grindstone from Cloggs Cave, in the southern foothills of the Australian Alps. These findings represent the first conclusive archaeological evidence of insect foods in Australia, and, as far as we know, of their remains on stone artefacts in the world. They provide insights into the antiquity of important Aboriginal dietary practices that have until now remained archaeologically invisible.
... Density differences were also used to eliminate the possibility of residues being the result of contamination (cf. Atchison and Fullagar, 1998;Barton et al., 1998). Residue combinations were compared across all samples and controls to further support interpretations relating to specific activities, since certain activities should result in particular combinations of residues. ...
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For nearly 70 years scientific techniques have been routinely applied in archaeological research. Yet some artefacts hold such cultural significance that sampling is inappropriate, restricting the methods that can be brought to bear in their analysis. Such restrictions often apply to rock art, especially where research is directed by the indigenous peoples who have stewardship over not only the site fabric, but its inseparable cultural context. Here we report a multi-technique program of in-field and laboratory-based analyses to describe the materiality of a painted rock art site in Nyiyaparli country, in the Central Pilbara region of Western Australia. The relationship between the rock art, nearby potential pigment sources and evidence for ochre processing at the site was investigated using in situ portable X-Ray Fluorescence and optical microscopy, with interpretations aided by field and laboratory-based residue analysis of grinding related stone artefacts and X-Ray Powder Diffraction of potential ochre sources. Our findings provide an example of the nuanced interpretations that scientific analyses can add to rock art investigations. Our work suggests that local materials were used in the production of painted art and that ochre processing was ubiquitous at the site and other nearby rockshelters. Combined with the placement of rock art in a hidden context within the site, we suggest the panels at BBH15-01 were part of in-group events and that art and ochre processing in the Baby Hope study area were part of everyday activities.
... Since the purpose of the analysis was to monitor the distribution of the starch granules on the surface, the distribution of plant macro residues (e.g., fibers, flour.) on the tool surfaces was only described qualitatively (localization and distribution manner) with the naked eye. Starch have been extracted and analyzed following criteria known and widely accepted by modern and ancient starch analysts (Atchison and Fullagar 1998;Barton and Torrence 2015;Field et al. 2009;Fullagar et al. 2008;Haslam 2006;Henry et al. 2009;Loy et al. 1992;Mercader et al. 2018;Torrence and Barton 2016;Yang and Perry 2013). We stress that the origin of the starch granules was known to us, and the scope of this work is to assess where larger masses of starch granules gather on the stone surface and assess where they appear more damaged. ...
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In recent years, several works have proved the reliability of the application of 3D modeling and spatial analysis in the study of stone tool use. Monitoring surface morphometry resulting from the use of lithic tools has the potential to objectively quantify and identify patterns of modifications associated to specific activities and worked materials. In particular, the combination of surface morphometry with a systematic experimental framework and use wear analysis has the potential of foreseeing residue distribution areas over the groundstone surfaces, hence providing a key aid in establishing sampling strategies applied to archeological specimens. Here, we propose an approach that applies 3D modeling, performed through a close-range photogrammetry, and the use of GIS software to investigate surface modifications and residue distribution on groundstones used to process wild plants. Our work comprises a dedicated experimental framework in which modern tool replicas have been used to process different species of wild plant foods through grinding, crushing, and pounding. By applying 3D modeling and spatial analysis, we were able to characterize patterns of surface modifications related to each of the worked substances and activities performed. Moreover, we monitored the distribution of starch granules over the experimental groundstone surfaces and its variation in relation to the state of the worked substance and the action carried out. Our results provide one of the first experimental dataset focused on the use of groundstones for wild plant processing, and a reliable methodology for further studies related to the exploitation of stone technology and wild vegetal substances in the past.
... In a study of starch residues occurring on stone pounding tools from the Jimmium site in north central Australia, the starch forms in soil samples were compared to those extracted from the artifacts (Atchison and Fullagar 1998). It was found that, although starch granules did occur in the soil matrices surrounding the tools, they were of different size and shape than those present on the pounding stones, and, therefore, are probably not from the same plant source. ...
In January 2004, Blanton & Associates, Inc., conducted an archeological survey of 8.5 hectares (21.1 acres) for a proposed roadway improvement and bridge replacement project (CSJ: 0396-04-059) along roughly 1,800 meters (m) of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) right-ofway where State Highway (SH) 317 crosses the Leon River in Bell County, Texas (Ringstaff 2004). That investigation consisted of three shovel tests, ten backhoe trenches, and five hand-excavated columns. Five backhoe trenches and the screened trench columns were excavated in the alluvial terrace on the southern side of the Leon River and encountered a single cultural component buried between 130 and 180 centimeters (cm) below surface (bs). Wood charcoal from burned rock Feature 1 yielded an accelerated mass spectrometer date of 2490 ± 50 B.P. As a result, boundaries of a previously documented prehistoric cultural resource site to the southeast, 41BL278 were extended northwestward to include the river terrace on the southern side of the Leon River where the bridge development, area of potential effect (APE) is proposed. Ringstaff (2004) recommended archeological testing/evaluation in the area of the APE at site 41BL278, if that part of the site could not be avoided by planned bridge expansion. The Texas Historical Commission concurred with this recommendation.
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El estudio de micro residuos en arqueología ha tenido un desarrollo destacado en las últimas cuatro décadas. Los estudios tradicionales de polen, y macro restos (carpología, antracología) están siendo complementados con otros desarrollados o implementados sistemáticamente en las últimas tres décadas como fitolitos, gránulos de almidón y técnicas espectroscópicas (SEMEDS o FTIR). Estas metodologías han complementado las limitaciones tradicionales de la recuperación de macro restos, ampliando las técnicas analíticas más allá del tradicional empleo de la flotación como principal técnica de recuperación de materiales orgánicos. Por otro lado, como proponemos en este trabajo, el estudio traceológico de huellas de uso en materiales líticos ha permitido superar el estudio tipológico como método principal para definir la funcionalidad de los artefactos.
Residues, surface features and wear patterns documented on experimental and ethnographic artefacts form the foundation of residue and usewear reference libraries, from which we can interpret and evaluate the function of archaeological specimens. Here we report controlled experiments to supplement previous studies and document variables that influence usewear formation on sandstone grinding implements (including abrading stones) of different toughness and hardness. Distinct patterns of usewear result from the class of worked material, modes and duration of use, and the stone material. Hard sandstones can sustain more developed polish during use than soft sandstones, which wear more rapidly. Our experimental reference library is applied here to a pilot study of grinding implements, made of hard and soft sandstones, in archaeological contexts from southeastern Australia, where distributions of hard seed mortars and soft seed grinding stones are correlated with distinct woodland and floodplain vegetation communities, suggesting different behavioural strategies. Seed grinding is documented on both hard and soft sandstones but we suggest that grinding hard seeds is only efficient on hard sandstones. The spatial and chronological distributions of hard and soft sandstone grinding dishes are potentially linked not only with sandstone availability but also with vegetation communities and climate change.
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This dissertation approaches historical ecology as reflexive process, tying together archaeology, iconographic analysis, ethnography, and ethnohistory to argue that modern tropical ecosystems are the result of long-term, intentional engagement with human needs and priorites. Civilizational success in these environments, once thought to be marginal zones, required active and sensitive management of arboreal resources. Through a case study at the Late Preclassic and Late Classic inhabited Maya site of San Bartolo, Guatemala, I demonstrate the correspondence between the modern forest and ancient use patterns. The fieldwork component integrated silvicultural and ecohistorical development of the Petén. In conjunction with this interdisciplinary track, laboratory protocols were employed to secure ancient tree species identification on charcoal recovered from Late Classic internal chultún middens and a central plaza offering from the Preclassic period at Grupo Zacatál. Finally, connections are drawn between the archaeological data and iconographic depictions of arboreal elements present in the iconographic depictions from the site’s Preclassic structure, Las Pinturas, sub-1. Situating these remains in local context, I suggest that the canonical images form these mural scenes have connections to canonical images that appear throughout Mesoamerica, the Preclssic artists of San Bartolo connected the mythical actions to local space by adding botanical elements from species in their environment. While a full reconstruction of species exploitation and ancient silvicultural tactics are not possible from the analyses conducted in this dissertation alone, the establishment of silvicultural and archaeobotanical methods in tropical zones represents a crucial step towards more sophisticated analyses of anthropogenic ecological resilience and collapse. Includes appendices with SEM images of macrobotanicals. Microbotanical research to be reexamined in new publication. Appendix D not included in file for space issues.
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ANTIQUITY last year reported a startlingly old series of dates from Jinmium in tropical north Australia. At Jinmium are old rock-engravings, the pecked cups or cupules that are widespread in Australia. This study of the Jinmium cupules goes beyond that immediate topic to broader issues.
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Grinding-stones as a technology are seen as a key element in the artefactual transformations of the latest Pleistocene - both for themselves and the foods which were ground on them. In Australia, as in other regions, their age and status is also material to what (if any) kind of a broad-spectrum revolution in foraging accompanied them.
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We report the first site in Australia with a dated association of human technology and megafauna, in a palaeoenvironmental context. There are few sites in Australia where evidence of humans and Pleistocene megafauna coincide (Flannery and Gott, 1984; Flood, 1983 151–159; Gillespie et al., 1978; Gorecki et al., 1984). Such coincidences are often poorly dated or undated due to their antiquity or stratigraphic context. Cuddie Springs contains several distinct concentrations of megafaunal bone, in addition to a scatter of bone through all the sediments examined. Most of the deposit is beyond radiocarbon dating but an upper portion of sediment has been dated between 19,000 and 30,000 B.P. Artefacts and increased charcoal appear about 30,000 B.P. and then have a continuous presence. The artefact assemblage includes grindstones with starch residues, ochre, a probable cylcon and stone artefacts with reworked edges containing blood and hair. These combine to provide evidence of plant and animal processing and cultural practices at 30,000 B.P. The bones and artefacts were deposited when Cuddie Springs was a shallow freshwater lake surrounded by a relatively arid shrubland, the lake then became ephemeral and the environment more arid as the glacial maximum approached.
A characteristic feature of human subsistence as the last glaciation ended was the turn towards new food sources, in a ‘broad spectrum’ transformation. Australia took an unusual course, and the trajectory in its arid zone is especially striking. What were the broad spectrum diets in arid Austalia? Why did they arise so late? Did they arise late?