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Starch Grain Analysis of Early Neolithic (Linearbandkeramik and Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain) Contexts: Experimental Grinding Tests of Cereals and Legumes

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Proceedings of the 3rd
Meeting of the Association
of Ground Stone Tools
Research
Edited by
Patrick Pedersen, Anne Jörgensen-Lindahl,
Mikkel Sørensen, Tobias Richter
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Access Archaeology
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Proceedings of the 3rd
Meeting of the Association
of Ground Stone Tools
Research
Edited by
Patrick Pedersen
Anne Jörgensen-Lindahl
Mikkel Sørensen
Tobias Richter
Archaeopress Publishing Ltd
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i
Contents
1. Making Flour In Palaeolithic Europe. New Perspectives On Nutritional Challenges
From Plant Food Processing .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 1
Anna Revedin, Biancamaria Aranguren, Silvia Florindi, Emanuele Marconi, Marta Mariotti
Lippi, Annamaria Ronchitelli
2. The Groundstone Assemblages of Shubayqa 1 and 6, Eastern Jordan - Technological
choices, Gestures and Processing Strategies of Late Hunter-Gatherers in the Qa’ Shubayqa .............18
Patrick Nørskov Pedersen
3. Starch Grain Analysis Of Early Neolithic (Linearbandkeramik And Blicquy/
Villeneuve-Saint-Germain) Contexts: Experimental Grinding Tests Of Cereals And Legumes ......... 43
Clarissa Cagnato, Caroline Hamon, and Aurélie Salavert
4. Mapping Life-Cycles: Exploring Grinding Technologies And The Use Of Space At
Late/Final Neolithic Kleitos, Northern Greece .........................................................................................................................................................................63
D. Chondrou and S.M. Valamoti
5. Macro-Lithic Tools And The Late Neolithic Economy In The Middle Morava Valley, Serbia ........ 82
Vesna Vučković
6.  The Ecological Signicance of Ground-stone axes in the Later Stone Age (LSA) of 
West-Central Africa ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................99
Orijemie Emuobosa Akpo
7. The New Oasis: Potential of Use-Wear for Studying Plant Exploitation in the Gobi
Desert Neolithic ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 116
Laure Dubreuil , Angela Evoy, and Lisa Janz
8. Above And Below: The Late Chalcolithic Ground Stone Tool Assemblage Of Tsomet Shoket ... 139
Daniela Alexandrovsky, Ron Be’eri and Danny Rosenberg
9. Grinding technologies in the Bronze Age of northern Greece: New data from the
sites of Archontiko and Angelochori ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 157
Tasos Bekiaris, Lambrini Papadopoulou, Christos L. Stergiou and Soultana-Maria Valamoti
10. Pounding Amid The Cliffs: Stationary Facilities And Cliff Caves In The Judean
Desert, Israel ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 175
Uri Davidovich
ii
11.  Quernstones in social context: the early medieval baker’s house from Wrocław ................................... 189
Ewa Lisowska
12. Stone Mortars: A Poorly Known Component Of Material Culture, Used In France
Since The Iron Age. Including Recent Data For Late Medieval Trading Reaching The Baltic ...........204
Geert Verbrugghe
13. Telling Textures: Surface Textures May Reveal Which Grains Were Ground in
Northern Ethiopia ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................229
Laurie Nixon-Darcus
14. The Bored Stone, Nougouil: Weighted Digging Sticks In Ethiopia ..........................................................................................242
Jérôme Robitaille
viii
Figure 2: Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski: Trench IIIF – the nothern prole. Section species
archeological layers (left A1-H) and occupation levels (after: Limisiewicz et al. 2015a:
57). The box shows layers and levels discussed in the paper. ...................................................................................................191
Figure 3: Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski: wooden through for kneading bread – 11th century(after:
Limisiewicz et al. 2015b: 73; photo: K. Bykowski, M. Opalińska-Kwaśnica). ........................................................192
Figure 4: Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski: a – fragment of the sketch of the trench IIIF, layer E1; b –
fragment of the sketch of the trench IIIF, layer E2 (after: Limisiewicz et al. 2015b: 75, 79;
drawing: M. Opalińska-Kwaśnica. Modied by the Author). ......................................................................................................193
Figure 5: Quernstones found in the trench IIIF in Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski:a-b – quernstones
made of mica schists; c-j – quernstones made of granite (Photo and digital proccesing by
Author). ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................195
Figure 6: Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski: set of the quernstones used to seal the abandoned
house(photo: K. Bykowski, M. Opalińska-Kwaśnica). .............................................................................................................................197
12. Stone Mortars: A Poorly Known Component Of Material Culture, Used In France
Since The Iron Age. Including Recent Data For Late Medieval Trading Reaching The Baltic ..........204
Figure 1: Distribution map of reported Iron Age/early Roman and tripod stone mortars, including
data from the studies of the Mediterranean area, Roman Aquitania and the territory
of the Arverni (respectively: Py 2016; Bertrand, Tendron 2012; Mennessier-Jouannet,
Deberge 2017). ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................205
Figure 2: Selection of archaeological data and written sources relating to stone mortars between
the 5th century BC and the 6th century AD. ........................................................................................................................................................206
Figure 3: Sample of stone mortars and pestles from the oppidum of Bibracte and the museum of
Autun. ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................207
Figure 4: Roman stone mortars from the Remi territory and from Autun (France)..............................................................208
Figure 5: Selection of written sources and archaeological data relating to medieval and modern
stone mortars. ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................209
Figure 6: Distribution map of mentioned stone mortar productions concerned by North Sea and
Meuse/Rhine trading. ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................209
Figure 7: Limestone mortars with zigzag decorative nishing on the bowl from Caen, Dieppe
(France); Dordrecht, Middelburg Museum (Netherlands); Winchester, King’s Lynn (UK)
and Faxe (Denmark). ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................211
Figure 8: Archaeological context of the 13th century discovery of stone mortars from the castle of
Caen showing two complete examples. .......................................................................................................................................................................215
Figure 9: Examples of limestone mortars with zigzag decorative nish on the sides of base from
Caen, Paris, Lagny-sur-Marne (France); Bruges (Belgium); King’s Lynn (UK) and Ribe
(Denmark). .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................217
Figure 10: Sandstone mortars combining roped edging and human faces from the belgian fortress
of Poilvache, the city of Dinant; the dutch sites of Ooltgensplaat, Dordrecht, Amersfoort;
the ports of Ribe (Denmark) and Tallinn (Estonia). ..................................................................................................................................219
ix
13. Telling Textures: Surface Textures May Reveal Which Grains Were Ground in
Northern Ethiopia....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................229
Figure 1: Maṭhan Quern Built into Udo Table with Madit Handstone Resting on Top. .......................................................230
Figure 2: Madqos Quern with Wedimadqos Handstone Resting on Top. .......................................................................................................230
Figure 3: Waizoro (Mrs) Letay Alemayo Resharpening (“Rejuvenating”) a Broken Madit Handstone
with a Mokarai (Hammerstone). .............................................................................................................................................................................................234
Figure 4: Bifacial Madit Handstone Smooth Surface - SN 1832, Mezber Square E1, Locus 8, Pail 8. ...............235
Figure 5: Bifacial Madit Handstone Coarse Surface – SN 1832. ................................................................................................................................236
14. The Bored Stone, Nougouil: Weighted Digging Sticks In Ethiopia .........................................................................................242
Figure 1: Weighted digging stick (Inji) with a bored stone (Nougouil), photograph taken by the
author in Harar. ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................243
Figure 2: Mr Ibrahim Abdulla Waari (left) and Mr Sadic Mummai Ourso (right) making Nougouil. ...........245
Figure 3: Graph of boxplots and table presenting the dimensions of 37 Nougouil from Harar ..........................246
Figure 4: Mr Houman Harmed working in his eld, using a Maxra with Nougouil. ..............................................................247
Figure 5: Mrs Sahada Madar’s husband waiting for customers at the doorway of her shop in
Harar, surrounded by Nougouil, Marasha, Inji and Maxra. ..........................................................................................................247
x
List of Tables
1. Making Flour In Palaeolithic Europe. New Perspectives On Nutritional Challenges
From Plant Food Processing ........................................................................................................... 1
Table 1: Radiocarbon dating of the Gravettian layers containing the ground stone tools object
of the analysis. ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................3
Table 2: Possible origin of the starch grains found on the tools. ...............................................................................................................................9
Table 3: Chemical and nutritional composition of oak, cattail, emmer and oat meals (g/100g fw)*. ........... 12
2. The Groundstone Assemblages of Shubayqa 1 and 6, Eastern Jordan - Technological
choices, Gestures and Processing Strategies of Late Hunter-Gatherers in the Qa’ Shubayqa ......18
Table 1: Shubayqa 1 dating, for detailed overview see (Richter et al. 2017).......................................................................................... 21
Table 2: Shubayqa 6 Dating (based on (Yeomans et al. 2019). ....................................................................................................................................... 22
Table 3: Assemblage overview. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 23
Table 4: Strategies: Action, gestures and resulting tool shape and surface morphology based
on observations of the Shubayqa material. .................................................................................................................................................................. 26
Table 5: Diversity of strategies when including all tools, i.e. fragments etc. ...................................................................................... 31
Table 6: Diversity of strategies when including only complete tools............................................................................................................. 31
3. Starch Grain Analysis Of Early Neolithic (Linearbandkeramik And Blicquy/
Villeneuve-Saint-Germain) Contexts: Experimental Grinding Tests Of Cereals And Legumes.....43
Table 1: Details of the grinding activities undertaken. .......................................................................................................................................................... 48
Table 2: Details of the dehusking activities undertaken. .................................................................................................................................................... 48
Table 3: Parameters of other experimental studies where grinding and/or dehusking was
carried out with the aim to study starch grain modications. Note: Pagan-Jimenez et
al. (2017) was not included here as they grated manioc and sweet potatoes followed
by cooking experiments. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 54
5. Macro-Lithic Tools And The Late Neolithic Economy In The Middle Morava Valley, Serbia ..82
Table 1: Middle Morava valley: number of rock types according to the settlements. .......................................................... 84
Table 2: Middle Morava valley: number of tool types according to the settlements............................................................. 85
Table 3: Middle Morava Valley: Results of the rst and second analytical steps according to
settlements. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 90
6.  The Ecological Signicance of Ground-stone axes in the Later Stone Age (LSA) of 
West-Central Africa........................................................................................................................99
Table 1: A chronological overview of the archaeological phases and environmental conditions
of the sites discussed in the text. .............................................................................................................................................................................................101
xi
Table 2: The names of ground-stone axes in some cultures in West Africa. .....................................................................................107
7. The New Oasis: Potential of Use-Wear for Studying Plant Exploitation in the Gobi
Desert Neolithic ...........................................................................................................................116
Table 1: Descriptive framework for the micropolish observed at high magnications. ................................................120
Table 2: Most common type of post-depositional alterations observedand assessment of tool
surface alteration (x=present). ......................................................................................................................................................................................................123
Table 3: Types of use-wear observed on the active surface of the lower implements (LI). .......................................126
Table 4: Use-wear observed on the active surface of the sample of upper implements (UI). ................................128
Table 5: Use-wear observed on the active surface of the sample of upper implements (UI). ................................129
Table 6: Use-wear observed on the active surface of semilunar GST(indeterminate lower of
upper implement, U/L). ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................130
8. Above And Below: The Late Chalcolithic Ground Stone Tool Assemblage
Of Tsomet Shoket .........................................................................................................................139
Table 1: Breakdown of the assemblage for types and raw materials. ..........................................................................................................143
Table 2: Breakdown of the ground stone tools contexts. ................................................................................................................................................143
9. Grinding technologies in the Bronze Age of northern Greece: New data from the
sites of Archontiko and Angelochori ...........................................................................................157
Table 1: The macrolithic categories and types of Bronze Age Archontiko. ........................................................................................159
Table 2: The distribution of the grinding tools from Archontiko within the different
occupation horizons. Horizon 1 belongs to the Late Bronze Age, while Horizons II-IV
to the Early Bronze Age. The column marked with a ‘?’ includes the specimens of
uncertain date. ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................160
Table 3: Plenitude proportions of the grinding implements from Bronze Age Archontiko.
Proportion rates are based on the estimated original size of the tool. ..........................................................................160
Table 4: Raw material frequencies for the grinding implements from Bronze Age Archontiko. .....................162
Table 5: Raw material frequencies for the grinding implements from Bronze Age Angelochori. ..................163
Table 6: Manufacture ratios for the grinding implements from Bronze Age Archontiko and
Angelochori. ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................163
Table 7: Number and relation of the use surfaces of the grinding implements from Bronze Age
Archontiko and Angelochori. ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................165
Table 8: The use sequences of the grinding tools from Bronze Age Archontiko. ......................................................................165
Table 9: The distribution of grinding tools from Early Bronze Age Archontiko within the
buildings and open areas of Phase IV. ................................................................................................................................................................................168
xii
10. Pounding Amid The Cliffs: Stationary Facilities And Cliff Caves In The Judean
Desert, Israel ...............................................................................................................................175
Table 1: Corpus of stationary facilities in the cliff caves of the Judean Desert. ............................................................................177
13. Telling Textures: Surface Textures May Reveal Which Grains Were Ground in
Northern Ethiopia ........................................................................................................................229
Table 1:
Madit
Grinding Handstone Surface Textures at Mezber and Ona Adi. ...........................................................................236
Table 2: Mezber and Ona Adi Bifacial
Madit
Handstones. ..............................................................................................................................................237
Table 3: Mezber and Ona Adi Bifacial
Madit
– Medium/Coarse Textures Combined. ........................................................237
Table 4: Mezber and Ona Adi Bifacial
Madit
Use Surfaces. ...........................................................................................................................................237
xiii
Introduction
Ground Stone Tools and Past Foodways
3rd Meeting of the Association for Ground Stone Research
The Association of Ground Stone Tool Research (AGSTR) was created in 2015 to promote research into
ground stone tools in archaeology to enhance this still emerging eld. The association was started by
Daniel Rosenberg from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, where he directs
the Laboratory for Ground Stone Tools Research. The rst meeting of the association was held in July of
2015 in Haifa at the Zinman Institute. After a successful and stimulating conference, a second meeting
was arranged, this time in Mainz in September of 2017, hosted by Johannes Gutenberg University. Both
were well-attended, with more than 50 participants each, and brought together specialists and experts
in ground stone from across the world, working in and on material from East Asia, Africa, North America,
Europe, Australia, Southwest Asia and beyond.
The third meeting of the AGSTR, was held in Copenhagen in September 2019, and focused on ground stone
tools and their role in past food procurement, processing and consumption. The tag-line proclaimed
the theme:“Ground Stone Tools and Past Foodways”. The Centre for the study of Early Agricultural Studies
(CSEAS) co-hosted the conference with the SAXO-institute of History, Archeology and Ethnology at the
University of Copenhagen.
This conference, and the two preceding it, were held at a time when the interest in ground stone
tool studies and their potential was growing. After decades of being an artefact category taken less
seriously by archaeologists, ground stone studies now appear frequently in archaeological journals and
publications from sites across the world, as a select sample of studies from the last 24 months shows
(e.g. Bajeot et al. 2020; Chondrou et al. 2021; Dietrich and Haibt 2020; Hamon et al. 2021; Hruby et al. 2021;
Li et al. 2020a; Li et al. 2020b; Santiago-Marrero et al. 2021; Zupancich and Cristiani 2020). The surge in
interest and publications is largely driven by the application of new approaches, mainly: residue analysis,
microscopic use-wear, 3D scanning and quantitative wear data, along with related experimental studies.
The successful extraction of microbotanical remains and residues from tool surfaces, in particular
phytoliths and starches, has contributed greatly to our understanding of what was processed with
these tools (e.g. Aranguren et al. 2015; Fullagar et al. 2006; Fullagar and Wallis 2014; Hamon et al. 2021;
Li et al. 2020b; Mariotti Lippi et al. 2015; Nadel et al. 2012; Pearsall et al. 2004; del Pilar Babot and Apella
2002; Portillo et al. 2013; Power et al. 2016; Santiago-Marrero et al. 2021; Yang et al. 2013; Zupancich et al.
2019). In addition to, or in combination with these analyses, studies conducting (microscopic) use-
wear analysis of ground stone, using both qualitative (Adams et al. 2009; Adams 2014; Adams et al. 2015;
Delgado-Raack and Risch 2009, 2016; Laure Dubreuil et al. 2015; Dubreuil and Grosman 2013; Dubreuil
and Plisson 2010; Revedin et al. 2018) and quantitative (including 3D) methods, often in conjunction
(Boll 2012; Caricola et al. 2018; Cristiani and Zupancich 2021; Dietrich and Haibt 2020; Zupancich and
Cristiani 2020; Zupancich et al. 2019; Chondrou et al. 2021; Martinez et al. 2013; Benito‐Calvo et al. 2018)
have documented a wide range of contact materials. The application of these approaches on material
from a wider variety of regions and time periods, has also been the deciding factor behind the growth of
the eld and the unprecedented attention ground stone tools are now receiving.
xiv
Not only limited to these methods, several new ethnoarchaeological studies have also appeared in
recent years, which have shown the potential of ethnoarchaeology to inform our understanding of
ground stone artefacts, especially with regards to the study of past foodways and the technological
choices of practitioners engaged in “traditional” food processing (Alonso 2019; Hamon and Le Gall 2013;
Nixon-Darcus and D’Andrea 2017; Robitaille 2016; Searcy 2011; Shoemaker et al. 2017).
The volume here thus contributes to this growing eld within archaeology. It presents a selection
of papers from that 3rd meeting of the Association of Ground Stone Tool Research. Though having a
particular focus on “Ground Stone Tools and Past Foodways”, the volume also includes contributions
dealing with sourcing, technology, use-wear and residue analyses and other aspects of the study of
ground stone tools, such as ethnoarchaeology. Geographically, the papers cover a wide geographic range
from Western Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Africa, and periods from the Palaeolithic to the present day.
By focusing on food, we wished to explore how ground stone analysts can approach ancient foodways
through ground stone, using new methods and approaches. Foodways, explores the myriad of activities,
people and tools involved in the procurement, processing, consumption and discard of food, and how
these activities are situated within a web of social, material and ecological relations. Ground stone tools
played a huge role in these activities up until the recent past and still in some regions of the world today.
As research within and beyond these proceedings show, there is immense knowledge about foodways
to be gained from studying ground stone tools. It may allow us to recognise dierent products being
produced, and ways of producing them, what resources were being exploited, including resources that
challenge our traditional understanding of what was processed with these tools.
This volume is structured chronologically, starting with the earliest material, the Upper Palaeolithic,
though not discriminating between geographic locations. Studies explicitly dealing with foodways are
thus interspersed with studies that also deal with other economic and social aspects of ground stone
technology. This hopefully provides the reader with a broad range of insights that go beyond a strict
adherence to foodways studies. This is done purposely, as we feel it important to consider the complex
webs of meaning and structures these tools would have been entangled in. As the “foodways” approach
also highlights, food production does not happen in isolation, but in conjunction with other activities,
tools, tasks and people (Gra 2018; Hastorf 2017).
Ground stone technology and past foodways in pre-agricultural societies are explored in both Revedin
et al. and Pedersen (Chapters 1 and 2 respectively). Revedin and colleagues focus on the production of
our in the Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian of Europe, through experiments in processing typha and oats,
along with trace residues on the surface of archaeological stone implements, argue for the importance
of starch rich foods for Palaeolithic foragers. Pedersen, by applying a gesture-based analysis of two
assemblages from eastern Jordan, explores technological traditions and change within food processing
ground stone among foragers in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene (Natuan to early Neolithic
periods) of Southwest Asia. Cagnato and colleagues, like Revedin et al., also look at plant food processing
in Europe, though from a Neolithic perspective. They also conduct experiments in processing cereals
and pulses, and through residue analysis examine how starch grains are aected by processing and by
taphonomic processes.
A specic focus on consumption, discards and deposition of food processing ground stone is found in
Chondrou & Valamoti and Bekiaris and colleagues, both dealing with evidence from the late Neolithic
and Bronze age in Greece respectively. While, Bekiaris et al. stresses the importance of more intensive and
extensive studies of ground stone assemblages and technology of the Bronze Age in Greece, Chondrou
& Valamoti examine the spatial organisation of tool use and daily life activities in the Late Neolithic.
xv
Additional studies of Neolithic assemblages are found in Vučković, Orijimie and Dubreuil et al. Vučković
sheds important light on ground stone use in the central Balkans. Dubreuil et al. nds evidence of plant
processing in the Gobi desert from microscopic use-wear analysis. Non-food tools, felling or ceremonial
tools, and their social importance is explored by Orijimie looking at ground stone axes of the Late Stone
Age, in Africa. Another example of a tool not directly involved in food processing, but rather tilling
(plant tending), is found in Robitaille, who examines digging sticks weighted by special perforated
ground stone, so-called nougouil, in Ethiopia and their Late Stone Age origin in Africa.
Alexandrovsky and colleagues provides a view of a unique assemblage of ground stone vessels and other
artefacts from underground chambers at the late Chalcolithic site Tsomet Shoket in the Levant. Another
unique assemblage from the Levant is of bedrock features high up in mountain caves of the Judean desert,
which may have served as refugiums for people in the Late Chalcolithic, is presented in Davidovich.
Lisowska presents an excellently discrete example of medieval foodways and the biography of buildings,
through a (micro-archaeological) study of a baker’s house from Wrocław, Poland. Verbrugghe then
surveys the history, manufacture and trade of stone mortars in Northern and Western Europe, from
the Iron Age and into the medieval period and their role in medicinal practices. Nixon-Darcus shows
the usefulness of ethnoarchaeological studies of technological practices and how these may inform our
archaeological interpretation. By working with modern operators of food processing grinding tools in
Northern Ethiopia, it shows how these practitioners consciously engage with the raw material of their
tools, maintaining dierently textured grinding surfaces for specic end-products.
It appears as if there are exciting times ahead for the eld of ground stone studies. We hope that this
volume will spark the interest of fellow experts within the eld and within the broader eld of stone
tool studies, and of scholars of past societies, economies and foodways generally. The chapters within,
will provide some interesting points for future discussions.
Patrick Pedersen, Anne Jörgensen-Lindahl, Mikkel Sørensen, Tobias Richter, Copenhagen 2021
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43
3. Starch Grain Analysis Of Early Neolithic (Linearbandkeramik
And Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain) Contexts: Experimental
Grinding Tests Of Cereals And Legumes
Clarissa Cagnato,¹ Caroline Hamon,¹ and Aurélie Salavert²
¹ CNRS - UMR 8215 Trajectoires; ² UMR 7209, Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: sociétés, pratiques et
environnements, MNHN/ CNRS
Introduction
The Neolithic was a signicant period in human history where economic and social changes occurred,
including the manner in which food was produced, in turn developing a range of processing and cooking
techniques for the consumption of plants and cereals (Fuller and Gonzalez Carretero 2018). Various lines
of data have allowed to shed some light on the range of plants consumed and how these were processed
during the Early Neolithic period in Europe. Archaeobotanical data include those in macrobotanical
form (e.g., Antoln and Jacomet 2015; Antoln et al. 2015; Bakels 1992; Klooss et al. 2016; Kubiak‐Martens
et al. 2015; Raemaekers et al. 2013), and microbotanical remains such as starch grains and phytoliths
(Delhon et al. 2020; Garca-Granero et al. 2018; Pető et al. 2013; Saul et al. 2013). Furthermore, use-wear
analysis in Early Neolithic European contexts has provided clues on the types and characteristics of
the tools, gestures, and technologies used to process vegetal materials (Boll et al. 2020; Hamon 2008;
Verbaas and van Gijn 2007).
Our study focuses more specically on plant processing and consumption in western Linearbandkeramik
(LBK) regions, and specically in the Paris Basin. The expansion of the LBK culture originating from
central Europe occurred rapidly across Central Europe north of the Alps around 5500 BC (Salavert 2017).
In a rst wave, farmers colonized Northwestern Europe (east of the Rhine) around 5300 BC, and in a
second wave, they reached the Paris Basin around 5100 BC. In the Paris Basin, the archaeobotanical
record comes from the study of sites spread from the Aisne Valley in France to Hesbaye in central
Belgium (Bakels 1999; Berrio 2011; Dietsch-Sellami 2004; Salavert 2010, 2011). Data indicate that cereals
such as hulled wheats —einkorn (Triticum monococcum) and emmer (T. dicoccum) — were dominant in
Early Neolithic LBK assemblages. However, it seems that the former dominates assemblages west of
the Rhine, while the latter is mostly found east of the river (Kreuz 2007; Salavert 2011). The status
(crop or weed) of barley is also unclear in LBK assemblages, although both hulled (Hordeum vulgare
subsp. vulgare) and naked (H. vulgare subsp. nudum) varieties have been reported in archaeobotanical
assemblages. Other cultivated plants include legumes such as peas (Pisum sativum) and lentils (Lens
culinaris), as well as ax (Linum usitatissimum), a plant used for its oil but also for its ber. The opium
poppy (Papaver somniferum), used for its oil or psychoactive properties, probably appears in the Paris
Basin between 5200 and 5000 BC (Salavert et al. 2020). Moreover, a range of wild and weedy plants have
been identied in the archaeobotanical record of the LBK, including fat-hen (Chenopodium album), rye
brome (Bromus secalinus), and green bristlegrass (Setaria viridis). For the subsequent period, known as the
Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (BVSG), there seems to be an increased reliance on naked wheats (T.
turgidum/durum/aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare subsp. nudum) (Hamon et al. 2019).
Use-wear studies have provided signicant information, made possible by the recovery of an important
number of grinding tools either recovered in lateral refuse pits that ank the typical Neolithic
longhouses or in special deposits (quern hoards) that can be found either in the lateral pits or in isolated
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Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
congurations (Hamon 2020). Combined low and high-power observations conducted by several authors
has led the following discriminant use-wear signatures, at least from an experimental point of view, to
be proposed (Boll et al. 2013; Cristiani and Zupancich 2020; Dubreuil 2004; Hamon 2008; Hayes et al.
2017). Cereal grinding is characterized by a strong surface levelling, a smoothing of the areas in relief
and general grain rounding; the corresponding micropitted micropolish displays a certain roughness,
with reticular morphology, a dull to moderate brightness, and ne striations. A dierent pattern
characterizes dehusking operations, more impacted by the silica component of the cereal glumes; the
roughness of the surface is higher and the abrasiveness of the silica (phytoliths) particles generate a
strong micropitting of the micropolish. Legume and acorn (Quercus sp.) processing generates a strong
levelling of the plateau, and a dull aspect. The hardness of legumes also generates microchipping, and
in some cases microstriations. Due to the presence of natural lubricants, the processing of oil-rich nuts
generates a protective lm, which slows the mechanical levelling of the surface but accelerates the
development of smoothing and the rounding of the grains. Hard seed grinding shows diverse intensity
of surface levelling as well as grain rounding, while the micropolish appears reticular and relatively
bright. Grass processing generally leaves very ephemeral traces on the surfaces and are dicult to
identify. Use-wear studies (Hamon 2008, 2014) show that in 70% of the Early Neolithic contexts, grinding
tools were used for processing cereals, either for dehusking, or for the grinding of clean grains. Others
were used or reused for mineral (coloring, grog) and animal matter processing.
The fact that not only cereals were processed has also been brought to light by microbotanical analysis,
namely through starch grains and phytoliths. One study considered starch grains and phytoliths from
LBK grinding stones from the site of Remicourt ‘En Bia Flo II’ in Belgium (Chevalier and Bosquet 2013,
2017). These analyses made it possible to extract starch grains on six of the nine grinding stones studied,
allowing the identication of dierent species such as wheat, barley, oats (Avena sp.), peas, and acorns.
The phytolith study was less revealing, in fact, none of the grinding stones contained evidence to suggest
these tools were used to process cereals, instead showing they were used to process a variety of plants,
including dicotyledons. Other studies focused rather on phytolith analysis, despite the low rate of silica
microfossils preserved in temperate climates (Hamon et al. 2011). Elongated, dendritic, pointed or short
phytoliths from leaves and glumes clearly indicated the processing of Poaceae, especially cereals. Their
low proportions suggest the grinding of partially cleaned grains rather than dehusking actions on the
stone tools. The presence of circular cells belonging to dicotyledons also suggested the grinding of
other types of plants.
To study what vegetal foods were processed and consumed by Early Neolithic populations, combining
methodologies that include use-wear, as well as macro and microbotanical analyses, whereby each has
its advantages and limitations, is essential. Prior to our extensive work (Hamon et al. 2021) there was a
real lack of multidisciplinary studies for the Early Neolithic period in the Paris Basin. Our results indicate
the rather multipurpose function of grinding stones, to obtain food but also possibly medicines and
dyes. We found the rather ubiquitous presence of cereals on the grinding stones, along with evidence
for the processing of legumes, wild plants, and underground storage organs, but also ferns, bers, and
wood tissues.
Similarly to phytoliths, where the absence of multicellular structures can indicate exposure to
mechanical pressure (Albert and Portillo 2005; Portillo et al. 2013), starch grain analysis provides a major
contribution to study food plant consumption in general, as it can not only indicate the presence of a
particular plant species but the types of damage they present can provide clues on how they may have
been processed (Ma et al. 2019). We also wanted to study whether we could detect any additional types
of modications on the grains after the tools were buried. Relying on the LBK archaeobotanical record
and use-wear studies of the Paris Basin, we selected ve dierent plant taxa to experimentally process
45
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
via dehusking and/or grinding. Three types of cereals were chosen, wheats (emmer and einkorn) and
hulled barley, along with two types of legumes, lentils and peas.
Our overall goal was to create a reference collection and comparative database not only for the
species, but also to illustrate the mechanical damages resulting from their processing and subsequent
taphonomic actions. Here, we present our experimental tests as well as the resulting starch grain
reference collection, which should make it possible to propose the dierent plant transformation
techniques implemented by past societies.
Starch Grains
Starch
Starch, the energy storage of plants, is composed of a mixture of two glucose polymers (chains): amylose
and amylopectin. These polymers are arranged in grains as alternating semi-crystalline and amorphous
layers that form growth rings (lamellae), departing from the center of growth known as the hilum
(Copeland et al. 2009). Starch is synthesized in plastids during photosynthesis and then primarily stored
in amyloplasts in underground storage organs (tubers and rhizomes), seeds, and fruits (Gott et al. 2006).
Starch grains are microscopic, ranging from 1 to 100 μm (1 μm = 0.001 mm), and exhibit characteristics
that permit their taxonomic identication, which include their size, shape, but also the presence of the
highly diagnostic extinction cross (also known as the Maltese cross). This feature, visible only when
viewed under cross-polarized light, is due to the orientation of the semi-crystalline molecules (Gott
et al. 2006).
Native starch grains
Native, or unmodied cereal starch grains from the Triticeae tribe (e.g., Triticum, Hordeum, Secale) have
a bimodal size distribution meaning there are two main size categories. Here we focus on the larger size
class as the smaller ones are rarely diagnostic (Yang and Perry 2013). Einkorn (Triticum monococcum)
starch grains are simple, with larger grains ranging between 13 and 36 μm (Aceituno Bocanegra and
Lopez Saez 2012; Juhola et al. 2014) in width (Figure 1A-B). The grains are oval in plane view and lenticular
in lateral view. Craters are visible on the grain’s surface and few lamellae are present, in particular
closer to the center of the grain. Emmer (T. dicoccum) starch grains are simple (Figure 1C-D), with larger
grains ranging between 8 and 34 μm in width (Aceituno Bocanegra and Lopez Saez 2012; Juhola et al.
2014; Yang and Perry 2013). The grains are oval to kidney-shaped in plane view and lenticular in lateral
view. Craters/dimples are visible on their surface, as well as faint lamellae. The extinction cross of both
einkorn and emmer are very similar in that it is radially symmetrical and often the arms widen towards
the ends of the grains. Grains of hulled barley are simple, with the larger grains (8-25 μm) going from
oval to reniform in plane view and lenticular in lateral view (Henry et al. 2009) (Figure 1E-F). Lamellae
are typically absent, but sometimes observed on the larger starch grains. The extinction cross is usually
bilaterally symmetrical (X-shaped). Some grains have surface craters/dimples or cupules. Lentil starch
grains are simple, oval to reniform and range in size between 20 and 35 μm (Figure 1G-H). Lamellae are
well dened and regularly spaced. A mesial longitudinal cleft ssure can be seen. The extinction cross is
bilaterally symmetrical, often diuse, especially in grains with deep ssures (Henry et al. 2009). Finally,
pea starch grains measure between 15 and 45 μm in length, and are simple, large, and ovoid to elongate
in shape (Figure 1I-J). The outline is often irregular. The larger grains tend to have distinct lamellae,
which are especially visible on the outer edges of the grain. The central part of the grain seems slightly
wrinkled. When the grains are viewed sideways, a ssure is visible. The extinction crosses are central,
often elongated on the same axis as the ssure (Henry et al. 2009).
46
Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Figure 1: Native (unmodied) starch grains viewed under plane polarized and cross-polarized light (x 600). A-B: einkorn; C-D:
emmer; E-F: barley; G-H: lentils, and I-J: peas (photos C. Cagnato).
Modication of starch grains
The physical and compositional characteristics of starch grains can be altered by cooking and charring,
malting and fermenting, but also by mechanical forces such as grinding or pounding (Babot 2003;
Cagnato 2019; Chantran and Cagnato 2021; Crowther 2012; Henry et al. 2009; Li et al. 2020; Ma et al. 2019;
Pagan-Jimenez et al. 2017; Valamoti et al. 2008; Wang et al. 2016, 2017). These processes can in turn alter
or destroy the morphological and optical properties that allow analysts to identify them. In particular,
the complex internal organization of starch, damaged as a result of heat or mechanical forces, will
result in alterations to the shape of the grains, but also to their birefringence properties. Grinding
and milling will result in damage that includes fractures, changes in birefringence properties, but also
in the increased susceptibility to gelatinization and digestion (Mishra et al. 2012). Full gelatinization,
whereby the starch grain has irreversibly swollen and therefore structurally collapsed, occurs once
a species-specic temperature and degree of moisture has been reached (Crowther 2012). The fact
that starch grains are subject to changes depending on external factors can help to reconstruct past
practices, however, solid reference collections are necessary. Experimental work has been carried out
by various scholars. New World plant species include important crops such as maize (Zea mays), manioc
(Manihot esculenta), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) (Babot 2006;
Cagnato 2019; Chandler-Ezell et al. 2006; Mickleburgh and Pagán-Jiménez 2012; Pagan-Jimenez et al.
2017; Raviele 2011). Other studies have considered Old World plants— bread wheat (Triticum aestivum),
barley, oats, broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), rice (Oryza sativa), lentils,
peas, chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), and mung beans (Vigna radiata)— and the ways their starch grains were
modied as a result of dierent cooking processes (Henry et al. 2009). Additional tests have been made
on rice, bread wheat, barley, foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet, Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-
jobi), and green bristlegrass (Ge et al. 2011; Li et al. 2020; Ma et al. 2019).
47
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
Experimental tests
Aims and principles
Our main aim was to determine how starch grains of dierent species were aected by extensive
mechanical processes that include dehusking and grinding, processes observed through use-wear
studies on Early Neolithic archaeological tools. Our experimental results could then be compiled to
create a reference collection that could aid in interpreting the archaeological record, and in turn
reconstructing past processing techniques.
Moreover, we wanted to test how the starch grains were aected by taphonomical processes. Several
factors aect the degradation of starch, this includes soil properties (e.g., pH and moisture) and elements
present in the soil (e.g., bacteria, fungi, and enzymes) (Haslam 2004). Early experimental work done
by Lu (2003) indicated that starch grain preservation was reduced signicantly when left in an open
situation condition and survived better in a buried or sheltered situation condition. Barton (2009) and
Langejans (2010) followed with their own taphonomic experiments. These results1, therefore, prompted
us to test how starch grains would preserve in similar environmental conditions to those where the
Neolithic tools were recovered (in temperate conditions).
While some of the species we tested (barley, peas, and lentils) have previously been processed to observe
changes in the starch grains (i.e., Henry et al. 2009), we chose to work with dierent wheat species and
replicate as much as possible past conditions, notably by using raw materials present in the Paris Basin
during the Neolithic and using typical forms of grinding stones recovered in the archaeological record.
Dehusking and grinding processes
Two series of tests were organized, respectively the grinding of cereals and legumes, and the dehusking
of cereals. During the rst series of tests, four types of plants were ground into small fractions with a
dierent set of stone tools for 2 hours each (Table 1). Einkorn and barley were ground in a back-and-
forth motion exclusively to obtain our, while peas and lentils were crushed and then ground into
smaller fractions (Figure 2A-D). Barley was soaked prior to grinding. All grinding tools were shaped out
of quartzitic sandstone blocks and cobbles, to ensure adapted handling for crushing and/or grinding.
The active surfaces of the lower and upper tools were supercially pecked to ensure a minimum of
abrasiveness of the tool. The product was considered achieved when homogeneous our or fractions
were obtained. It should be noted that barley and einkorn were processed on opposite sides of the same
tool, while peas and lentils were processed on two separate tools.
The second series of tests was dedicated to the dehusking of experimental einkorn and emmer (Table
2; Figure 2E-F). Two sets of querns and grinders were intentionally shaped out of quartzitic sandstone
blocks from the Aisne River. This raw material was selected as it was commonly recovered at Early
Neolithic sites in the Paris Basin. Their active surfaces were intensively pecked for several hours with
dierent types of hammerstones to ensure a regular active surface and gesture. Both cereals were rst
dehusked dry, and then soaked for 20 minutes prior to processing. This ensured a rolling motion rather
than the crushing of the grains which favored the separation of the hulls from the grains. This separation
was made possible by the back-and-forth motion combined with a light pressure on the heavy grinder.
1 Other taphonomic tests involving starch and a range of other residues on stone akes have been carried out (see Croft
et al. 2016; Wadley et al. 2004).
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Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Figure 2: Grinding and dehusking activities. A: einkorn; B: barley; C: peas; D: lentils; E: dehusking
einkorn and F: emmer (photos C. Hamon).
Table 1: Details of the grinding activities undertaken.
Plant type
Grinding
Time Preparation Tools Gesture
Quantity
processed
Buried
y/n
Einkorn 2h Dry Flat slab and one-hand circular
handstone (Figure 3A)
Back-and-
forth grinding 475 g y
Barley 2h Wet Flat slab and one-hand circular
handstone (Figure 3B)
Back-and-
forth grinding 300 g y
Peas 2h Dry Flat slab and one-hand circular
handstone (Figure 3C)
Crushing and
grinding 300 g y
Lentils 2h Dry Flat slab and one-hand circular
handstone (Figure 3D)
Crushing and
grinding 200 g y
Table 2: Details of the dehusking activities undertaken.
Plant type Time Preparation Tools Gesture
Quantity
processed
Einkorn 2h Dry Flat quern and two hand bread-shaped grinder
(Figure 3E)
Back-and-forth
grinding 895 g
Einkorn 2h Soaked 20
minutes Flat quern and two hand bread-shaped grinder Back-and-forth
grinding 1080 g
Emmer 1h45 Dry Flat quern and two hand bread-shaped grinder
(Figure 3F)
Back-and-forth
grinding 1050 g
Emmer 1h45 Soaked 20
minutes Flat quern and two hand bread-shaped grinder Back-and-forth
grinding 1080 g
49
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
The starch grain extraction process
We collected samples from the various slabs and querns listed above. For the wheat and barley, we
collected samples from both the center and the lateral parts of the slabs: the latter was done to test
whether dierences could be observed in the modications of the starch grains when they are less in
contact with the grinder. From the tools used to process the peas and lentils, we took samples only from
the central part of the slabs as this is where the crushing and grinding action was focused (Figure 3A-D).
For the tools that were used for cereals, dehusking samples were only taken from the central part of the
querns (Figure 3E-F).
For all these tools we used the recovery protocol previously published by other scholars (Torrence and
Barton 2006): droplets of distilled water were placed on the surface of the tool and with the micropipette
tip, the droplets were gently agitated before being sucked up (Figure 4A-B). The samples were then placed
in clean containers. For each sample, we prepared one slide. This was done by placing a couple of drops
of each sample on a clean microscope slide, followed by a 1:1 distilled water: glycerin solution2, then
sealing the sample with a coverslip. The slides were viewed under plane polarized and cross-polarized
light (100-600x). The starch grains were observed in three dimensions, and several variables were noted,
including changes in size and shape, visibility of lamellae, surface modications, and changes in the
extinction cross. We also considered whether the original structure (single or compound) was retained
but also whether amyloplasts and other structures were present. Whenever possible, we observed and
measured 100 starch grains.
Some of the tools were selected to be buried to undergo the taphonomical experiments. Once the tools
were photographed and the samples taken, to avoid contamination, we wrapped them in clingwrap for
transport. After the removal of the clingwrap, three tools were placed in a pit of approximately 70 cm in
diameter and 30 cm deep (Figure 5), in a sediment similar to the one expected at Early Neolithic sites of
the Aisne Valley, France. The 3 lower grinding tools were placed with their active face upwards, except
for the surface used to grind einkorn which was placed facing downwards3. They were completely
covered by soil and left for 6 months underground between February and August 20194. The tools were
then unburied, and immediately transported to the laboratory where they were sampled for starch
analysis. The surfaces were rst photographed and then washed using a clean toothbrush and distilled
water. The resulting sample was collected into a clean container. To view the starch grains (mixed with
sediment and other organic materials found in the soil), we had to chemically isolate the grains. To do
so, we followed the protocol outlined in Cagnato and Ponce (2017). Once the samples were clean, drops
of each sample were placed on a clean microscope slide, a 1:1 distilled water: glycerin solution was
added, and this was sealed with a coverslip. The slides were viewed under plane polarized and cross-
polarized light (100-600x).
2 Preparing a solution composed of 50% glycerin and 50% distilled water is a rather common practice (see Li et al. 2020 for
additional references), although other specialists use a solution composed of 10% glycerin with 90% distilled water (e.g., Yang
and Perry 2013).
3 As a result of using this same grinding stone to process both barley and einkorn, albeit on opposite sides.
4 Environmental conditions at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes during this period were obtained from the nearest meteorological
station, Reims-Prunay, located about 30 km to the southeast. The lowest average temperature recorded was in February (0
degrees Celsius), while the highest average temperature was recorded in July (27.6 degrees Celsius). The lowest temperature
on record was -3.9 degrees Celsius (in February) while the highest was 41.1 degrees Celsius (in July). For 2019, the maximum
rainfall was recorded for the month of May (with 64 mm), for a total of 265.8 mm between February and August 2019 (Source:
Météo-France). Pedological studies indicate that the site is located between colluvial deposits, podzols, and limestone-rich soils
(Perrier et al. 2016). The soil pH ranges between 6.5 and 7.
50
Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Figure 4: Taking samples from the tools after processing cereals and legumes through the use of a
micropipette tip and distilled water (photos C. Hamon).
Figure 5: Grinding stones in the pit prior to being buried at
Cuiry-les-Chaudardes, France (photo C. Hamon).
Figure 3: Location of where the samples were taken from after the experimental grinding: A: einkorn; B: barley; C: peas; D:
lentils; and dehusking of E: einkorn, and F: emmer (photos C. Hamon and C. Cagnato).
51
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
Figure 6: Modications observed in einkorn starch grains, seen in plane polarized and cross-polarized light (photos C.
Cagnato). Arrows point to specic damages observed: protrusion seen from dierent angles (B and D), broken edges (F), and
presence of craters visible on the surface (J).
Results
Wheat
Our experimental dehusking tests on emmer or einkorn did not leave diagnostic starch grains on the
tools. With regards to grinding, einkorn grains were generally found disjoined, although some clumps
(aggregates of starch grains) were found: the largest one was identied in the sample taken from the
lateral part of the tool (Figure 6A). Noticeable immediately was the deformation of the starch grain,
observed when viewed from the top (plane view), or from the side, where a lateral protrusion formed
(Figure 6B-E). Other types of damage include ripped (broken) grains or with ssured edges (Figure 6F-G).
With regards to the extinction cross, these were most often deformed (thicker arms and darker centers),
while others were fainter than unprocessed einkorn starch grains when viewed under polarized light,
or even absent as the grain had been completely crushed (Figure 6H-I). In addition, cupules were still
present on some of the grains (Figure 6J), albeit faintly visible, and lamellae were mostly absent. In terms
of size, we found smaller grains in the center of the tool compared to the lateral sample: the former
averaged 22.2 ± 4.93 μm (n=100), while the latter averaged 22.80 ± 4.13 μm (n=65). In both samples, the
grains ranged between 12.5 and 31.25 μm in length.
Barley
Barley grains were found mostly isolated, although a couple of clumps of grains were found (Figure 7A-B).
Although ninety percent of the starch grains observed had some type of damage, they could be identied.
Barley starch grains in rare cases were torn apart (not a clean break, Figure 7C-D), but more commonly
the edges have ssures or have become uneven (Figure 7E-H). There is also damage on the surface
(Figure 7K-L). While the barley starch grains were at times slightly indented (Figure I-J), their shape
was less aected than when compared to einkorn. Moreover, unlike in einkorn starch grains, we did not
observe the formation of protrusions in barley. The extinction crosses were aected by grinding: the
arms are no longer symmetrical and in some cases are disjoined (see Figure 7H and J). In some cases,
the cross was fainter than the one observed in unprocessed barley starch grains. Lamellae and surface
craters, both sometimes observed on unmodied grains, remain visible on the experimentally ground
barley. The former in some cases appear more distinct after grinding; they appear slightly deeper. The
edges of the barley starch grains were for the most part aected by grinding. In terms of dierences
52
Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Figure 7: Modications observed in barley starch grains, seen in plane polarized and cross-polarized light (photos C. Cagnato).
Arrows point to specic damages observed: broken, ssured, uneven edges (C, E, G), modication to the shape of the grain (I),
asymmetrical extinction crosses (H, J), and surface damage (K).
Figure 8: Modications observed in pea starch grains, seen in plane polarized and cross-polarized light (photos C. Cagnato).
Arrows point to specic damages observed: ssured grains (C), ‘melted’ edges (G), small ssures along the edge (I), and
damages to the extinction cross (L).
in grains between the central and lateral portions, we noticed about half the number of grains in the
former compared to the latter. Size-wise, the grains ranged between 11.25 μm and 32 μm (n=100) and
averaged 22.5 ± 5.51 μm for the central part, and 20.5 ± 5.49 μm (n=100) for the lateral samples.
Peas
We found both isolated pea starch grains as well as some still intact inside the amyloplasts (Figure 8A-B).
In terms of the isolated grains, we found an important number to have undergone modications as a
result of grinding. Notably, a number had deep ssures that almost broke the grain in half (Figure 8C-F).
Moreover, the edges were aected, with some looking as if some parts had “melted” (Figure 8G-H). The
lamellae, visible especially along the edges remain present in 90% of the time, however, we noticed small
new ssures, perpendicular to the lamellae, appearing along the edges (Figure 8I-J). In some rare cases,
although the grain retained its shape and size, the lamellae along the outer edges of the grain became
more visible. Damaged extinction crosses were noticeable (Figure 8K-L). The original ssure, seen
sideways, was now deeper and more pronounced. The shape of the grains was also aected, becoming
even more irregular than it originally is. In terms of size, we found, similarly to the lentils (see below),
starch grains on the larger end of the spectrum, averaging 36.4 ± 7.96 μm in length for a maximum
length of 56 μm and a minimum of 22.5 μm (n=100).
53
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
Figure 9: Modications observed in lentil starch grains, seen in plane polarized and cross-polarized light (photos C. Cagnato).
Arrows point to specic damages observed: ssured grains (A), damage to the edges (C, E), and central depression (G).
Figure 10: Damaged starch grain, seen in
plane-polarized (left) and cross-polarized
light (right). The arrow indicates the
central part of the grain, which seems to
have been digested (photos C. Cagnato).
Lentils
We found that about half of the lentil starch grains present in the experimental samples were rather
intact. The other half were often fractured in half (Figure 9A-B) or with edges missing (Figure 9C-F). In
the latter case, the lamellae were relatively intact, remaining well-dened and regularly spaced as in
the native starch grains. Although rarely observed, we did notice central depressions (Figure 9G-H). The
extinction cross was comparatively intact, although at times it did lose its symmetry and widened along
the mesial longitudinal cleft. The shape of the grain was not altered much. In terms of size, we found
starch grains averaging 28 ± 5.67 μm in length (n=100), including a few that were extremely large, up to
44 μm long, with a minimum size of 16.25 μm. The mesial longitudinal cleft was sometimes deeper and
less regular than on the native grains. The grains were generally recovered in isolated form, although
surrounded by other starchy material, found in the now ruptured amyloplasts.
Taphonomy
With the exception of one, starch grains were not observed in any of the four buried samples extracted
from the tools. The one starch grain that was recovered on the tool used to process the peas was
extremely damaged, evidently enlarged and with the central part completely ‘digested’ or missing
(Figure 10). Small canals or ssures can be seen along the edges of the grain: this type of damage was
observed in pea starch grains having undergone grinding. However, the central damage is completely
dierent from what we observed in the samples having undergone grinding activities. It is therefore
likely that this grain was in the process of being digested by bacteria or fungi present in the soil (see also
Hutschenreuther et al. 2017).
54
Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Discussion
Mechanical modications
Undoubtedly, as has already been shown by previous experimental works, starch grains are damaged by
mechanical forces that include grinding and pounding (see Table 3). Dehusking, on the other hand, left
little evidence in terms of starch grains; this stands in contrast to phytolith studies, which are better
able to detect dehusking practices (Ma et al. 2019; Portillo et al. 2017). In fact, very small quantities of
starch grains as a result of dehusking millets were recovered by Ma et al. (2019), who also note that these
were nearly impossible to distinguish from native millet grains. This type of result is not surprising
given that phytoliths come from the external part of the grains (the hull), contrary to the starch, which
comes from the inner parts of the grain.
Similarly, with other studies (e.g., Li et al. 2020; Ma et al. 2019; Pagan-Jimenez et al. 2017), not all the starch
grains had evidence of damage, in fact, an important number of grains (~25%-30%) were relatively intact
after two hours of grinding (and grating for Pagan-Jimenez et al. 2017). Hand in hand with the presence
of whole pea amyloplasts along with wheat and barley clusters, this explains why archaeologists can
still nd intact starch grains when studying ancient stone tools.
Table 3: Parameters of other experimental studies where grinding and/or dehusking was carried out with
the aim to study starch grain modifications. Note: Pagan-Jimenez et al. (2017) was not included here as they
grated manioc and sweet potatoes followed by cooking experiments.
Study Tool type
Duration of
processing
(minutes)
Grinding
technique(s)
Area
sampled
on tool
Plant species
experimentally tested
Li et al. (2020) Sandstones from Maas
River (Netherlands) 60
Wet and dry
grinding; back-
and-forth motion
n/a Rice, foxtail millet,
Job’s tears, barley
Ma et al. (2019)
Grinding stones
and slabs made of
sandstone/shale
(China)
~17 m per lot
(grinding); ~52/
lot (dehusking)
Rolling back and
forth to dehusk
and grind
n/a Foxtail and broomcorn
millet, bristlegrass
Mickleburgh and
Pagán-Jiménez
(2012)
Marble mortar and
pestle 5
Grinding of
kernels soaked 1
hour prior
n/a Maize
Ge et al. (2011) Mortar and pestle 20 Pounding n/a Foxtail and broomcorn
millet
Babot (2003,
2006) n/a n/a n/a n/a
Dry maize, ripe corn,
chuño, quinoa, bean,
amaranth
Chandler-Ezell et
al. (2006)
Mano and metate
(grinding stones)
5 (pounding); 10
(grinding)
Pounding and
grinding n/a Maize, manioc
Regarding barley, we obtained similar results to those noted by Li et al. (2020) after wet grinding, who
reported minor changes in terms of their shape and with faint lamellae remaining visible. Size-wise we
obtained similar results in the average size of the grains: 23.38 ± 5.21 μm for Li et al. (2020), compared to
our 23 ± 5.51 μm for the grains in the central part of the grinding stone. The major dierence concerns
55
3. Starch Grain analySiS Of Early nEOlithic (linEarbandkEramik and blicquy/VillEnEuVE-Saint-GErmain) cOntExtS
the extinction crosses, ours were clearly damaged, while Li et al. (2020) report a large number of intact
crosses. Moreover, our lamellae tended to be deeper after having been ground. Overall, however, we can
agree that soaking cereals might result in less damage to the starch grains (cf. Li et al. 2020). However,
Li et al. (2020) also found that dry-grinding cereals led to the loss of birefringence. We did not nd this
on our wheat, and therefore this may be particular to other cereals they tested (rice, foxtail millet, and
Job’s tears). A dierence between einkorn and barley, and perhaps as a result of being processed dry vs.
wet, was the greater shape modication, and this latter point is especially evident in the development
of protrusions, as seen on einkorn starch grains. With regards to wheat, we found similar damages to
those reported by Ge et al. (2011): incomplete or broken grains, irregular outlines or edges, and wider
arms on the extinction cross. When we consider the legumes, we found that similar types of mechanical
forces (crushing and grinding) led to comparable modications to the edges of the starch grains and the
retaining of the very diagnostic lamellar structure. A major dierence between the two set of legumes is
the higher occurrence of torn grains in lentils and ssures along the edges in peas; damages documented
by Babot (2003), albeit for other species. Moreover, we observed the central depression only on lentil
starch grains, but this type of feature ts with general damages produced by milling (Babot 2003). Size-
wise, it has been demonstrated that grinding alters the size of the grains, enlarging them (Li et al. 2020;
Liu et al. 20115, Ma et al. 2019). Our results did not show major changes in the size of the grains, although
we did observe some larger grains among the lentil and barley samples. When comparing the central vs.
the lateral parts of the stone tools, we found smaller barley starch grains in the central part of the tool.
While it is possible that the center of the tool is more eective for grinding, and that the larger grains
were more easily damaged/destroyed, we would need to carry out more tests to determine if this is a
pattern. Based on our experimental tests we would argue that even after grinding, peas and lentils may
often still be identiable in the archaeological record due to the presence of their lamellae and distinct
extinction crosses. Regarding cereals, we believe that it will be trickier to dierentiate between wheat
and barley starch grains, especially once they have undergone additional deterioration due to aging and
exposure to soil properties and organisms in the soil.
Taphonomy
Regarding our taphonomical experiment, how burying and exposure to climatic factors and enzymes/
bacteria would have altered the starch grains further is not observable. Yet, our results, or lack of,
obtained from our preliminary taphonomical experiment support Barton and Torrence’s (2015)
statement in that there is still a lot we do not know about starch taphonomy. Interestingly, it has been
proposed that damaged starch grains, either as a result of mechanical or oxidative processes, are more
susceptible to attack by enzymes (Crowther 2012; Haslam 2004). In our experiments, not all the starch
grains were evenly damaged, and therefore we could expect that at least the undamaged grains could
have survived while buried. Yet, this was clearly not the case. Other factors that have been put forward
for the dierential preservation concerns the size of the starch grains themselves (see Haslam 2004).
We propose that several reasons could explain the lack of starch grains. First is the fact that the crevices
of the stone tools were not deep enough. In fact, it is argued that it is these crevices and pores in stone
tools that permits the starch grains to survive extended periods of time (Piperno et al. 2000; but see
Barton (2007) and Mercader et al. (2018) for arguments against this). The depth at which the tools were
buried may also be a factor to consider, even if studies have shown that microbial and enzymatic activity
(and to a lesser degree fungal activity) can be found even between 3 and 4 m below the surface, albeit at
dierent degrees (see Haslam 2004:1721). Moreover, we wrapped the tools in clingwrap while the tools
were still humid, and this perhaps did not allow for a hard plaque to form, and in turn prevent microbial
attack (see Barton 2009; Loy 1990). Additionally, climatic and soil conditions could be considered.
5 But based on wet grinding. Soaking in water is known to slightly swell starch grains (Henry et al. 2009).
56
Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the AssociAtion of ground stone tools reseArch
Haslam (2004:1725) suggested that mechanisms may exist in the soil that help protect against enzymatic
attack; these include clays, heavy metals, and soil aggregates. Finally, the position of the tools (with the
active surface upward or downward) could be another important factor; however, we did not nd any
dierence between those that were buried upwards or downwards. Few other studies have considered
this parameter, but those that did found that the samples facing downwards preserved residues better
than those facing upwards (Langejans 2010). It is likely that a combination of some or all of these factors
aects the preservation of the starch grains, and therefore additional tests will be necessary.
Conclusions
When grinding was carried out on rather clean cereal grains, but also on legumes, we found both damaged
and undamaged starch grains present. The mechanical modications we commonly identied include a
clean fracture of the starch grains, especially visible on those belonging to peas. On cereals, the breaks
were less clean, and looked more like the starch grains had been torn. Changes to the original shape of
the starch grains were especially evident in wheat, where we observed the creation of protrusions. Due
to the nature and end-goal of dehusking, which is to preserve the grains, this type of activity will seldom
leave behind diagnostic data (in the form of starch grains) indicative of such mechanical processing.
There is a clear need for more experimental work in the Paris Basin, in light of the archaeobotanical
data that have been recovered to date from Early Neolithic contexts, which include the processing of
dierent types of underground storage organs, along with cooked cereals and legumes, and malted/
germinated grains. We strongly believe that to accurately reconstruct past activities, we need to
continue developing a reference collection that is based on replicating techniques and materials known
to have been used in the past.
While our taphonomical experiment was preliminary, it clearly proves the need for additional tests,
which may include modifying a range of factors that include the time the tools are left to dry before
being buried as well as the depth at which the tools are buried, to name but a few examples. We also
plan on collecting sediment adjacent to the tools to explore mechanisms of how starch moves in post-
depositional contexts. We strongly believe that combining experimental data is essential if we are to
make better sense of the archaeological record.
Acknowledgements
This work was conducted in the context of the DIM MAP project AMIDON and the ANR HOMES project n°
ANR-18-CE27-0011 (coord. by C. Hamon). The hulled wheat used for the experiments were obtained on
the Neolithic agricultural experimental plots made available by the Département de la Seine-Saint-Denis
at the Archéosite de la Haute-Île (Neuilly-sur-Marne, France). We would like to thank Caroline Hoerni,
Ivan Lafarge, and Guillaume Huitorel of the Bureau du Patrimoine Archéologique of the Département de
la Seine-Saint-Denis for their involvement in the experimental farming project (2017-2020) coordinated
by A. Salavert and F. Toulemonde (AASPE).
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... A-B: Damaged grain (indicated by arrow), potentially the result of grinding prior to cooking. This type of damage is similar to that seen in ground wheat starch grains (see Cagnato et al., 2021); C, grain shown sideways with the arrow indicating protrusion. D-E: Wheat/cereal, modification not identified. ...
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