Looking at Phytolyths in experimental plant fibres – building a reference library at CSI

At the end of the day I am reviewing some of the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) images I took of some experimental vegetable fibres – looking at plant structures and phylolyths (silica crystals that are taken up by plants and often survive in archaeological soils after the organic material has long decayed.  We are interested in these at the CSI lab because we are wondering if we might find these preserved in corrosion products, alongside or in addition to the mineralised organic remains we often find.

We are trying to build up reference images that we can refer to as we investigatively clean the Anglo-Saxon artefacts from the Meads cemetery in Sittingbourne.  On a day that we spent largely focused on how to find funding for our project, it is nice to end with some thoughts on what types of evidence we might find at our microscopes and how we are going about teaching ourselves, the volunteers, and general public about archaeological science.  We are very lucky to have a SEM at our shopping mall lab, and we are building up a reference library of structures and characteristics that might help us identify materials we find during our conservation work.

10176172_10152433063786320_5953964806659239151_nwillow crystals x1000

experimental fibre made from chestnut bast

experimental fibre made from chestnut bast

phytolyths on experimental bramble fibre

phytolyths on experimental bramble fibre

phytolyths on experimental nettle fibre

phytolyths on experimental nettle fibre


One thought on “Looking at Phytolyths in experimental plant fibres – building a reference library at CSI

  1. Lucy Gill says:

    Dana,

    Very interesting use of SEM. I am currently compiling a reference collection of SEM images as well in order to identify microscopic use-wear patterns, primarily to differentiate between animal and plant wear. This particular study is related to bone awls from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, but I am interested in considering its application to other sites as well. I’ll be looking for your results!

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