Friday, 1 November 2013

Micrograph of the Month: Starch inside a waterlogged seed

Here we have a series of micrographs showing a seed, embedded within waterlogged midden deposits at Neolithic Catalhoyuk. These are the earliest deposits from the Deep Sounding in the South Area, and are some of the only waterlogged contexts at the site. These deposits make a particularly interesting comparison to the later middens at the site, as we can look at the differences between waterlogged and non-waterlogged versions of similar deposit types.

In the many sections I have looked at, getting sections through seeds like this does not occur too often. I have see larger seeds from Celtis (hackberry) more frequently. This teeny little seed looks like it might be a Chenopod (the little bump on the left of the seed is a feature of Chenopods), though I'd have to ask an archaeobotanist to confirm.

The exciting thing about this is you can see the organic part of the seed still preserved within the endocarp - the orangey colour is typical of mineralised organic remains. In the lowermost image you can see the seed in cross polarised light, and the particles within the seed look like yellowish spheres with crosses. These are starch grains, which are often extracted from archaeological sediments to investigate plant use. This is a rare example of these microfossils in situ, both within the seed and within their archaeological context.

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