The preservation of starch is complex, but also particularly
controversial. On the one hand researchers keep finding starch in
soils and on artefacts and on the other hand there is great scepticism
towards preservation. Unfortunately, the latter is as far as I know
not openly discussed in print.
I included part of my (unpublished) thesis in which I discuss
preservation of starch. Special circumstances lead to preservation,
but I think that these are unique; as in for example desiccated
charred plant remains. Potentially there is an over representation of
starch due to contamination issues. Starch is incredibly abundant and
it is known that flowers mills (air borne starch), gloves with talcum
powder, starch from the analyst's lunch and starch in soils
contaminate tools. Contaminants from soil can adhere to a tool and
when analysts ignore the quantity and distribution of these grains
(for soil contaminants there will be only a few, which are randomly
dispersed) they can misinterpret the data.
When reading the attachment, please keep in mind that this is only a
draft and it still requires polishing!! I thought it important for
this discussion to give a full overview, but it not necessarily the
best. Alternatively: Haslam, M. 2004. The decomposition of starch
grains in soils: implications for archaeological residue analyses.
Journal of Archaeological Science 31:1715-1734.
I am keen to know if there are more sceptical papers on starch
research/preservation around and what the general attitude towards
starch preservation and analysis is. In addition, are there opinions
on the identification of starch grains to plant species level?
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