Session: #326

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Phytoliths (But Were Afraid...): Their Contribution to the Modeling of Past Human Behavior
This session aims at analyzing and shedding light on the role played by phytoliths studies for the understanding of past human behavior in relation to environment and plant uses both local and non-local, and therefore on their impact on theoretical models shaping our current understanding of human interactions with each other and with nature.

For 50 years, phytoliths have been used in archaeology to bring answers to human behavior related to territory exploitation, impact of human activities on natural vegetations, foodways, trade, transmission of cultural traits, and translocation of plants due colonization.

Phytoliths have been applied to a vast array of supports, primarily on sediments, but also to material culture, such as ceramics, metallic pots or lithic industry, and more recently to human remains, specifically on dental calculus.

But, did they succeed in bringing relevant answers to the archaeologist's questions? Have phytolith studies been able to change our views on past human life, more than just providing anecdotal, one-time information? Did they contribute to change theoretical models regarding past human life and societies activities?

This session doesn't aim only at phytoliths specialists working in archaeology, but also at archaeologists or other specialists who use phytoliths in their own research as many other lines of evidence.

Hence, this session calls for communications that show evidence of such impacts of phytolith studies on our understanding of past human behavior, actions and interactions. Key questions are : What are the strengths and weaknesses of phytoliths? What is exactly their potential? How are they changing our views on the past? To which new analytical approaches do they contribute? What are our expectations about their future potential?

The session is sponsored by the Society for Phytolith Research and it organized in parallel to the IMPR, but it is not formally part of it.
phytolith, archaeology, theory of archaeology, past human behavior
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Main organiser:
Alexandre Chevalier (Belgium) 1
Rosa MarĂ­a Albert (Spain) 2
1. Royal Institute of Natural Sciences
2. University of Barcelona