Phytoliths have played a major role in understanding the paleoenvironment of the Southern High Plains. Find out a little about them here with this excellent post.
Phytoliths are a very important identification tool in identifying plants within ancient environments, often even classifying down to the species of the plant.
But firstly, what are phytoliths? As the name phytolith suggests, coming from the Greek phyto- meaning plants and lith– meaning stone, they are tiny (less than 50µm) siliceous particles which plants produce. These phytoliths are commonly found within sediments, and can last hundreds of years as they are made of inorganic substances that do not decay when the other organic parts of the plant decay. Phytoliths can also be extracted from residue left on many different artefacts such as teeth (within the dental calculus), tools (such as rocks, worked lithics, scrapers, flakes, etc.) and pottery.
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