The morphological and anatomical interpretation and identification of charred vegetative parenchymatous plant remains
This research project has attempted to develop a methodology for the identification of charred remains of useful non-woody vegetative parts of plants by the use of morphological and anatomical characters. A large number of taxa have been observed covering a wide morphological, anatomical, ethnographic and taxonomic range. The chosen taxa cover a geographic area from Western Europe, through the Mediterranean to the Near East. Anatomy of fresh material viewed under the light microscope has been used to interpret the anatomy of experimentally charred tissues viewed under the Scanning Electron Microscope. Classical morphological and anatomical characters have been used as well as artifactual characters caused by charring. Literature covering root and tuber domestication and the exploitation of roots and tubers as wild resources are reviewed. The origins of root crops in Europe and the Near East is discussed and compared with the origin of root and tuber crops in the tropics. The application of morphological terms such as rhizome, rootstock and corm as well as the use of anatomical and morphological characters of the tissues under observation for classification and identification are discussed. The results first describe the characters of charred non-woody vegetative tissue, so that in the separate descriptions of the charcoal each taxon that follows the morphology and anatomy may be interpreted. Those characters that are diagnosed are indicated. Archaeological charcoal that has been analysed is also described. The results are discussed with a view to methods of identification of parenchymatous tissues and a manual dichotomous key is presented. Applications of the research are examined. Finally a list of concluding points is put forward.