Successful Defense for Microbotanical Starch Grain Analysis

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Far Western’s Justin Wisely, one of our staff archaeologists, has successfully defended his Master’s thesis on microbotanical starch grain analysis of bedrock mortars, prehistoric features found throughout California.

StarchGrainResidueExtractionWisely

Wisely extracts starch grain residue samples from a bedrock mortar.

Starch grain analysis is a growing field in California archaeology, as a supplement to archaeobotanical research, which helps reconstruct past lifeways. Wisely’s research efforts concentrated on extracting starch grain residues from bedrock mortar features found in the Sierra Nevada, within the tribal area of the Mi-Wuk and Washoe Native Americans, along the State Highway 4 and the Mokelumne River watershed. Using a non-destructive field process with distilled water and a sonic cleansing technique, Wisely extracted samples to analyze in the lab under a microscope.  Identification was made based on an ethnographically informed reference collection.

Quercus-photo

Quercus starch grain viewed with cross-polarized light under a microscope.

Contrary to common assumptions that the features were used broadly to process acorn, Justin’s research indicates that the bedrock mortars examined in the Mokelumne River watershed study area were used for processing small grass seeds. Acorn residues were less prevalent than expected.

Congratulations to Justin on his Master’s thesis entitled “Starch Grain Analysis of Bedrock Mortars in the Sierra Nevada Mountains: Experimental Studies to Determine their Function” presented to California State University, Chico!

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