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Archaeological Science Under a Microscope

Archaeological Science Under a Microscope: Studies in Residue and Ancient DNA Analysis in Honour of Thomas H. Loy

Michael Haslam
Gail Robertson
Alison Crowther
Sue Nugent
Luke Kirkwood
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Archaeological Science Under a Microscope
    Book Description:

    These highly varied studies, spanning the world, demonstrate how much modern analyses of microscopic traces on artifacts are altering our perceptions of the past. Ranging from early humans to modern kings, from ancient Australian spears or Mayan pots to recent Maori cloaks, the contributions demonstrate how starches, raphides, hair, blood, feathers, resin and DNA have become essential elements in archaeology's modern arsenal for reconstructing the daily, spiritual, and challenging aspects of ancient lives and for understanding human evolution. The book is a fitting tribute to Tom Loy, the pioneer of residue studies and gifted teacher who inspired and mentored these exciting projects.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-85-4
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. 1 PREFACE.
    (pp. 1-3)
    Michael Haslam and Alison Crowther
    (pp. 4-7)
    Richard Fullagar

    Tom Loy died suddenly in October 2005. He left behind unfinished books and ongoing research projects mostly related to prehistoric residue analyses in collaboration with students working at the University of Queensland. A year or so down the track, several of these projects have come to fruition (as theses and numerous publications), and new directions have emerged. It is therefore appropriate and timely that the organising committee (Gail Robertson, Alison Crowther, Luke Kirkwood, Michael Haslam and Sue Nugent) pulled together this symposium, primarily to honour Tom, but also to reflect on the discipline he left behind, to ask about its...

  5. 3 THOMAS H. LOY PUBLICATIONS: 1978-2006
    (pp. 8-10)
  6. PRINCIPLES:: synthesis, classification and experiment

      (pp. 11-28)
      Marlize Lombard and Lyn Wadley

      There has been a marked increase in research interest in the African Middle Stone Age that spans the period of roughly 250 ka to 25 ka ago. The heightened awareness is due to new, multidisciplinary data stimulating debate on the origins of anatomically and behaviourally modern humans, and while the archaeological record is nowhere near complete, progress is being made. Exciting but hotly contested interpretations of African origins now rival earlier interpretations of a Eurasian origin for modern humans (e.g. Marean and Assefa 2005; but also see d’Errico 2003; d’Errico et al. 2003; Shea 2003). Genetic and fossil evidence suggest...

      (pp. 29-46)
      Peta Jane Jones

      Archaeological residues are microscopic remains of prehistoric lifeways, preserving minute traces of plants (such as cellulosic matter, starch and pollen) and animals (such as blood, plasma, feathers and bone) over considerable time periods (Briuer 1976; Dominguez-Rodrigo et al. 2001; Fullagar 2006; Fullagar and Field 1997; Fullagar and Jones 2004; Fullager et al. 1996; Fullagar et al. 2006; Garling 1998; Gerlach et al. 1996; Hardy 2004; Hardy and Rogers 2001; Hardy et al. 1997; Haslam 2003; Hyland et al. 1990; Kooyman et al. 1992; Loy 1983, 1998; Loy and Dixon 1998; Loy and Hardy 1992; Newman and Julig 1989; Richards 1989;...

      (pp. 47-79)
      Michael Haslam

      The passing in October 2005 of a pioneer of archaeological microscopic residue analysis, Thomas H. Loy, offers an opportunity to reflect on the historical trajectory of the field. Although building on earlier traceological work exemplified by Semenov (1964), the traditional origin date of the stone-tool microscopic residue technique is 1976, with the publication by Briuer of ‘New clues to stone tool function: plant and animal residues’ in American Antiquity. This was followed by the initiation of rigorous and multi-stranded investigation of blood residues by Loy (1983) and subsequent increased emphasis on starch grain residues and other plant microfossils (e.g. Loy...

      (pp. 80-101)
      Carol J. Lentfer

      Tom Loy’s first forays into starch research began in the early 1980s when he and Richard Fullagar observed starch granules on stone, shell and glass artefacts recovered from a variety of archaeological contexts in North America and Oceania (Fullagar 2006). Tom continued his pioneering starch research into the 1990s. His discovery and identification of Araceae starch granules and raphides on stone tools from the Solomon Islands (Loy et al. 1992) was most influential, being the first strong evidence that people were using stone tools to process starchy foods in the Pacific region as long as 28,000 years ago. Since that...

      (pp. 102-128)
      Alison Crowther

      Reconstructions of the plant exploitation and cultivation practices of prehistoric Pacific peoples have become increasingly reliant on studies of microbotanical remains recovered from site sediments and tool-use residues. Although analyses of starch granules, phytoliths and pollen are driving these developments (e.g. Fullagar et al. 2006; Lentfer and Green 2004; Therin et al. 1999), previously overlooked microfossil types such as calcium oxalate raphides are now receiving wider attention (e.g. Crowther 2005, in press; Horrocks and Barber 2005; Horrocks and Bedford 2005; Horrocks and Nunn 2007; Horrocks and Weisler 2006; Horrocks et al. 2007, 2008a, 2008b).

      Raphides are needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals...

      (pp. 129-140)
      Huw Barton

      This paper reports the results of an experiment to investigate the preservation of starch granules on stone tools that were exposed or buried in an open field for up to two years. The study was undertaken to simulate the conditions under which starch granules may be preserved or degraded in the archaeological record. While starch granules have now been encountered in a variety of deposits, the mechanism of starch preservation over long timescales is still not well understood.

      At the time that this study was initiated in 1993, few taphonomic experiments on the persistence of organic residues had been undertaken...

    • 10 Toward using an oxidatively damaged plasmid as an intra-and inter-laboratory standard in ancient DNA studies
      (pp. 141-150)
      Loraine Watson, Julie Connell, Angus Harding and Cynthia Whitchurch

      The following paper was originally presented by Dr Thomas H. Loy at the 6th International Conference on Ancient DNA and Associated Biomolecules held in Israel, July 2002. It is included here with editorial and formatting changes with the intention of demonstrating the passion and lateral thinking that underpinned Tom’s approach to the field of Molecular Archaeology. The paper represents research from three honours projects conducted during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Building a modern model for ancient DNA that could be used during routine procedures was a concept that Tom had long held as an important step forward for...

    • 11 Method validation in forensics and the archaeological sciences.
      (pp. 151-158)
      Vojtech Hlinka, Iman Muharam and Vanessa K. Ientile

      An increasing number of archaeological and forensic laboratories are becoming service providers for public and private institutions. With this role comes the responsibility to provide accurate scientific data using an accepted methodology that has been scrutinised and reviewed effectively through a rigorous validation procedure. This procedure is of particular importance if results are to be compared with those obtained elsewhere, for example from another laboratory, or if the results are to be included in an official report such as a contracted report from an archaeological laboratory or a statement for a court of law as is often the case in...

  7. PRACTICE:: case studies in residue and ancient DNA analysis

    • 12 Mesolithic stone tool function and site types in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.
      (pp. 159-174)
      Bruce L. Hardy and Jiří A. Svoboda

      One of the typical but still little explored landscape features in western Central Europe are the restricted areas of sandstone plateaus cut by canyons with rockshelters that are scattered from Luxembourg over western and central Germany to the northern part of the Czech Republic. Archaeological research within the sandstone rockshelters shows that the surrounding lands, being unattractive for agriculture, were mainly settled during the Mesolithic period. In this manner, these sites contribute substantially to the knowledge of a relatively little known period of central European prehistory (cf. Street et al. 2001).

      In the Czech Republic (Northern Bohemia) this type of...

    • 13 Chloroplast DNA from 16th century waterlogged oak in a marine environment: initial steps in sourcing the Mary Rose timbers.
      (pp. 175-189)
      Alanna K. Speirs, Glenn McConnachie and Andrew J. Lowe

      This paper reports initial results of a palaeogenetic analysis of timbers from the hull of the English Tudor flagship Mary Rose. The study is the first step towards an ultimate goal of determining the geographic provenance of oak (Quercus spp.) used in the ship’s manufacture. Stage I of the research program was designed to test the viability of extracting and amplifying DNA from the waterlogged Mary Rose timbers, which were submerged in a marine environment for more than four centuries.

      Palaeogenetics, the study of ancient DNA (aDNA), offers direct genetic evidence of extinct and extant species from preserved samples (Capelli...

    • 14 Drawing first blood from Maya ceramics at Copán, Honduras.
      (pp. 190-197)
      Carney D. Matheson, Jay Hall and René Viel

      Molecular archaeology is a developing research field that analyses archaeological remains at the microscopic level for diverse ends relating to past human behavior. One of its main concerns is the identification of organic residues on stone artefacts in order to assess more accurately both their specific functions and their wider roles in past cultural systems (Bahn 1987; Briuer 1976; Cattaneo et al. 1993; Copley et al 2001; Fullagar 1991; Haslam 2003; Kooyman et al. 1992; Kooyman et al. 2001; Loy 1983, 1987; Loy and Dixon 1998; Loy and Hardy 1992). Here we apply this approach to ceramic artefacts and report,...

    • 15 A molecular study of a rare Maori cloak.
      (pp. 198-206)
      Katie Hartnup, Leon Huynen, Rangi Te Kanawa, Lara Shepherd, Craig Millar and David Lambert

      Museum specimens and artefacts are now widely regarded as important genetic resources that can be utilised in a broad range of molecular studies (Wanderler et al. 2007). Such studies are aimed at many issues such as the taxonomic status of specimens, their provenance, past levels of genetic diversity and how changes in genetic diversity affect the population structure and the diversity of modern populations. The latter has implications for the conservation and management of fragile populations. Studies such as these often require museum specimens with detailed accompanying records, stating species, location, and time of collection. However, it is often the...

    • 16 Tools on the surface: residue and use-wear analyses of stone artefacts from Camooweal, northwest Queensland.
      (pp. 207-227)
      Jane L. Cooper and Suzanne J. Nugent

      The techniques of residue and use-wear analysis have commonly been applied to stone artefacts from excavated contexts, where organic components and wear patterns relating to their use are considered more likely to have been preserved (Loy and Nugent 2002:20). Taphonomic processes acting upon surface artefacts have been considered too substantial to warrant this type of analysis (Davis 1975:52; Barton this volume; however see Briuer 1976). Despite advances in understanding post-depositional disturbance processes (see Ebert 1992; Fanning and Holdaway 2001; Greenfield 2000; Rossignol and Wandsnider 1992; Sullivan 1998; Wilkinson 2001), excavated materials continue to provide the major source of evidence for...

    • 17 Starch residues on grinding stones in private collections: a study of morahs from the tropical rainforests of NE Queensland.
      (pp. 228-238)
      Judith Field, Richard Cosgrove, Richard Fullagar and Braddon Lance

      Grindstones from Australia are known to be used for a variety of functions including plant processing, preparation of ochre and also for the maceration of foods such as lizards and cats (Gould 1980; Mitchell 1848). Grindstones are ubiquitous in the more arid parts of the Australian continent where they are generally manufactured from sandstone and are associated with grass seed grinding (Fullagar and Field 1997; Fullagar et al. 2008; Smith 1985; Tindale 1977). Grindstones are also common in the tropical rainforests of far North Queensland and have often been found by farmers ploughing paddocks (Woolston & Colliver 1973). One grindstone...

    • 18 Aboriginal craft and subsistence activities at Native Well I and Native Well II, Central Western Highlands, Queensland: results of a residue and use-wear analysis of backed artefacts.
      (pp. 239-257)
      Gail Robertson

      This paper discusses the results of an integrated residue and use-wear analysis of the backed artefact component of stone assemblages from two Aboriginal occupation sites in the Central Highlands in western Queensland, Native Well I and Native Well II. The study was undertaken as part of a larger research project that addressed the question of backed artefact use in eastern Australia during the mid-to-late Holocene through an analysis of artefacts from six different sites (Robertson 2005). The two Central Highland sites were excavated by Morwood (1979) as part of his doctoral research, in which he employed a multi-attribute approach to...

    • 19 Deadly weapons: backed microliths from Narrabeen, New South Wales.
      (pp. 258-271)
      Richard Fullagar, Josephine McDonald, Judith Field and Denise Donlon

      A recently excavated skeleton dated to 3677 cal BP provides an extraordinary opportunity to determine the function of its associated backed artefacts (Figure 1). Seventeen stone artefacts (Figures 2 – 4; Table 1) were recovered during salvage excavation of an adult male Aboriginal skeleton, exposed during cable installations in a sand dune, 1.5 m below the present ground level in Narrabeen, a coastal suburb of Sydney (McDonald et al. 2007). The skeletal and artefact evidence indicates death by spearing.

      A backed artefact (OON1; Figure 2) found during excavation was lodged between the second and third lumbar vertebrae in the region of...