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Economic Botany

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 133–147 | Cite as

Aboriginal preparation ofCycas seeds in Australia1

  • Wendy Beck
Article

Abstract

The seeds of cycad plants are a toxic food used by many Aboriginal groups in northern Australia. Acute symptoms produced after consumption of untreated Cycas seeds are due to azoxyglycosides, especially cycasin, although the toxic dose depends on the animal species tested. There are three traditional methods used to treat these seeds: brief leaching in water; prolonged leaching in water; and aging. Aboriginal people living at Donydji outstation in northeast Arnhem Land, most regularly consume aged seeds ofCycas angulata R.Br. Analyses of fresh seeds and seeds prepared at Donydji and in the laboratory indicate that cycasin is effectively removed by all the traditional preparation techniques, although each technique has an end product with different storage and handling properties. The social implications of processing need further elaboration, but these techniques have a long history and archaeological remains of seeds in Australia may date back to the Pleistocene.

Key Words

Australian Aborigines Cycas 

La preparatión Aboriginál de las semillas deCycas en Australia

Resumen

Las semillas de las plantas del genero Cycas, no obstante su toxicidad, se utilizan por los grupos Aboriginales de Australia del norte. El consumo de las semillas sin tratamiento produce sintomas agudos, debido a su contenido de azoxyglycosidas, especialmente cycasin, si bien la dosis toxica depende de la especie animal a la que se administra. Traditionalmente se usa tres métodos de preparación de las semillas de las cycadaceaes: colandolas en agua de breve duration; colandolas en agua de larga duratión; o añejandolas. La gente Aboriginal viviendo en la colonia del campo de Donydji, localizado en la parte noroeste de la Tierra de Arnhem, comen mas regularmente las semillas añejas deCycas angulata R.Br. Analizando las semillas reden salidos, junto con las preparadas a Donydji y las preparadas en el laboratorio se averigua que los métodos tradiciónales de preparación quitan el cycasin. Sin embargo los métodos diferentes de preparación producen unfruto final con atributos distintos para almacenamiento y manejo. Las implicaciones sociales de la preparación merecen un estudio mas detallado, mas que estos métodos se utilizan durante una larga historia, incluso la possibilidad de que se han encontrado los restos de estas semillas datadas al período Pleistoceno.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy Beck
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and PalaeoanthropologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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