Phytolith Analysis on Soil and Ceramic Thin Sections

  • Luc Vrydaghs
  • Yannick Devos
Living reference work entry


Opal phytoliths basically make up a kind of puzzle of inorganic bodies accumulating within different plant organs (such as leaves, inflorescence bracts, fruits, and seeds) and tissues (such as the epidermis, the vascular, or the parenchymatic tissues) of many plants. Such a puzzle is often composed of many different shapes or morphotypes, a phenomenon called multiplicity (Rovner 1971). Similar morphotypes can also occur within related and unrelated plant taxa, a phenomenon called redundancy (Rovner 1971). Therefore opal phytolith analysis and their botanical identification are a complex matter. As they accumulate within plant tissues and organs, any opal phytolith signature in soils and sediments implies depositional processes that include the decomposition of organic matter. In the past, it has been assumed this decomposition occurs in situ and as such captures a signature of the local vegetation.

In relation to the botanical identification of phytoliths, the potential of...


Soil Thin Sections Phytolith Analysis Opal Phytolith Archaeological Unit Archaeological Deposits 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luc Vrydaghs
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yannick Devos
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et PatrimoineUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Research Team in Archaeo- and Palaeo- Sciences (ROOTS)BrusselsBelgium

Section editors and affiliations

  • E. Christian Wells
    • 1
  • Arleyn Simon
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution & Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA