Phytoliths as a tool for investigations of agricultural origins and dispersals around the world


Phytoliths, Crop plants, Diagnostic criteria


Agricultural origins and dispersals are subjects of fundamental importance to archaeology as well as many other scholarly disciplines. These investigations are world-wide in scope and require significant amounts of paleobotanical data attesting to the exploitation of wild progenitors of crop plants and subsequent domestication and spread. Accordingly, for the past few decades the development of methods for identifying the remains of wild and domesticated plant species has been a focus of paleo-ethnobotany. Phytolith analysis has increasingly taken its place as an important independent contributor of data in all areas of the globe, and the volume of literature on the subject is now both very substantial and disseminated in a range of international journals. In this paper, experts who have carried out the hands-on work review the utility and importance of phytolith analysis in documenting the domestication and dispersals of crop plants around the world. It will serve as an important resource both to paleo-ethnobotanists and other scholars interested in the development and spread of agriculture.

Original Publication Citation

Ball, T.B., Chandler-Ezell, K., Dickau, R., Duncan, N., Hart, T.C., Iriarte, J., Lentfer, C., Logan, A., Lu, H., Madella, M., Pearsall, D.M., Piperno, D.R., Rosen, A.M., Vrydaghs, L., Weisskopf, A., Zhang, J. 2016. Phytoliths as a tool for investigations of agricultural origins and dispersals around the world. Journal of Archaeological Science 68:32-45

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Archaeological Science




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor