Phytolith Analysis in Paleoecology and Archaeology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


Opaline phytoliths are formed when plants accumulate silica at the cellular level. This biomineralization process reproduces, to some extent, the original plant tissue in the form of microscopic particles that are incorporated into soils and sediments when the plant dies and decays. Phytoliths’ inorganic nature makes them resistant to most pre- and post-depositional processes, including fire, and they can preserve over long periods in a different range of conditions. However, not all plants produce the same amount of phytoliths and phytolith morphologies can be redundant, impeding the identification of the original plant tissue. Phytolith assemblages can also suffer post-depositional processes that might affect their preservation and bias the interpretation. The present chapter reviews the current knowledge on phytolith formation and cycling, sampling and extraction methods, identification procedures, taphonomy, and phytolith applications in paleoecology and archaeology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages34
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInterdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology
ISSN (Print)1568-2722

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


  • Archaeobotany
  • Fire
  • Human–plant interactions
  • Paleoecology
  • Phytoliths
  • Taphonomy


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