Friday, 30 December 2011

Olduvai plant fossils taphonomy

Although it is not, strickly speaking, archaeobotany I am interested to note a recent palaeobotanical study on Olduvai Gorge, which provides a new additional line of evidence on the environmental mosaic in which early hominins (Australopithecus etc.) lived published on-line for Quaternery International by Marion Bamford. Perhaps no surprise that it points to a dry savanna type environment with localized wetlands and apparent wet-dry cycles over the long-term. The interest in the paper, which does not even attempt identification beyond monocoit vs. dicot, however is in it taphonomic approach to how fibrous monocots (sedges, grasses, culms and rhizomes)  versus woody dicots weather in the open air versus in water before the fossilizing deposition. There are some principles of wider applicability to plant remains of other period I suspect, and some of the systematic differences between waterlogged versus desiccated archaeobotanical remains relating to plant parts and states of preservation.

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