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Transitions: The Search for Maize Phytoliths in Spanish Teeth
AuthorGentiluomo, Gina M.
AdvisorScott, G. Richard
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This research aims to determine if plant phytoliths can be recovered from human dental calculus. This paper hypothesizes that phytoliths will provide a more direct method for paleodietary analysis than carbon and nitrogen isotopes. If this method is successful, researchers in bioarchaeology will then be able to identify directly the types of plants ingested by earlier human populations. In this blind experiment, dental calculus from the teeth of pre- and post-AD 1500 Spanish skeletons are subjected to a serial dilution in an acid bath to remove phosphorous, calcium, and any organic residual matter. The final dilutions are centrifuged to separate and isolate the phytoliths. The resulting precipitates are placed on slides and analyzed under a darkfield microscope (400 – 1600X). Potential phytoliths are then photographed and compared to enlarged images of known phytoliths.