A new archaeobotanical proxy for plant food processing: Archaeological starch spherulites at the submerged 23,000-year-old site of Ohalo II

Monica N. Ramsey, Dani Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological starch spherulites discovered at the submerged 23,000-year-old site of Ohalo II, Sea of Galilee, Israel, provide a new line of archaeobotanical evidence for plant food processing. Six-hundred and thirty-two (632) starch spherulites were recovered from four stone implements. The analysis of starch spherulites from reliable archaeological contexts is a breakthrough that will potentially allow the identification of a range of plant processing and wet cooking activities. Our work provides a baseline for starch spherulite extraction and identification protocols. They were confirmed as spherulites using Lugol's iodine confirmation and the optical properties of the polarisation cross when rotated on a microscope stage under cross-polarised light. Their identification as starch spherulites was based on their archaeological context, size range and optical (polarized light and SEM) characteristics (including partial iodine uptake). Following our promising results, we encourage researchers to describe archaeological starch spherulite morphology and elemental characteristics in as much detail as possible. Future experimental archaeology work may find that these details provide evidence for how starch spherulites were formed through plant processing and cooking techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105465
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Ohalo II project was generously supported by the Irene Levi-Sala Care Archaeological Foundation, the Israel Antiquity Authority, the Israel Science Foundation , the Jerusalem Center for Anthropological Studies, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation , the MAFCAF Foundation , the National Geographic Society , and the Stekelis Museum of Prehistory in Haifa. Funding for this research was provided by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship ( MSCA-IF ) [grant no. 743544 – H-E Interactions] and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship [grant no. ECF-2020-318 ] awarded to M.N.R. Funding sources had no role in directing the study design, research, or publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Archaeobotany
  • Israel
  • Ohalo II
  • Plant food processing
  • Polarisation cross
  • Starch spherulites
  • Wet cooking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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