Hope Farm Windmill: phytolith analysis of cereals in early colonial Australia

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Publication details

Lentfer, CJ, Boyd, WE & Gojak, D 1997, 'Hope Farm Windmill: phytolith analysis of cereals in early colonial Australia', Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 24, no. 9, pp. 841-856.

Journal of Archaeological Science home page available at http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jas

Publisher's version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/jasc.1996.0164

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Phytolith assemblages of sediments from one of the first windmills built in Australia were analysed to determine if the mill operated as a flourmill. Reference material was obtained from several cereals and phytolith assemblages were examined for cereal presence.

The analysis shows that the vegetation contributing to the phytolith assemblages mainly consisted of Panicoid and Eragrostoid (Chloridoid) grasses as well as some Festucoid grasses. The analysis of cereal assemblages is complicated by multiplicity and redundancy within the range of phytolith morphotypes, and it has proved difficult to identify types diagnostic of cereal grains. Festucoid cereal seeds (wheat, oats and barley) contained few phytoliths only and these had little diagnostic value. Although the Panicoid corn kernels (Zea mays) had a more diverse assemblage, likewise, the types were not specific to corn. Identification of cereal phytoliths therefore largely relies on contaminants from plant portions other than the grain, but where thorough processing operations have been practised contamination is less likely to occur and the resulting low levels of cereal contribution to the phytolith assemblages decreases the probability of detecting cereal presence. Some cereal-specific phytoliths, however, were identified from both assemblages and it is possible that the mill did operate for a short time. This outcome is also supported by historical records.

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