“From a sample of grinding stones we extracted very small quantities of adhering sediment trapped in pits and cracks on the tool surface. From this material, preserved starch granules were extracted with our Chinese colleagues in the starch laboratory in Beijing. These samples were analysed in China and also here at Leicester in the Starch and Residue Laboratory, School of Archaeology and Ancient History.
“Our research shows us that there was something much more interesting going on in the subtropical south of China 5,000 years ago than we had first thought. The survival of organic material is really dependent on the particular chemical properties of the soil, so you never know what you will get until you sample. At Xincun we really hit the jackpot. Starch was well-preserved and there was plenty of it. While some of the starch granules we found were species we might expect to find on grinding and pounding stones, ie. some seeds and tuberous plants such as freshwater chestnuts, lotus root and the fern root, the addition of starch from palms was totally unexpected and very exciting.”
Story: ScienceBlog | Photo: Wikimedia Commons