Ethno-geochemical and phytolith studies of activity related patterns: A case study from Al Ma'tan, Jordan

Authors Organisations
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-433
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Palaeoecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 05 Sep 2017
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Understanding Neolithic sites in southwest Asia is often difficult because of the lack of preservation of organic remains and the effects of various taphonomic processes that alter the original record. Here, we use an ethnographic approach to test the potential of using plant phytoliths and geochemistry to aid our interpretation of southwest Asian Neolithic sites. Our study of a recently abandoned stone and mud constructed village in Jordan, shows that for certain activity types, phytoliths and geochemistry can help distinguish different construction methods and functions, particularly for burnt areas, animal use areas and where there has been the addition of a specific construction material such as the local clay. For features constructed from the same source materials distinctions are more problematic. Geochemical and phytolith proxies were individually effective in distinguishing activity areas and construction materials, but signals were diminished when the statistical analysis was run on both forms of evidence combined. It is therefore recommended that the data from plant phytolith and geochemical analyses are subject to separate statistical tests and that the two sets of results are used in combination to interpret archaeological sites and their uses.


  • phytoliths, geochemistry, pXRF, Jordan, ethnography, Neolithic