Differentiating the Volcaniform Phytoliths of Bananas: Musa acuminata

Vrydaghs, L.
Ball, T.
Volkaert, H.
van den Houwe, I.
Manwaring, J.
De Langhe, E.
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Banana phytoliths are considered a suitable tool in archaeology to track the history of the human populations involved in banana cultivation and dispersal throughout the tropical world. This study is confined to an initial investigation of the species Musa acuminata Colla and of its edible diploid and triploid derivatives. Slight morphological and/or morphometrical differences of the volcaniform phytoliths can be expected because of the very complex and bi-specific phylogeny of the edible banana. A stepwise procedure in the analysis of these phytoliths is therefore required. Analysis of 21 samples covering a wide spectrum in genetic diversity, shows that banana phytolith diversity is linked to phylogeny. The results suggest that precise and reliable identification of phytoliths in archaeological contexts is possible, but that the examination of an additional set of samples is necessary to fully understand the extent of morphotypic variation and traits for diagnostic discrimination.
Musa acuminata, banana phytoliths, archaeology
Vrydaghs L, Ball T, Volkaert H, van den Houwe I, Manwaring J, De Langhe E. 2009. Differentiating the volcaniform phytoliths of bananas: Musa acuminate. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 7:239-246.
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