Exaggerated expectations in ancient starch research and the need for new taphonomic and authenticity criteria


Ancient starch research illuminates aspects of human ecology and economic botany that drove human evolution and cultural complexity over time, with a special emphasis on past technology, diet, health, and adaptation to changing environments and socio-economic systems. However, lapses in prevailing starch research demonstrate the exaggerated expectations for the field that have been generated over the last few decades. This includes an absence of explanation for the millennial-scale survivability of a biochemically degradable polymer, and difficulties in establishing authenticity and taxonomic identification. This paper outlines new taphonomic and authenticity criteria to guide future work toward designing research programs that fully exploit the potential of ancient starch while considering growing demands from readers, editors, and reviewers that look for objective compositional identification of putatively ancient starch granules.



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