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New Handbook on microscopic archaeological samples crosses disciplines

A couple of years ago, Dr Amanda Henry noted that she was unable to determine all microremains in her archaeological samples. Herself an expert on starches, she had trouble recognising other microparticles. Seeing the importance of interdisciplinarity, she organised a conference on microremains. This has been such a success that now The Handbook for the Analysis of Microparticles in Archaeological Samples is being published.

The Handbook for the Analysis of Microparticles in Archaeological Samples

Important for the field

While the handbook does not contain new research, it will prove to be important for the field. ‘It is instructive rather than groundbreaking.’ Amanda Henry notes. ‘It is a summary of current knowledge so that everyone can access it. When I look at an archaeological sample through the microscope, for example, I recognise that the microremains are organic or biological in nature, but nothing more really. Unless it’s starch.’

Background in microremains

The publication is specifically meant for people who already have a background in one type of microremain, but may not have been exposed to the other kinds. ‘Sooner or later, you are going to find them in your sample, and you are going to question what these are. Therefore, a reference guide in the form of this book can be very helpful.’

It all started with a conference. ‘I invited all kind of experts on microremains and let them present on their personal expertise. This book is the end result of this, consisting of the written versions of these lectures. With the added bonus of a whole lot of pictures, which are crucial for identifying and referring.’

The conference that stood at the basis of this publication.

‘It will benefit everyone’

The chapters contained many details that surprised Henry herself. ‘I thought I had a grasp on pollen, but, reading the chapter written by Leiden colleague Corrie Bakels made me realise the depth of how these were used in the study of the past, and rather effectively. What I also really like is that every chapter contains a little bit of history of the specific field.’

It is surprising that something so elemental had never been done before. ‘It took someone with the will and the funds to get everyone together. And I was driven by selfishness,’ she laughs, ‘I wanted people to tell me what I found in my samples. But it will benefit everyone.’

See for more information the website of the publisher

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