Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 459-470

First online:

Bolboschoenus glaucus (Lam.) S.G. Smith, a new species in the flora of the ancient Near East

  • Michèle M. WollstonecroftAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 
  • , Zdenka HroudováAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
  • , Gordon C. HillmanAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London
  • , Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London

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Taxonomic advancement in the genus Bolboschoenus (Cyperaceae, formerly included in the genus Scirpus) have resulted in the re-classification of the plant previously known as Bolboschoenus maritimus (synonym Scirpus maritimus) into several closely-related but distinct Bolboschoenus species This improved taxonomy is of importance for archaeobotanical investigations of ancient sites within the temperate zones, where this genus frequently occurs, because it allows more precise definitions of the ecological requirements and growing habits of each species. Moreover, it details the distinct morphological and anatomical characteristics of the fruit (nutlets) of each species. Using these new nutlet classification criteria, we re-examined charred archaeological specimens which had previously been identified as B. maritimus (or S. maritimus), from five Near Eastern late Pleistocene and early Holocene village sites: Abu Hureyra, Hallan Çemi, Demirköy, Çatalhöyük and Aswad. Because three of these sites are located in Anatolia, data on the recent occurrence of Bolboschoenus in Turkey were also investigated. All archaeobotanical specimens were found to be B. glaucus. This species was also found to be the most common Bolboschoenus in present-day Turkey, indicating that it has a long history of occurrence in this region. The environmental, ecological and economic implications of this new information suggest that it is entirely feasible that this plant provided late Pleistocene and Holocene Near Eastern people with a dependable and possibly a staple food source.


Bolboschoenus glaucus Epipalaeolithic Near East Neolithic Taxonomy Nutlet characteristics