Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 459–470 | Cite as

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

  • Michèle M. Wollstonecroft
  • Zdenka Hroudová
  • Gordon C. Hillman
  • Dorian Q. Fuller
Original Article


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 



Many thanks to the Çatalhöyük Project, Sue Colledge, Manon Savard and George Willcox for providing the archaeobotanical specimens, to the herbarium curators of Berlin-Dahlem, Budapest, Bratislava, Brno, Helsinki, Jena, Linz, München, Prague, Sofia, and Vienna for making their collections available and to Zprávy Čes. Bot. Společ., Praha for permitting us to reproduce the images used in Figs. 3 and 4k. Further thanks to the Institute of Botany of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (grant AV0Z 60050516) and the UCL Institute of Archaeology (IOA) for their ongoing support. MW’s research is funded by a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship.

Supplementary material

334_2011_305_MOESM1_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 1: Appendix Lists of examined Bolboschoenus maritimus and B. glaucus herbarium specimens and their localities in Turkey (DOC 54 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michèle M. Wollstonecroft
    • 1
  • Zdenka Hroudová
    • 2
  • Gordon C. Hillman
    • 1
  • Dorian Q. Fuller
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPrůhoniceCzech Republic

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