LEAF CUTICULAR FEATURES OF OLEA EUROPEA: EVIDENCE OF ITS PRESENCE IN ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
Plant remains were recovered from camelid feces at Acha-2, an archaeological site located in the Azapa Valley, Chile, South America (18° S). The peculiar soil and climate characteristics of the Atacama desert ensure preservation of organic material. The taxonomic identification of these remains considered cell arrangement, the stomatal pattern and some other conspicous features, such as location, orientation, frequency and size of the stomatal complex and trichomes when present. Comparisons were made with modern plants for reference.
Plant composition of the fecal content was almost all of monocotyledonous origin based upon linear arrangement of the cells and stomata type. However, one sample showed a non-linear distribution of the cells and multicellular scale-shaped trichomes, similar to those of olives.
Acha-2 is one of the earliest archaeological sites of the South Central Andes (8,970 Before Present, Radiocarbon date) and Olea europea was brought by the Spanish only 500 years ago. There are no indigenous American olives, thus O. europea serves as an important biological indicator of the age of the sample in paleo-ethnobotanical studies in the Americas.