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  Palaeobotany, as its Greek name declares literally, is the study of all aspects of fossil plants. Certain types of plant tissue are well preserved in rock: wood, pollen grains and seeds are all durable plant products, though softer tissues such as leaves are also sometimes found. Palaeobotany is a relatively modern science but has revealed a great deal about the vegetation and climate of prehistoric times. The richest source of information is pollen grains, the outer layers of which are extremely durable and which have peculiarly intricate microscopic structures which allow the identification of the genus or even species of the parent plant (see palynology). The construction of pollen profiles showing the relative abundance of different pollen types in deposits of a known geographical age allows an accurate idea of the flora of the time to be established (oak forest, grassland, pasture, etc.). Such information can then be used to draw conclusions about the prevailing climate and land use (palaeoethnobotany), a picture which is of great use to archaeologists. RB

See also bioclimatology; dendrochronology; palaeontology.Further reading Martin Rudwick, The Meaning of Fossils.



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