Phytoliths - rigid microscopic bodies that occur in most plant species - have gone a long way since that day when Darwin became curious about a fine powder deposited on the instruments of the HMS Beagle. This fascinating subject started because of curiosity, and in that respect it was a good start since curiosity is probably the most important drive behind first-rate research.
Fortunately curiosity is still present in phytolith research; the articles in this book are full of curiosity and ingenuity. Phytolith research has grown since the times of Darwin and in the last three decades has bloomed. The papers in this collection span most of the application of phytolith analysis (from archaeology, palaeoenvironmental studies and botany, to name just some) and the majority of them were presented at the 4th International Meeting on Phytolith Research that was held in Cambridge (UK) in August 2002.