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Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1080/14614103.2018.1522783

Is Choice Acceptable? How the Anthracological Paradigm May Hinder the Consideration of Fuel Gathering as a Cultural Behaviour

04 Mar 2021-Environmental Archaeology (Routledge)-Vol. 26, Iss: 2, pp 159-167
Abstract: Charcoal analysis is a powerful and well-established means of documenting past environments and the impact of ancient societies on vegetation. Nowadays, the palaeoecological accuracy of anthracolog...

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7 results found

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.QUAINT.2020.11.004
Ceren Kabukcu1, Lucie Chabal2Institutions (2)
Abstract: This paper provides a critical review of the main methodological achievements in sampling and quantitative analysis in anthracology, the study of wood charcoal macro-remains from archaeological contexts. The application of appropriate sampling protocols is a prerequisite for the study of all types of archaeo-anthracological assemblages, particularly when it comes to the study of wood fuel waste. Sampling directly impacts the quantitative taxonomic composition of a charcoal assemblage and its representativeness with regard to reconstructing ancient woodland composition. The selection of contexts and deposits appropriate for this purpose, the spatial sampling of charcoal scatters, sieving methods and mesh size, what constitutes optimal sample size and the outcomes of charcoal fragmentation, are all discussed. Provided that appropriate methods are followed, the case for the palaeoecological representativeness of archaeo-anthracological fuel waste deposits is argued in detail. This also includes a discussion of the contribution of laboratory experiments to understanding the impacts of combustion and post-depositional processes on archaeological charcoal preservation and the implications of fuelwood properties for wood collection. We argue that ancient firewood use was predicated principally on wood availability in past vegetation and its interdependence with ancient landscape management practices. Lastly, we discuss the application of multivariate methods in anthracology, and the insights they may provide for reconstructing archaeological charcoal taphonomy, and past woodland vegetation and fuel uses.

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Topics: Anthracology (64%), Wood fuel (51%)

9 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1007/S41982-019-00047-Z
Sally Hoare1Institutions (1)
01 Dec 2020-
Abstract: Assessing the function of Palaeolithic hearths is a key research issue that can benefit from the application of experimental archaeology when examining whether the behaviourally related purposes of fire, e.g. heat, light and cooking, could be correlated with combustion features in the archaeological record. Not all species of wood and types of fuel burn the same way. Variability exists in the amount of ash and smoke produced, along with differences in speed of burning and outgoing light and heat. This paper examined the light and heat properties of nine different types of fuels (eight individual species of wood and fresh bone) by assessing intensity of luminosity and radiative heat outputs using a lux metre and thermal imaging camera. Results show that there is considerable variation between bone and wood in terms of light and heat output and between the individual species of wood. In order to assess whether heat efficiency may vary seasonally, experiments were performed overnight and repeated at ambient air temperature ranges of 11 to 13 and 0 to 3 °C. Results show that in the current data set fuels that emit lower to intermediate heat outputs could be more efficient at colder temperatures in terms of warmth. This represents a preliminary step forward towards attributing behaviourally relevant functions such as light and heat to Palaeolithic combustion features with regard to fuel selectivity.

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Topics: Combustion (55%), Intensity (heat transfer) (53%)

5 Citations

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.JASREP.2021.102938
Rebecca Scott1, Robert HosfieldInstitutions (1)
Abstract: Whilst several explanations have been proposed for the absence of fire-related behaviours at well preserved Lower Palaeolithic sites, much of the emphasis of previous research has concentrated on our ability to find fire in the archaeological record. Furthermore, evolutionary models of early hominin fire engagement have often been developed and discussed in the context of early African hominins. Here we explore the role of fire in the behaviours, choices and lives of hominins during the earliest occupations of temperate regions, with a focus on Europe. We consider fire use in the context of Europe’s specific palaeoenvironmental conditions and discuss whether a long or short fire chronology model best fits the current evidence for the use of controlled fire in these regions during the Lower Palaeolithic. We propose two models for hominin fire behaviours in the temperate latitudes, using a heuristic ‘macroscale to microscale’ approach to understanding the needs for — and the use of — fire during this period. We argue that such holistic approaches must combine experimental work, experiential observations and cost-benefit approaches and should consider site context and function, fire function, social behaviour, and mobility, to evaluate the limited evidence for fire use in the Lower Palaeolithic. We highlight that, varying with seasonality, fire function (and the associated costs and benefits) was of particular importance and may explain the overall paucity of evidence for fire use in temperate regions prior to the Middle Palaeolithic. This has implications for other potential survival strategies that are invisible in the early archaeological record, such as shelter, clothing, and the putrefaction of meat for later consumption.

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2 Citations

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.JASREP.2020.102591
Llorenç Picornell-Gelabert1Institutions (1)
Abstract: Trees have commonly received limited attention in social sciences, and archaeology has been no exception. The study of past social practices related to trees remains an issue that receives limited theoretical attention. It is specially significant the lack of theorisation about the use of woody plants biomass as energy source in archaeological and anthropological approaches to people-environment interactions. Even if firewood has been (and continues to be in many parts of the globe) the most relevant energy source since domestication of fire, different authors have claimed the need of new insights to build a comprehensive archaeological approach to firewood procurement and consumption. Archaeological charcoal fragments constitute ubiquitous archaeological remains of this energy consumption in the past, placing anthracology (aka charcoal analysis), the discipline that deals with such archaeobotanical remains, in a privileged position to contribute to the building of an archaeological approach to firewood related practices. Different authors has considered that ethnoarchaeology represents a prospective line of inquiry to develop such archaeological narratives and approaches to firewood related practices as a social arena of people-environment interactions. In this paper I present an ethnoarchaeolgical study of firewood management among the Benga people of the island of Manjdi (Equatorial Guinea), offering actual ethnographic data to discuss theoretical assumptions and methodological practices in order to build up a more comprehensive approach to firewood procurement and consumption in anthracology (and archaeology).

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Topics: Firewood (61%), Ethnoarchaeology (56%), Energy source (53%) ... show more

1 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1080/14614103.2020.1852759
Abstract: At the 23rd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) in August to September 2017 in Maastricht, NL, two sessions explored how archaeobotanical analysis can be used to expl...

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1 Citations


36 results found

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.PALAEO.2009.09.016
Abstract: A discussion on the representativeness of charcoal from archaeological contexts and their potential for palaeoecological reconstruction is presented. The charcoal deposits studied are the result of human activities and natural processes, difficult to separate on the basis of their effects only. This is why “taphonomy” should not be limited to the study of charcoal, after the extinction of fire. As a result our questioning has been widened to include the entire succession of processes, from past vegetation to the anthracological diagram. We propose a review of the taphonomic processes affecting anthracological assemblages in archaeological contexts, from wood gathering to the analysis of charcoal results. Human practices appear clearly as the first filter determining or conditioning the assemblage. The combustion process can induce a double filter by limiting the taxonomic information and by falsifying the initial quantity of burned wood. Post-depositional agents represent a third level of filters between the vegetation and the anthracological assemblage. Finally, sampling and quantification methods can also induce a distortion of the assemblage. The aim of this paper is to present the state of the discipline today, the problems already solved, and the questions that remain to be studied.

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Topics: Anthracology (63%), Assemblage (archaeology) (54%), Charcoal (51%)

304 Citations

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1179/ENV.2005.10.1.1
Eleni Asouti1, Phil Austin1Institutions (1)
Abstract: In this paper the significance of the analysis of archaeological wood charcoal macro-remains as a tool for the reconstruction of woodland vegetation and its exploitation is discussed. Drawing from both older and more recent publications a number of theoretical and methodological approaches are examined. It is suggested that greater integration of charcoal and archaeological data is needed when evaluating charcoal preservation and sample composition, and that a more coherent theory of the complex ecological and cultural processes affecting species availability and firewood management needs to be developed.

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Topics: Anthracology (58%), Charcoal (53%), Firewood (52%) ... show more

261 Citations

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/0305-4403(92)90033-Y
Charlie M. Shackleton1, F. Prins2Institutions (2)
Abstract: The applicability of the Principle of Least Effort (PLE) to interpretations of palaeoclimatic data is considered, and found lacking in some instances. A conceptual model is presented to determine situations in which the PLE may, or may not, apply. This helps identify when the PLE may be a useful model for interpretation of appropriate data sets.

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164 Citations

Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/S0961-9534(03)00052-7
Abstract: This study was carried out in Bulamogi, Uganda, with the main objective of determining preferred firewood species, their harvesting and consumption patterns. Data collected through household and key-informants interviews, using open- and close-ended questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, showed that 48 plant species in 36 genera and 20 families are used as firewood. These plants have other uses as herbal medicines and in traditional cultural rites. There is almost total dependence on firewood for domestic cooking and small-scale industries. Firewood is used to fire bricks (55%), distil spirits (26%), cure fish (10%), cook food in restaurants (6%) and to produce charcoal (3%). Firewood for domestic use is collected mainly by women, and largely comprises of dead wood. The distances travelled to firewood collection areas are short and little time is spent. The harvesting of firewood for domestic use may have a lower direct impact on the native flora, than the harvesting of fuelwood for commercial use by small-scale industries and to make charcoal, which requires large amounts of wood that is often green. According to the community response, firewood is abundant but declining. This decline may be related to increasing demands generated by the growing human population of Bulamogi, and growing national need for charcoal. Cultural taboos that have hitherto played an important role in plant conservation appear to be weakening. There is limited trading of firewood in the community.

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Topics: Firewood (72%), Population (52%)

156 Citations

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1080/01811789.1992.10827101
01 Jan 1992-
Abstract: ResumeLes methodes d'etude et d'interpretation anthracologique pour la reconstitution paleo-ecologique de la vegetation manquent souvent de rigueur. Une methode precise d'echantillonnage, excluant les foyers, et une analyse statistique de la fragmentation sont developpees ici. Le probleme de la reduction de masse n'est pas encore resolu. Sur ces bases, l'hypothese de representativite paleo-ecologique des charbons de bois peut etre argumentee. Des principes d'interpretation paleo-ecologique sont proposes.

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99 Citations