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Charcoal analysis as a means of understanding collection and use of firewood in the past

Tue
6
Dec
Time Tuesday 6 December, 2022 at 13:00 - 15:00
Place HUM.G.217 (HC206)

The Research Seminar Series in Archaeology and Environmental archaeology invites you to a seminar with Radoslaw Grabowski, “Charcoal analysis as a means of understanding the collection and use of firewood in the past: examples from the Netherlands".

Abstract:

‘Anthracology’ is the identification and analysis of charcoal based on the microscopic anatomy of the wood. When applied on charcoal from the past, anthracological analysis has the potential to inform archaeologists about the collection and use of wood as fuel in hearths and other types of fires, ovens, kilns, etc. To some extent, the recovered woody species are also a reflection of the vegetation on a specific location. 

In this seminar, I will present the results from two sites from The Netherlands: Bergharen-Wijksestraat from the Mesolithic (ca. 8000-5900 BC) and the Swifterbant Culture site of Nieuwegein-Het Klooster (ca. 5300 - 3400 BC). At both sites charcoal was determined from numerous hearth features. Besides identification of the woody species, effort also went into recording details on the charcoal which probably relate to the degree of degradation of the wood. This allowed for a description of the type and “quality” of the wood which was used.  

During the seminar we will look at the following aspects of each site: 

  • What hearth features were encountered and sampled? 
  • Which wood species were found during the analysis and how does this relate to the vegetation during the respective period? 
  • Which other details were noted on the charcoal and what does this say about the state of the wood? 
  • How do the results fit in with the rest of the archaeological record from these sites? How do the results relate to adjacent contemporaneous sites? Basically: how do the specialist charcoal analysis fit into (and contribute to) the bigger picture? 
  • What is the role of middle-range studies in athracological research?

    With middle-range study is meant here: any research of phenomena in the present for creating a reference framework when interpreting materials from the past.

    Which relevant middle-range studies have already been performed? How do they help us understand the use of firewood? How can such studies be expanded to improve interpretation of charcoal from archaeological sites?     

The seminar will conclude with the final of the above points. Together with colleagues, I have recently begun taking the first steps towards a new middle-range study of the degradation patterns on some common species of north-European trees. Together, we can discuss how best to approach such a study. 

About the seminar series

The Research Seminar Series in Archaeology and Environmental Archaeology presents and discusses current research in archaeology and environmental archaeology.
See more upcoming seminars in the series

Event type: Seminar
Contact
Malcolm Christopher Lillie
Read about Malcolm Christopher Lillie