4.7 Article Proceedings Paper

Anthracology and taphonomy, from wood gathering to charcoal analysis. A review of the taphonomic processes modifying charcoal assemblages, in archaeological contexts

Journal

PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY
Volume 291, Issue 1-2, Pages 142-153

Publisher

ELSEVIER
DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.09.016

Keywords

Anthracology; Taphonomy; Firewood; Combustion processes; Post-depositional processes

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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. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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