The Use of Wood Charcoal in Landscape Archaeology

Authored by: Nic Dolby

Handbook of Landscape Archaeology

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781598742947
eBook ISBN: 9781315427737
Adobe ISBN: 9781315427720


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Charcoal analysis has traditionally concerned the identification, quantification, and analysis of woody plants present as charcoal in archaeological and other sediments. Charcoal is common in many archaeological sites and represents material remains of human activity. Although a source of dating, charcoal also provides identification of the wood of trees and shrubs utilized as firewood and should be used to give insight into larger questions within archaeology beyond construction of chronologies and the past environment. Some scholars have extended the charcoal analysis to include fragmentation of the charcoal as an additional facet (Dolby In preparation; Hesse and Rosen 1988), while the integration of studies on charcoal taphonomy and the ensuing implications for archaeological and paleoenvironmental studies has proceeded fitfully (see Dolby 1995, In preparation; Prior and Alvin 1983, 1986; Prior and Gasson 1993; Rossen and Olson 1985). This chapter outlines ways in which charcoal analyses have been incorporated into landscape archaeology and suggests new potential approaches. I begin with a brief history and outline of methodologies.

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