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Investigating fuel and fireplaces with a combination of phytoliths and multi-element analysis; an ethnographic experiment

AuthorsLancelotti, Carla ; Ruiz Pérez, Javier; García-Granero Fos, Juan José
Anthropic activity markers
Issue Date2017
CitationVegetation History and Archaeobotany (26/1) : 75-83 (2017)
AbstractThe identification of fuel-related practices in archaeological contexts is almost always associated with the identification of fire-related structures. Charcoal analysis is the standard method of identifying wood use in the past; however, in many circumstances wood was not the primary source of fuel. In arid and semi-arid environments alternative fuels such as dung, chaff and straw and, in general, plant processing by-products were predominant. The study of these types of fuel often necessitates the application of multi-proxy analyses, involving botanical micro-remains and geochemistry. This paper presents the results of an integrated analysis of phytoliths and chemical elements of samples collected in a modern ethnographic context, a domestic compound, in North Gujarat, India. Alternative fuels have been and are still very important in this area due to the scarcity of wood and the recent ban on cutting trees imposed by the government. Within the house studied, three fireplaces were present where different types of activities were performed selectively. The differential use of fuels in the three fireplaces is highlighted by the results of descriptive and multivariate statistics. However, the opposite geochemical signals that the fireplaces produced, when they should have been similar, would be difficult to interpret in an archaeological context where the practices that had produced such signals are unknown. The combination of phytoliths and geochemistry, coupled with the ethnographic information on the activity, can help us to construct better models to help interpret the archaeological record.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00334-016-0574-y
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