Charcoal analysis, with particular reference to archaeological sites in Britain
In this thesis, data from 232 archaeological
sites in England, Scotland and Wales are used to
build the foundations of a standard methodology for
charcoal identification and interpretation.
Sampling methods are examined, including
sample selection, recovery, sample size, fragment
size, and their effects on results. A computer key
for native woody plants (and some introduced species)
was constructed to aid identification of
Thirty-one taxa were identified from the sites
studied. Results are compared by histograms,
presence analysis and multivarlate analysis. The
broad pattern is found to display little variation in
relation to archaeological period or context type.
Quercus sp, Rosaceae (subfamily Pomoldeae),
Corylus sp, Prunus sp, and Fraxinus ap are the
five most common taxa on the majority of sites. The
relationship of this finding to anthropogenic factors
Compared to pollen or molluscan analysis,
charcoal is shown to be insensitive to changes in woodland distribution and type. There are, however,
indications of environmental effects in the
occurrence of some less commonly recorded taxa (e.g.
Rhamnus sp and Calluna sp) and in the overall
results from a number of sites.
Temporal and spatial distributions of Fagus
sp, Acer sp, Carpinus sp, Pinus sp, Tilia sp
and others are considered in relation to their known
history and ecology. This illustrates the value of
large-scale charcoal evidence in helping to
reconstruct woodland history.
The importance of these findings to the
interpretation of individual results is considered in
terms of a fuel selection: availability hypothesis.
This, for example, suggests a possible reason for the
Multi-faceted analysis of taxa identified,
charcoal concentration, the number of fragments
identified per taxon and the proportion of twiggy
material present is shown to be a potential means of
characterising deposits, and one which also promises
to yield further information in the future.