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Firewood management and woodland exploitation during the late Neolithic at Lac de Chalain (Jura, France)

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The paper presents results of the charcoal analysis from the lakeshore settlement of Chalain 4 in the French Jura (Dép. Franche-Comté), dated by dendrochronology from 3040 to 3000bc. The investigated material comes from waterlogged organic layers (excluding fire events) where charcoals are assumed to be the residues of domestic fires only. The anthracological (charcoal) analysis reveals a complex domestic firewood management in balance with the social organisation and the technical and economic systems of the settlement. This firewood economy is characterised by the avoidance of wood species intended for other activities, such as building or foddering, and by the preferential use of wood less than 10cm in diameter. The areas from which firewood was obtained are also connected to woodland clearance for cultivated land, which suggests that firewood was gathered along the paths, which were travelled daily.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Firewood management and woodland exploitation during
the late Neolithic at Lac de Chalain (Jura, France)
Alexa Dufraisse
Received: 16 February 2004 / Accepted: 25 September 2006 / Published online: 12 April 2007
Springer-Verlag 2007
Abstract The paper presents results of the charcoal
analysis from the lakeshore settlement of Chalain 4 in the
French Jura (De
´p. Franche-Comte
´), dated by dendrochro-
nology from 3040 to 3000 BC. The investigated material
comes from waterlogged organic layers (excluding fire
events) where charcoals are assumed to be the residues of
domestic fires only. The anthracological (charcoal) analysis
reveals a complex domestic firewood management in bal-
ance with the social organisation and the technical and
economic systems of the settlement. This firewood econ-
omy is characterised by the avoidance of wood species
intended for other activities, such as building or foddering,
and by the preferential use of wood less than 10 cm in
diameter. The areas from which firewood was obtained are
also connected to woodland clearance for cultivated land,
which suggests that firewood was gathered along the paths,
which were travelled daily.
Keywords Wood charcoal French Jura
Lakeshore site Neolithic period Domestic firewood
Woodland management
Introduction
The investigation of domestic firewood from Neolithic
settlements, used for heating, lighting and cooking, has
rarely been considered as a specific economic activity until
now. Indeed, because of the apparent non-selection of
woods, charcoal frequencies are often interpreted as a good
representation of the woodland cover and its evolution.
However, domestic firewood gathering is a daily, frequent
and repeated activity showing even nowadays, in some
countries, a close connection between a community and its
environment. According to anthropological models, the
strategies of gathering firewood partly reflect the social
organisation of a community, its ways of life, its perception
of the environment and the environment itself (Cassagne
1987;Tu
¨rker and Kaygusuz 1995; Zapata-Pen
˜a et al. 2003;
Biran et al. 2004). Therefore, the study of firewood gath-
ering during the prehistoric period by means of charcoal
analysis is a powerful way of improving the understanding
of relations between societies, techniques and the use of
woodland.
A very good opportunity for the study of Neolithic
firewood economy is provided by the lake-dwelling sites in
the circum-Alpine area in Europe. Indeed, such sites are
characterised by an abundant and well-stratified sedimen-
tation, a precise chronological resolution and excellent
preservation conditions. Thus, waterlogged sites allow a
study of firewood management through an integrated ap-
proach of social, technical, economic and environmental
factors. This approach, based on archaeological and
quantifiable artefacts, rejoins the theoretical approach of
site catchment analysis (Higgs and Vita-Finzi 1972; Roper
1979).
This paper focuses on results provided by one of the
thoroughly studied lake-shore settlements, Chalain 4 at Lac
de Chalain. Dated from 3040 to 3000 B.C., this site is
characterised by a particularly thick sedimentary sequence
with a chronological span of about 10 years for each of the
four different periods of occupation. From a cultural point
Communicated by F. Bittmann.
A. Dufraisse (&)
CNRS UMR 7041 ‘‘Arche
´ologies et Sciences de l’Antiquite
´’’,
Protohistoire Europe
´enne, Maison Rene
´Ginouve
`s,
21 Alle
´e de l’Universite
´, 92023 Nanterre Cedex, France
e-mail: alexa.dufraisse@mae-u.paris10.fr
123
Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
DOI 10.1007/s00334-007-0098-6
of view, these periods are attributed to the archaeological
cultural groups Ferrie
`res/Clairvaux (transitional phase) and
Clairvaux ancien in the late Neolithic period (for a chro-
nology table, see Jeunesse et al. 1998). Allowing a dia-
chronic approach, this site is especially interesting to study
for its firewood management, gathering modes and acqui-
sition areas, according to the socio-economical context.
Neolithic site of Chalain in its present context
Geographical and climatic outlines
The Lac de Chalain is located in the French Jura in the
Combe d’Ain at an altitude of 500 m. The Combe d’Ain is
an enclosed alluvial valley bordered on the west by the first
Jura plateau of Lons-le-Saunier at an altitude of 450–
560 m, and on the east by the upper Jura plateau of
Champagnole from 800 to 1,100 m. On the edge of the
Champagnole plateau there are hollows in which lakes
such as Chalain and Clairvaux are situated (Fig. 1; Campy
1982). The mean annual temperature is about 10C in the
Combe d’Ain and varies with altitude (9C on the first
plateau, 7C on the upper plateau and 6C in the mountains
from 1,100 to 1,500 m. Protected from the westerly winds,
the Combe d’Ain receives less precipitation than the sur-
rounding regions, 1,300–1,400 mm instead of 1,400–
1,500 mm, and is characterised by late freezing moderated
by the frequency of fogs.
Regional and local present-day vegetation
Several pollen analyses have been done at the Lac de
Chalain and Clairvaux, (Richard 1989a,b) which indicate
that the vegetation 5,000 years ago was roughly the same
as today’s. Thus, the modern and potential vegetation of
the lake’s surroundings constitute an important basis for
the interpretation of charcoal data, which relies on the
ecology of the local vegetation (Chabal et al. 1999, pp 80–
82).
In the part of the Jura considered here, topography and
soil (silt, limestone, marl, moraines, etc.) cause a large
floristic diversity (Fig. 2; Rameau et al. 1980). Below
600 m, the colline vegetation is mainly represented by
deciduous oak woods composed of Quercus petraea Liebl.
(sessile oak), Q. robur L. (pedunculate oak), Q. pubescens
Willd. (pubescent oak) with Fagus sylvatica L. (beech) and
secondary species such as Fraxinus excelsior L. (ash), Tilia
cordata Mill. (small-leaved lime), T. platyphyllos Scop.
(large-leaved lime), Acer campestre L. (field maple), A.
platanoides L. (Norway maple), Prunus avium L. (wild
cherry) and Corylus avellana L. (hazel). Between 650 and
750 m, the sub-mountainous zones are covered by Fagus
stands mainly composed of F. sylvatica and Quercus pet-
raea. From 750 to 1,300 m, the mountainous assemblages
are characterised by a progressive increase of Abies alba
Mill. (silver fir) accompanied by Fagus sylvatica,Acer
pseudoplatanus L.,Fraxinus excelsior,Ulmus scabra Mill.
(mountain elm) and among shrubs, Sorbus aria Crantz
(whitebeam) and Amelanchier ovalis Medik. (snowy mes-
pilus). Lastly, Abies alba and Picea abies Karsten (spruce)
become the predominant species with Pinus silvestris L.
(Scots pine) and P. uncinata Ram. (mountain pine).
From the river Ain to the glacio-lacustrine terraces in
the Combe d’Ain, various woodland assemblages are rep-
resented, such as Salix stands along rivers, Alnus stands in
the marsh zones, Acer-Fraxinus alder-ash stands on recent
alluvium and along rivers, and Quercus-Fraxinus stands on
colluvium with a high degree of hydromorphy.
According to pollen data (Ruffaldi 1995) we can assume
that also in Neolithic times all these taxa were growing in
the immediate vicinity of the settlements.
The lake dwelling of Chalain 4
Chalain 4 is located on the north-western bank of Lac de
Chalain, on a peninsula of about 0.5 ha (Fig. 3). The
excavation area of 300 m2included a plank-way, which
Fig. 1 Location of the Lac de Chalain in the Jura
200 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
123
connected the village with the hinterland and included one
of the rows of the houses of the village. The buildings of
the village (estimated to 10 or 12) are small (4 ·7m
2
) and
arranged in one or two rows along both sides of a ‘‘street’’.
The total absence of hearths and floors in a primary posi-
tion on the ground suggests that the houses were pile-
dwellings with raised floors, out of the reach of flood wa-
ters (Pe
´trequin 1995).
The sediment sequence of Chalain 4 is especially thick
(Fig. 4); the different archaeological layers, found in level
VII, indicate a succession of four periods of occupation,
separated by short periods of abandonment corresponding
to brief high water levels. During the settlement phases,
large amounts of organic materials accumulated and they
are still very well preserved in the organic layers, mainly
uncarbonised material, see below. Some of these layers, C,
E and G, are covered by deposits rich in carbonised mate-
rial, which correspond to the destruction of the settlements
by fire (Fig. 5). The quantity and quality of the carbonised
archaeological remains found in them suggest that the fires
were accidental which also explains some reconstructions;
after a fire, the buildings were rebuilt (Pe
´trequin 1995).
This occupation was dated from 3040 to 3000 B.C.by
means of a dendrochronological study of 350 timber pieces
(Lavier 1996). Pottery styles link the first phase (layer G) to
a transition phase of the cultures Ferrie
`res-Clairvaux, and
the following ones (layers F to A) to the culture of
Clairvaux ancien. The site is preceded by a lack of
settlements between 3150 and 3040 B.C. corresponding to a
minor climatic deterioration (Magny 2004), and to an
important cultural change. Indeed, the group of Ferrie
`res
shows cultural patterns from the south-west in the Rho
ˆne
valley, whereas the Combe d’Ain is the epicentre of a new
cultural group, the Clairvaux group, which would later
influence the cultural group of Lu
¨scherz in the western part
of Switzerland (Giligny et al. 1995).
Materials and methods
Analyses of charcoal from archaeological sediments pro-
vide information about the wood taxa used for fuel and in
some cases about the architecture according to the context.
Thus, the anthracologist has to understand the function and
the provenance of these types of wood in the sites. For
example, burnt layers from accidental fires, in which
charcoal fragments are a mixture of firewood, timber, re-
mains of twig-fodder, etc. are not suitable for understand-
ing the firewood collection strategies. Consequently, for
this approach, charcoals have to be collected in fireplaces
or in settlement layers but exclusively from zones where
the succession of the cultural layers is clear and not mixed
with burnt layers.
Attention must be paid to the duration of activities
represented in the archaeological record. Charcoal may
represent short-term events such as a single fire, or long-
term deposits such as residues of multiple firings scattered
in the archaeological layers, which are types of deposition
Fig. 2 Morphology of the Combe d’Ain. Cross-section from the west to the east and distribution of the potential vegetation
Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210 201
123
on which the interpretation depends, relating to the uses of
wood, the environment or the modes of woodland exploi-
tation (Chabal 1992,1997; Chabal et al. 1999).
Charcoal sampling
Charcoal sampling at Chalain 4 was performed on the best-
preserved zones in the eastern part of the excavation, over
150 m2in a grid system with one sample every 8 m
2
.It
took place on the excavation lasting from 1993 to 1995,
conducted by Pe
´trequin and his team. The charcoal samples
were taken only from occupation layers without an
admixture of burnt building material, identified by the
contextual associations of artefacts. In total, 17 charcoal
samples of 40 l each were investigated
Subsampling
The charcoal fragments were washed on a 2 mm mesh
sieve and air-dried. A major consideration concerns the
size and number of samples that are likely to provide sta-
tistically consistent results. The minimum number of
charcoal fragments to be identified is defined by the use of
saturation curves, a common method to determine at which
point the optimal representation of the taxa is obtained
(Chabal 1997). Because the distribution of taxa expressed
by weight or per fragment is not very different (Badal-
Garcia 1992; Chabal 1997), the fragment was used as a unit
for the absolute and percentage counts.
Botanical identification
Standard laboratory techniques were used and anatomical
observation was carried out on fresh fractures using a re-
flected light microscope with dark and light fields, after the
charcoal was hand broken on the three anatomical wood
planes, transverse, longitudinal-tangential and longitudinal-
radial. Identifications were based on comparisons with
wood anatomy atlases (Schweingruber 1990a,b; Jacquiot
et al. 1973) and reference material collected in the field.
Wood diameters
According to the protocol established (Marguerie 1992;
Ludemann and Nelle 2002), the determination of wood
diameters was done by measuring the curvature of the
growth ring, using a diameter stencil and a magnifying
glass. Only charcoal pieces of a size 4 mm and larger were
analysed in that way. According to the relative vagueness
of the measurements (sometimes several values correspond
to the charcoal fragment) and shrinking during the car-
bonisation process, the data were put into equal classes
(except for the first which is easy to determine): (0–1.5),
(1.5–5), (5–10), (10–15), (15–20), (20–25) and (25–30).
Each taxon was considered independently.
These measurements indicate that the analysed fragment
originated from a specific zone in the trunk or branch and not
the distribution of wood diameter used before carbonisation
(Fig. 5). Thus, we developed a theoretical model, which
allows an estimation of the diameter proportions before
carbonisation (meaning those used in the past) which cor-
respond to the proportions of the diameter classes after
carbonisation (meaning in the archaeological sample)
(Dufraisse 2006). Whatever the method, it must be remem-
bered that firewood is a resource selected and transported by
people and that interpretation in terms of woodland stand
structure is risky, chiefly due to the ‘‘human bias’’.
Results and interpretation
The study is based on the analysis of 2,473 fragments of
charcoal representing a minimal number of 17 taxa
Fig. 3 Position of the site Chalain 4 and the other known settlements
on the north-western edge of Lac de Chalain. The grey circles
represent the villages dated from 32 to 30 centuries B.C.
202 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
123
(Table 1, Figs. 6,7). The first examination of the charcoal
diagram shows that the identified taxa and their proportions
are palaeoecologically coherent and very similar to those
observed in the modern vegetation. The use of three dif-
ferent sources of firewood seems very probable. The first is
from along the river and essentially composed of Salix and
Populus. The second is the deciduous oak wood with its
associated taxa such as Quercus,Tilia,Acer, its post-
pioneer taxa such as Fraxinus,Corylus and probably also
the Fabaceae. The third is in the beech wood with its main
taxon Fagus and its associated taxa such as Acer pla-
tanoides/pseudoplatanus.
The archaeological phase 1 (layer G)
This phase, preceded by a lack of lakeshore settlements
during a 60-year period due to a minor climatic deterio-
ration (see above) and attributed to the Ferrie
`res/Clairvaux
transition phase according to the pottery styles, corre-
sponds to the first occupation of the village, the founder
phase.
The spectrum is characterised by only seven taxa mainly
represented by Quercus,Fraxinus and Corylus and indi-
cates use of a deciduous oak woodland. Other secondary
taxa are also represented such as Fagus,Cornus cf. san-
guinea, Rosaceae, and Tilia cf. platyphyllos.
During this phase, people used firewood between 5 and
10 cm diameter (less than 10 cm for Fraxinus and less than
1.5 cm for Corylus). Quercus is the only taxon for which
wood diameters of 10–20 cm are also represented. This
fact may reflect the collection of branches and/or young
trees.
The pollen data indicate a Fagus woodland environment
with Corylus and Quercus (Ruffaldi 1995). However, the
use of Quercus,Corylus and Fraxinus for timber
(Bourquin-Mignot unpublished) and firewood lead to the
Fig. 4 Sedimentary sequences
of Chalain 4 (Pe
´trequin 1995)
Fig. 5 Theoretical distribution of the charcoal diameter classes after
the carbonisation of a log of 15 cm diameter
Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210 203
123
conclusion that these trees were locally abundant. Conse-
quently, these results indicate the use of limited woodland
areas, maybe a local oak stand located on colluvial deposits
as seen in the modern vegetation. Due to the presence of
colluvia at the north and the centre of the western lakeshore,
whose formation process started from the third millennium
B.C. with the increasing of woodland clearing and agricul-
ture (Pe
´trequin et al. 2002), this wood collection area may
be situated to the north of Chalain 4 on a hillside with a
southern exposure and where the sufficient degree of hy-
dromorphy allowed Quercus sp. and Fraxinus to develop.
The archaeological phases 2 and 3, layers F and E
Ten years later, the second and third phases (layers F and
E, respectively) corresponding to the first part of the group
of Clairvaux ancien have a very similar spectrum.
Its content reflects a woodland environment where Fa-
gus was the main taxon accompanied by Fraxinus and
Quercus, and secondary taxa such as Acer platanoides/
pseudoplatanus,Tilia,Cornus,Corylus (found in low
percentages compared with the first phase) and others
which belong to the wet woodland associations such as
those with Salix and Populus.
During this phase, Fagus has the most important per-
centages, as in the pollen diagram, and this result points to
a use of the corresponding woodland.
The study of the wood diameters shows firewood gath-
ering concentrated on small diameters, less than 10 cm,
such as for Fagus,Corylus and Acer, which may indicate
the collection of branches. However, only few charcoal
fragments with smaller cells, indicating fragments from
branches, were observed, see Schweingruber (1996). For
Quercus sp. and Fraxinus, the evaluation of the data shows
Table 1 Summary of absolute and percentage fragment counts of charcoal remains arranged by taxon at Chalain 4
Archaeological phases Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Total
Layers G F E D C B A
Nb % Nb % Nb % Nb % Nb % Nb % Nb % Nb %
Acer campestre 11 2.3 10 2.3 4 1.2 7 1.6 2 0.5 3 1.9 37 1.5
Acer platanoides/pseudoplatanus 38 8 59 13.4 34 10 39 9 21 5 9 5.8 200 8.1
Acer sp. 13 2.7 6 1.4 10 2.9 9 2.1 6 1.4 6 3.9 50 2.0
Angiospermae 2 1 8 1.7 1 0.2 4 1.2 1 0.2 1 0.6 17 0.7
Betula sp. 4 0.8 4 0.2
Cornus sanguinea 2 1 1 0.2 2 0.5 1 0.2 6 0.2
Corylus avellana 38 18.1 30 6.3 34 7.7 41 12.1 63 14.5 53 12.7 16 10.3 275 11.1
Fabaceae 1 0.2 1 0.4
Fagus sylvatica 9 4.3 154 32.3 148 33.6 59 17.4 87 20 76 18.2 37 23.9 570 23
Fraxinus excelsior 36 17.1 99 20.8 96 21.8 126 37.2 156 35.9 149 35.6 55 35.5 717 29
Monocotyledoneae 3 0.7 1 0.2 1 0.6 5 0.2
Monocotyledoneae type Phragmites 2 0.6 1 0.2 3 0.1
Pomoideae 2 0.4 1 0.2 3 0.7 6 0.2
Pomoideae type Sorbus/Crataegus 4 0.8 4 0.9 8 0.3
Populus sp. 2 0.4 4 0.9 3 0.9 5 1.2 3 0.7 17 0.7
Quercus sp. 121 57.6 104 21.8 64 14.5 45 13.3 53 12.2 89 21.3 22 14.2 498 20.1
Rosaceae 1 0.5 1 0.04
Salix sp. 1 0.2 2 1.3 3 0.1
Salix/Populus 1 0.2 1 0.2 2 0.5 1 0.2 1 0.6 6 0.2
Tilia cordata 1 0.2 7 1.6 6 1.8 3 0.7 7 1.7 24 1
Tilia platyphyllos 1 0.5 1 0.2 2 0.6 2 0.5 6 0.2
Tilia sp. 2 0.4 1 0.2 3 0.9 2 0.5 1 0.2 9 0.4
Ulmus campestris 1 0.2 1 0.04
Ulmus scabra 1 0.2 1 0.04
Ulmus sp. 1 0.2 2 0.5 3 0.7 2 1.3 8 0.3
Number of identified charcoal 210 477 440 339 434 418 155 2,473
Number of taxa 7 14 12 10 11 13 9 17
Number of undetermined fragments 7 2 12 9 5 11 2 48
204 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
123
two classes of represented diameters, less than 10 cm and
more than 20 cm (up to 30 cm for ash and 20 cm for oak).
In addition, there is a decrease of the diameter from layers
F to E with the exclusive use of wood of small diameters in
layer E.
The use of Fagus may be the result of over-use of
Quercus sp. as already suggested by Richard (1997). In this
sense, the small number of taxa (about seven) during the
first phase underlines the decline of the deciduous oak
woods.
A more probable explanation is a change of the wood
gathering areas towards the upper plateau where Fagus was
abundant. But the continued use of Quercus sp. and
Fraxinus may indicate an enlargement of the wood gath-
ering area rather than a change. However, this extension
seems to have been limited since the species associated
with the beech forest at higher altitudes, such as Abies alba,
are not represented. The use of older trees in level F and the
increasing number of contemporary villages at the same
time on the shore of the Lac de Chalain stresses this
hypothesis.
The fourth archaeological phase (from layer D to A)
Twenty years later, the last archaeological phase corre-
sponds to the end of the Clairvaux ancien cultural group.
The number of houses in the village (estimated at 10 or 12)
and of the contemporary villages were estimated at eight on
the western lakeshore at a distance of 1.2 km are at their
maximum. This phase is characterised by an intensive use
of Fraxinus;Fagus and Quercus are now present at lower
percentages. Numerous secondary taxa are also represented
such as Acer,Tilia and Ulmus. Also, there is a significant
increase of Corylus.
Concerning the wood diameters, this phase can be di-
vided into two parts; the first is represented by layer D
characterised by the collection of firewood of small
diameters, around 10 cm, for all the main trees. The fol-
lowing layers from C to A represent the second part
characterised by larger diameters for Fraxinus as well as
for Quercus sp. and Acer.
The increase of Fraxinus and the decrease of Fagus
(located in the vicinity of the village, see above) can be
interpreted as a change in woodland composition due to
human activities. Indeed, the use of Fagus over a 20-year
period in both of the preceding phases, and the progres-
sive increase of contemporary lakeshore settlements might
have favoured the development of secondary woodland
taxa such as Fraxinus and Corylus. In this sense, the
anatomy of these fragments, such as cell size, do not
suggest that branches were used. The increase of Fraxinus
is not observed in the pollen diagram, but it can be ex-
plained by a young population of Fraxinus whose pollen
production was reduced by its age or by the effect of
cutting it for leaf hay. However, the percentages of
Fraxinus are slightly greater in the upper layers of the
sedimentary sequence.
Fig. 6 Charcoal diagram of Chalain 4. Closed circles indicate
relative frequencies less than 1%
Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210 205
123
Fig. 7 Distribution of the wood diameters for the main taxa. The histograms represent the percentages of charcoal fragments according to the
diameter classes in the archaeological samples (in white) and the corresponding theoretical percentages before carbonisation (in black)
206 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
123
Discussion
Firewood collection, wood species and their use
The charcoal spectra of Chalain 4 are characterised by an
important number of taxa, which come from a few
vegetational assemblages which are nearly comparable
with the modern potential vegetation. It seems that the
Neolithic community of Chalain 4 did not select their
firewood according to its combustion properties such as
the calorific content, the length of combustion or the
flammability, etc.
If we compare the firewood diagram with the list of taxa
and the proportions of the unburnt architectural pieces of
wood, the main species such as Fagus sylvatica,Corylus
avellana and Quercus sp. were used for both purposes,
most probably due to their abundance in the environment.
However, there are also taxa such as Abies alba,Clematis
vitalba,Hedera helix (ivy), Ligustrum vulgare (privet) or
Sambucus sp. (elder) which were only used for building
purposes, most probably due to their low representation in
the environment and their suitability for particular pur-
poses. The comparison with the species used for tools leads
to the same observation.
Comparing the charcoal diagram with unburnt twigs
(wood less than 1 cm diameter interpreted as litter or
fodder), in the latter group there are also some taxa such as
Abies alba,Ulmus sp., Clematis vitalba,Alnus,Euonymus
europaeus (spindle-tree), Ligustrum vulgare,Taxus bac-
cata (yew) and Viscum album (mistletoe) which were
scarcely used as firewood [Pe
´trequin et al. 2002;Pe
´trequin
2007]. This cannot be due to a faster combustion caused by
their smaller diameter because thorn bushes, shrubs and
climbers are often represented in charcoal diagrams
(Vernet 1992; Chabal et al. 1999;Thie
´bault 2002).
Lastly, the comparison between charcoal and the spectra
of fruits and seeds suggests a partial conservation or an
indifference for firewood of trees which were used for their
fruit or seeds, such as the family of Pomoideae (Malus,
Pyrus,Crataegus, etc.), Prunoideae (Prunus sp.), Corylus
and Quercus sp. whose acorns were found in large quan-
tities in pots and were therefore an important foodstuff
(Pe
´trequin 1995).
Consequently, firewood was not chosen according to its
combustion properties. Rather, one can suppose that taxa,
which were useful for specific activities such as building,
foddering or human nutrition were conserved as far as
possible.
Wood diameter, a criterion of firewood selection
Among the other criteria of choice, wood diameter obvi-
ously played an important role in fuel collection. First, we
can observe that firewood generally had a diameter of less
than 10 or 15 cm. The use of small diameter wood was not
conditioned by environmental constraints; it is unlikely that
the Jura woods in the Neolithic period were composed
mainly of sapling stands (under 8 cm in diameter) or of low
pole stands (from 10 to 20 cm in diameter). The use of
small diameter wood was also not the result of problems in
cutting it since the study of architectural wood shows that
bigger trunks were used in posts, floors, walls, etc. In fact,
use of small wood is more probably the result of a delib-
erate choice. Indeed, it is well adapted for use in wooden
houses where the domestic hearth used for cooking and
heating must conform to specific requirements. The pro-
gressive addition of small pieces of wood to the hearth
makes it easier to control the flame height, home heat, and
the spurting of glowing embers. The selection of small
diameter wood could also have another reason: the use of
young woodland stands allows a partial conservation of
mature fruit-producing trees as shown by anthropological
models, but this could not be surely proven.
Next, the variation of diameters during the occupation
period shows two main peaks of wood size (phases 2 and
4). Several hypotheses for that are possible. The use of
larger diameter wood could be the result of a connection
between the use of building timber and the reconstruction
of the village after fire episodes. Indeed, firewood could
partially be a by-product of wood working for construction
of houses. However, there is no evident correlation be-
tween the use of larger wood and the episodes of
destruction by fire (at the end of the dwelling layers G, E
and C) and especially not between the layers E and D. In
addition, chips are mostly produced during the construction
of buildings and the charcoal spectrum results from a fre-
quent and repeated gathering during the whole occupation
(from 10 to 12 years). So, if splinters were used for fire-
wood, their representation may have had a minor impact on
the charcoal distribution and its interpretation.
The second assumption is a connection between wood
size and areas from which it was gathered. Indeed, the
larger diameters can be correlated with the first gathering
from the acquisition areas or from regenerated woodland,
and then reflect gathering from older woodland stands.
During the first phase (Ferrie
`res/Clairvaux transition),
which corresponds to the founder stage, the large diameters
represented during this phase, especially for Quercus, may
be due to the lack of settlements around the Lac de Chalain
from 3150 to 3040 B.C. During the following phase (F), the
larger diameters recorded for Fraxinus and Quercus (but
not Fagus) may correspond to the enlargement of the
firewood gathering areas towards the upper plateau. The
reason why small diameters of Fagus were used (this is
also the case in the other sites at the lake, see Dufraisse
2005) may be due to the hardness of the wood compared
Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210 207
123
with the weak mechanical resistance of the sharp edge of
the axe (Pe
´trequin personal communication). Lastly, during
the fourth phase, in the layers D, C, B and A, the main
taxon is Fraxinus. The larger diameters are represented in
layers C and B for Quercus and Acer and in layer A for
Fraxinus. In other words, there is a progressive enlarge-
ment of the diameter recorded, which may reflect the
gathering of wood from older woods and a larger envi-
ronment. Consequently, there is probably a connection
between the distribution of diameters and the areas from
which firewood was gathered. This collection of large
wood is less well adapted to the hearth requirements of
wooden houses and requires more time and effort for the
cutting of trees and felling. We notice moreover an in-
crease in finds of tools used to split big trunks into smaller
pieces in this site (Maigrot 2003).
Firewood gathering and woodland clearance
The extension of the firewood gathering areas could be
correlated with both the progressive increase of the number
of houses in the village (which is a good picture of the
population density) and the number of contemporary vil-
lages on the lakeshore. At the same time, dendrochronol-
ogy (Lavier 1996) and pollen data do not indicate a
decrease of woodland resources. When looking at the
charcoal analyses of the other sites at the lake, it can be
shown that the placing of the gathering areas depends on
the position of the village on the lakeshore (Dufraisse
2005). Therefore, the enlargement of the firewood gather-
ing areas may correspond to a re-organisation of the
woodland areas used by the different villages. Also, there is
a close convergence between the firewood gathering areas
and the potential cultivated land. Thus, the enlargement of
the gathering areas may correspond to a new organisation
itself linked to the cultivated areas. In other words, the
pioneer phase of the settlement was less concentrated on
cultivation activities than in the following phases where the
number of houses in the village increased and the man-
agement of space was more and more oriented towards
cultivated land. Consequently, the larger wood diameters,
correlated to the enlargement of the gathering areas, may
indicate the use of older woodland in relation to the
clearance for cultivated land, an assumption which is in
accordance with some anthropological examples where
time allocation is a preponderant factor (Carlstein 1981;
Gross 1984). Therefore, firewood collection may have
occurred along the daily walking routes, in the areas from
which woodland was being cleared and maybe in the fal-
low land where cultivated land regenerated.
Conclusion
Charcoal studies at lakeshore sites (characterised by a high
time resolution from 10 to 25 years), which are very rare,
allow a high accuracy level to be reached in reconstructing
the system of obtaining firewood. The results of the char-
Fig. 8 Chalain 4 (3040–
3000 B.C.). Correlation between
the area of wood collection, the
number of contemporary
villages and the diameter of
firewood
208 Veget Hist Archaeobot (2008) 17:199–210
123
coal analysis of Chalain 4 reveal a complex firewood
management system even if firewood gathering was
determined above all by the environment, since it must
have been a frequent and repeated activity needing abun-
dant resources. The collected firewood taxa are, therefore,
those, which were better represented in the environment.
However, control was exercised over some of the gathered
taxa such as those used primarily for building timber,
foddering or for their fruit or seeds. With firewood mainly
of diameters below 10 cm having been used, wood mor-
phology proves to be a well-adapted technological choice
criterion. The wood gathering areas, located in a radius of
500 m to 1 km from the settlement, were managed between
the different villages according to their position on the
lakeshore. These firewood-gathering areas may correspond
to the areas, which were cleared for cultivated land
(Fig. 8).
Finally, while most anthracologists think that firewood
gathering is an opportunistic economy, it can be demon-
strated that it was a managed resource according to the
definition of Bailey (1981). Resources were abundant in the
Jura during the Neolithic, choices are clearly marked and
firewood collection management was balanced with the
social organisation, and with technical and economic sys-
tems. It is therefore fundamental to continue this type of
study in such exceptional archaeological contexts and to
establish, in the long run, different models of the firewood
economy and to gain a better general understanding of
resource acquisition and management in accordance with
the social structure.
Acknowledgments This paper is an extract of a doctoral thesis
performed on wood charcoal analysis in waterlogged dwellings in the
French Jura at the Lacs de Chalain and Clairvaux. It was financed by
the Ministe
`re de la Culture, de l’Education et de la Recherche and
directed by P. Pe
´trequin (CNRS, Laboratoire de Chrono-e
´cologie,
Besanc¸on) and S. Thie
´bault (CNRS, Maison de l’Arche
´ologie et de
l’Ethnologie, Nanterre). I would especially like to thank them who
dedicated their time and effort. I also express a special thank to S.
Jacomet (IPNA, Basel) for correcting this paper.
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This paper provides a critical review of the main methodological achievements in sampling and quantitative analysis in anthracology, the study of wood charcoal macro-remains from archaeological contexts. The application of appropriate sampling protocols is a prerequisite for the study of all types of archaeo-anthracological assemblages, particularly when it comes to the study of wood fuel waste. Sampling directly impacts the quantitative taxonomic composition of a charcoal assemblage and its representativeness with regard to reconstructing ancient woodland composition. The selection of contexts and deposits appropriate for this purpose, the spatial sampling of charcoal scatters, sieving methods and mesh size, what constitutes optimal sample size and the outcomes of charcoal fragmentation, are all discussed. Provided that appropriate methods are followed, the case for the palaeoecological representativeness of archaeo-anthracological fuel waste deposits is argued in detail. This also includes a discussion of the contribution of laboratory experiments to understanding the impacts of combustion and post-depositional processes on archaeological charcoal preservation and the implications of fuelwood properties for wood collection. We argue that ancient firewood use was predicated principally on wood availability in past vegetation and its interdependence with ancient landscape management practices. Lastly, we discuss the application of multivariate methods in anthracology, and the insights they may provide for reconstructing archaeological charcoal taphonomy, and past woodland vegetation and fuel uses.
... Asouti and Austin 2005;Chabal et al., 1999;Théry-Parisot et al., 2010). However, both ethnographic (Picornell-Gelabert 2009, 2017Picornell-Gelabert et al., 2011;Dufraisse et al., 2007) and archaeological works (Dufraisse 2008) dealing with trees and forest resource management have stated that there are other important variables beyond taxa which need to be taken into account if the social management of woodlands is to be fully explained. Among these factors, the diameter of exploited wood constitutes one of the key elements to understand wood exploitation practices (Dufraisse 2012). ...
Article
Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis Miller) is present in the palaeoenvironmental records of Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Western Mediterranean) since the Early Holocene. It is also documented in the archaeological charcoal analysis (aka anthracology) of early prehistoric sites, but it was especially exploited at certain sites during the Late Iron Age. However, different woodland exploitation strategies cannot be deciphered purely through the taxonomical identification of charcoal fragments, so it is difficult to assess if the presence of Aleppo pine in archaeological assemblages is due to specific social management strategies (branches and/or trunks exploitation). Anthraco-typological methods, based on the measurement of charcoal-pith distance (allowing original wood diameters to be inferred) and ring width, have already been proposed for temperate species (Quercus petraea/robur) as a methodology to define the woodland exploitation of past societies and human impact on forest formations. However, such an approach yet to be set up for conifers growing in Mediterranean environments. In this study we have adapted the anthraco-typological methodology to conifer wood anatomy and evaluated its applicability on the archaeological charcoal assemblages of Aleppo pine, through complete dendrological analysis of the refer-ential material. Our research is based on the systematic measurement of two different dendro-anthracological parameters on archaeological charcoal fragments: charcoal-pith distance and ring width. The results have been compared with the information on ring width and the growing conditions of modern trees in three different forest formations in Mallorca, representing the entire environmental variability of the Aleppo pine forests on the island. Trunk cores and wood discs of different diameter were measured in order to establish criteria to distinguish between both tree organs from the archaeological charcoal fragments. Analysis of this dataset has proved that anthraco-typological methods are applicable to Mediterranean conifers and to further interrogate pinewood exploitation in prehistoric Mallorca. Additionally, we have been able to question the formation of archaeological charcoal assemblages, identify various woodland management strategies and the human impact on woodlands during prehistory.
... Archaeological evidence shows that coppice underwood was not selective as to species. 12 By contrast, in many parts of Europe, oak was promoted as a standard tree because of its superior qualities in building. 13 Coniferous trees do not grow from stumps and are therefore unsuitable for coppice management. ...
... Nevertheless, the selection of deciduous oak for timber has been evidenced for the Neolithic of southern France, at Les Vautes (Chabal, 2003a, b), Cazan (Delhon et al., 2017) and probably Puech Haut (Fabre, 2005). The possibility that timber could end up in hearths together with wood especially gathered to be used as fuel has already been raised in particular for the Early Neolithic settlements in Belgium and for the Late Neolithic pile dwellings in Jura (North-western France) (Dufraisse, 2008;Salavert & Dufraisse, 2014. The re-use of timber as fuel or the incorporation of timber residues as firewood could induce an over-representation of deciduous oak, which would then partly reflect the selection of this specie for a specific use (timber) rather than the actual contribution of the different taxa to the woody vegetation around the site. ...
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Le but de ce travail est d'établir le cadre chronologique et paléoclimatique du Quaternaire en Franche-Comté à partir de l'étude des formations édifiées au cours de cette période.Deux grands types de dépôts ont été plus particulièrement étudiés: ·- Les remplissages karstiques d'avens, de porches de grottes et d'abris sous roche, donnant un éclairage intense, mais ponctuel, de l'environnement physique et biologique, grâce aux faunes abondantes et aux indices climatiques d'ordre sédimentologique.- Les dépôts glaciaires et paraglaciaires (moraines, fluvioglaciaires, glacio-lacustres) qui permettent de situer des coupures climatiques au cours du temps dans l'espace géographique étudié.L'étude du remplissage de l'aven de Vergranne (Doubs) a permis de caractériser la dynamique de mise en place des dépôts et les faunes abondantes de mammifères situent chronologiquement ce gisement dans une phase interstadiaire du Mindel final. La présence humaine est attestée par une canine d'enfant.Les remplissages de porches d'Echenoz-la-Méline (HauteSaône), Gigny-sur-Suran (Jura), Besançon-Casamène (Doubs) et Rurey (Doubs) présentent des séquences stratigraphiques importantes s'étalant chronologiquement du Riss au Würm final. Les indices climatiques d'ordre sédimentologique et les données chronostratigraphiques permettent de dresser un cadre cohérent des évènements climatiques au cours de cette période. La présence d'industrie lithique de la civilisation moustérienne témoigne de l'occupation de ces porches par les hommes préhistoriques au cours de certaines périodes.L'abri sous roche de Rochedane (Doubs) a livré une séquence stratigraphique du Tardiglaciaire et du début de l'Holocène avec faune et industrie humaine.Une typologie des remplissages karstiques est proposée, mettant en évidence la dynamique de mise en place de ce type de dépôt à l'intérieur du karst fossile dans un cadre chronologique. Le problème de l'érosion des calcaires encaissants est mis en évidence dans ses rapports avec la genèse et la conservation de ces remplissages.L'étude des dépôts glaciaires de la chaîne jurassienne a permis de mettre en évidence deux complexes morainiques :- Le complexe des moraines externes est particulièrement bien représenté au débouché des vallées et des reculées qui entaillent la bordure occidentale tabulaire du massif jurassien.Classiquement attribués au complexe rissien, trois stades glaciaires ont été reconnus. Mis en place dans la zone centrale par une calotte glaciaire strictement jurassienne, le glaciaire alpin n'a transgressé la chaîne jurassienne que dans ses extrémités méridionale (cluse de Nantua) et septentrionale (cluse de Pontarlier).- Le complexe des moraines internes est en retrait d'une vingtaine de kilomètres par rapport au précédent. Il est représenté par des faciès variés où dominent les moraines s.s. (de fond, d'ablation et subaquatiques) et les dépôts proglaciaires.Les langues glaciaires issues de la périphérie de la calotte s'écoulaient perpendiculairement aux combes synclinales et monoclinales et provoquaient des retenues lacustres proglaciaires progressivement comblées par les matériaux véhiculés par les eaux de fonte. Une paléogéographie du stade maximum et des cinq stades de retrait est proposée. Les données chronologiques permettent de situer ce stade glaciaire entre environ - 25.000 et- 15.000 B.P., c'est-à-dire au Würm récent. Il ne semble pas que le phénomène glaciaire ait affecté la chaînejurassienne au cours du Würm ancien.Cette étude régionale permet en conclusion :- de définir les principales provinces sédimentaires du Quaternaire franc-comtois : domaines glaciaire, périglaciaire (couloirs alluviaux et interfluves karstiques),- de proposer un bilan général et régional de la sédimentation et de l'érosion au Quaternaire,- de soulever l'importance du rôle des phénomènes structuraux récents,- de dresser un cadre chronologique et paléoclimatique local en relation avec les témoignages préhistoriques.
Book
Forests and societies in the Languedoc (late Neolithic, late Antiquity) : charcoal analysis, method and palaeoecology: Besides identifying plants used by men, charcoal analysis may also reconstruct the history of forests, based on the study of charcoal from domestic uses. The reliability of this discipline depends on the definition of rigorous mehods, from the archaeological dig to the palaeoenvironmental interpretation, which is the subject of the first part of this work. The second part comprises the applied study of thirteen sites from the Languedoc region, from the late Prehistory to the Antiquity. In the Languedoc, the early balance between the mediterranean oak forest and human activities leads us to review the history of deforestation. The spread of cleared spaces in the plain, constantly disturbed, appear only during the Iron Age ; they may be the first permanent fields. The results from this study, combined with documentary sources, constitute a first synthesis on territory changes.