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Exploring ancient charcoal archives in Central Africa
Hubau, Wannes; Morin-Rivat, Julie; Van den Bulcke, Jan et al.
20127th International workshop for African Archaeobotany


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Keywords :
Charcol analysis; Anthracology; Palaeoecology; Central Africa; tropical forest; Cameroon; Republic of the Congo; Democratic Republic of Congo; DRC
Abstract :
[en] Fossil pollen and charcoal fragments are preserved in lake sediments, in forest soils and in ancient human settlements, were they can be accompanied by artifacts. As such, vegetation history is remarkably well archived and sometimes closely linked to cultural history. Direct evidence for Central African vegetation history has been mainly derived from pollen analysis, while the charcoal archive remains hardly explored. However, analysis of charred wood remains has proven worthwhile for palaeovegetation reconstructions in temperate and arid regions. One of the main challenges for charcoal identification in tropical regions is species diversity. Therefore we developed and present a transparent charcoal identification protocol within an umbrella database of species names and metadata, compiled from the on-line database of wood-anatomical descriptions (InsideWood), the database of the world’s largest reference collection of Central African wood specimens (RMCA, Tervuren, Belgium) and inventory and indicator species lists. We applied the protocol on radiocarbon dated charcoal collections sampled in the Mayumbe forest (Bas-Congo, DRCongo), in human settlements along the Aruwimi and Lomami rivers (Province Orientale, DRCongo), along the Sangha river (Sangha department, Republic of the Congo) and in Pallisco logging concessions (East Province of Cameroon). First charcoal identification results are promising and sometimes seem to be taxonomically more precise than pollen identification. However, next to opportunities, we also present some pitfalls when exploring ancient charcoal archives.
Disciplines :
Environmental sciences & ecology
Author, co-author :
Hubau, Wannes;  Universiteit Gent - Ugent
Morin-Rivat, Julie ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Forêts, Nature et Paysage > Laboratoire de Foresterie des régions trop. et subtropicales
Van den Bulcke, Jan;  Universiteit Gent - Ugent
Van Acker, Joris;  Universiteit Gent - Ugent
Doucet, Jean-Louis ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Forêts, Nature et Paysage > Laboratoire de Foresterie des régions trop. et subtropicales
Beeckman, Hans;  Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale
Language :
Title :
Exploring ancient charcoal archives in Central Africa
Publication date :
July 2012
Event name :
7th International workshop for African Archaeobotany
Event place :
Vienna, Austria
Event date :
2-5 juillet 2012
Audience :
Funders :
FRIA - Fonds pour la Formation à la Recherche dans l'Industrie et dans l'Agriculture


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