Wood charcoal analysis in tropical rainforest: A pilot study identifying firewood used at toxic nut processing sites in northeast Queensland, Australia

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Abstract

Anthracology, the systematic recovery and analysis of wood charcoal from archaeological sites, provides insights into past subsistence practices, socio-ecological interactions and palaeoenvironments. A pilot study focusing on the identification of firewood taxa from the late Holocene deposit at Goddard Creek has revealed the fuel choices and collection patterns of Rainforest Aboriginal people in the settlement of upland notophyll rainforest on the Evelyn tableland in northeast Queensland, Australia. The analysis indicates the existence of a floristically rich rainforest site at the time of occupation, with potentially up to 90 different rainforest taxa recorded, including the positive identification of 37 taxa. Firewood used in association with toxic nut processing at the site consisted of the preferential selection of fresh Rhodamnia sp. wood and Citronella sp. branches, possibly for specialised functions, as well as a range of other taxa that were collected according to availability from the surrounding rainforest. These preliminary results demonstrate the potential of anthracological analysis for archaeological interpretations in tropical Australia, while highlighting the continuing efforts required to successfully apply the discipline in this region. This study contributes to the wider research into the history of the wet tropics cultural landscape and is the first application of systematic wood charcoal studies to an archaeological site in the wet tropical rainforests of Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jun 2018

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