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Archaeological charcoals as archives for firewood preferences and vegetation composition during the late Holocene in the southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

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Abstract
Analysis of charcoal from an archaeological assemblage near the Lukula community located at the southernmost boundary of the Mayombe forest (Bas-Congo, DRC) yielded 30 taxa used as firewood between 1,200 and 700 cal. b.p. Local people mentioned 71 taxa preferred for use nowadays. The identified taxa belong either to mature rainforest, pioneer forest, regenerating forest or woodland savanna, indicating that ancient and current local populations gathered firewood in several different forest types. Modern firewood preferences do not seem to agree with the archaeobotanical composition. Also, linguistic evidence does not indicate a long exploitation history for all of the recorded taxa. Furthermore, no particular wood qualities such as wood density, calorific value or magical or medicinal properties seem to determine the Lukula assemblage, which was probably composed of waste material from various activities which required different specific firewood characteristics. As such, taxa composition is not biased by human selection, suggesting that it reflects the surrounding environment, which was characterised by mature rainforest with patches of regenerating forest and open vegetation types. Unlike the origin of present-day forest-savanna mosaics from human activity, fragmentation around 1,000 cal. b.p. may have been provoked by a well-known climatic event coinciding with the Medieval Climate Anomaly, which undoubtedly had a significant impact on Central African forest composition.
Keywords
CAMEROON, BP, WOOD, CALIBRATION, FUELWOOD, Firewood preference, Charcoal identification, Central Africa, Forest fragmentation, Archaeobotany, CLIMATIC CHANGES, LAND-USE, RAIN-FOREST, WESTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA, AGE CENTRAL-AFRICA

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Chicago
Hubau, Wannes, Jan Van den Bulcke, Koen Bostoen, Bernard-Olivier Clist, Alexandre Livingstone-Smith, Nele Defoirdt, Florias Mees, Laurent Nsenga, Joris Van Acker, and Hans Beeckman. 2014. “Archaeological Charcoals as Archives for Firewood Preferences and Vegetation Composition During the Late Holocene in the Southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 23 (5): 591–606.
APA
Hubau, W., Van den Bulcke, J., Bostoen, K., Clist, B.-O., Livingstone-Smith, A., Defoirdt, N., Mees, F., et al. (2014). Archaeological charcoals as archives for firewood preferences and vegetation composition during the late Holocene in the southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). VEGETATION HISTORY AND ARCHAEOBOTANY, 23(5), 591–606.
Vancouver
1.
Hubau W, Van den Bulcke J, Bostoen K, Clist B-O, Livingstone-Smith A, Defoirdt N, et al. Archaeological charcoals as archives for firewood preferences and vegetation composition during the late Holocene in the southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). VEGETATION HISTORY AND ARCHAEOBOTANY. 2014;23(5):591–606.
MLA
Hubau, Wannes, Jan Van den Bulcke, Koen Bostoen, et al. “Archaeological Charcoals as Archives for Firewood Preferences and Vegetation Composition During the Late Holocene in the Southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).” VEGETATION HISTORY AND ARCHAEOBOTANY 23.5 (2014): 591–606. Print.
@article{5704469,
  abstract     = {Analysis of charcoal from an archaeological assemblage near the Lukula community located at the southernmost boundary of the Mayombe forest (Bas-Congo, DRC) yielded 30 taxa used as firewood between 1,200 and 700 cal. b.p. Local people mentioned 71 taxa preferred for use nowadays. The identified taxa belong either to mature rainforest, pioneer forest, regenerating forest or woodland savanna, indicating that ancient and current local populations gathered firewood in several different forest types. Modern firewood preferences do not seem to agree with the archaeobotanical composition. Also, linguistic evidence does not indicate a long exploitation history for all of the recorded taxa. Furthermore, no particular wood qualities such as wood density, calorific value or magical or medicinal properties seem to determine the Lukula assemblage, which was probably composed of waste material from various activities which required different specific firewood characteristics. As such, taxa composition is not biased by human selection, suggesting that it reflects the surrounding environment, which was characterised by mature rainforest with patches of regenerating forest and open vegetation types. Unlike the origin of present-day forest-savanna mosaics from human activity, fragmentation around 1,000 cal. b.p. may have been provoked by a well-known climatic event coinciding with the Medieval Climate Anomaly, which undoubtedly had a significant impact on Central African forest composition.},
  author       = {Hubau, Wannes and Van den Bulcke, Jan and Bostoen, Koen and Clist, Bernard-Olivier and Livingstone-Smith, Alexandre and Defoirdt, Nele and Mees, Florias and Nsenga, Laurent and Van Acker, Joris and Beeckman, Hans},
  issn         = {1617-6278},
  journal      = {VEGETATION HISTORY AND ARCHAEOBOTANY},
  keyword      = {CAMEROON,BP,WOOD,CALIBRATION,FUELWOOD,Firewood preference,Charcoal identification,Central Africa,Forest fragmentation,Archaeobotany,CLIMATIC CHANGES,LAND-USE,RAIN-FOREST,WESTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA,AGE CENTRAL-AFRICA},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {5},
  pages        = {591--606},
  title        = {Archaeological charcoals as archives for firewood preferences and vegetation composition during the late Holocene in the southern Mayumbe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00334-013-0415-1},
  volume       = {23},
  year         = {2014},
}

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