Carbonization, preservation
and deformation of carpological remains

Marie-Pierre RUAS, Laurent BOUBY

Icon pdf   Download


In archaeological sites in temperate climates and with aerobic conditions, carbonized seeds represent the majority of preserved carpological remains. Among these, cereals, legumes and certain fruits are the most frequent. In this paper, we present a selection of experiments concerning the effects of carbonization on the deformation of seeds and fruits and on the differential preservation of carpological assemblages. These experiments explored the influence of parameters such as temperature, heating duration, oxidizing or reducing conditions and the initial state of the seeds in on the modifications of their forms and dimensions.They were conducted on hulled or naked caryopses, seeds of pea, apple and wild and cultivated grape seeds. Other experiments focused on the rapidity of destruction of the anatomical parts of ripe cereals (stem, rachis, glumes, caryopses) and acorns (casings, pericarps, cotyledons), and of the seeds of various wild or cultivated plants according to their physical and biological constitution. The results allow us to evaluate the taphonomic biases created by carbonization, which are detrimental to the specific identification of seeds and the interpretation of archaeological assemblages.

To cite this article

Ruas M.-P., Bouby L., 2010 – Carbonization, Preservation and Deformation of Carpological Remains, in Théry-Parisot I., Chabal L., Costamagno S., The taphonomy of Burned Organic Residues and Combustion Features in Archaeological Contexts, Proceedings of the round table, May 27-29 2008, CEPAM, P@lethnology, 2, 69-78.