FUEL USE AND MANAGEMENT DURING THE MESOLITHIC:
Recent Approaches in Archaeobotany
Auréade HENRY, Isabelle THÉRY-PARISOT
In order to propose working models for the Mesolithic period, this paper presents recent developments in archaeobotany orientated towards the question of fuel management systems and how ethnographic studies and experimentation can enhance our understanding of past phenomena.
The importance of fire and its systematic use during the Mesolithic can be assessed through direct evidence, i.e. the recovery of burned materials with wood, stone, bone and plant remains being the most commonly encountered. The diversity of activities related to fire is also suggested by indirect testimonies, such as the presence of materials (or their processing traces on artefacts) for the production of which a thermic treatment is needed, such as birch tar, animal hides, etc. In accordance with these observations, fuel management practices of Mesolithic societies were undoubtedly complex and culturally significant. However, they remain difficult to approach archaeologically: What kind of fuel was collected and for which purposes? What is the relationship between environment, fuel selection, hearth and site functions?