Printer Friendly

Wood charcoal from Santorini (Thera): new evidence for climate, vegetation and timber imports in the Aegean Bronze Age.

Bronze Age climate in the Aegean

Palaeoclimatic reconstructions for the Bronze Age Aegean based on pollen analytical investigations from several sites in mainland Greece (Bottema 1974, 1982, 1990) have suggested climate conditions drier than at present, with a reversal to a wetter climate favouring woodland expansion and arboriculture (including the intensive cultivation of olive trees) occurring only towards the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the historical periods (c. 3200/2700 uncal. BP, c.1500/1100 cal. BC). More recent pollen analyses from Crete have refined this general model, indicating contrasting patterns of vegetation change with the Greek mainland, with the former providing evidence for a much earlier onset of olive management/cultivation back to the Final Neolithic (Moody et al. 1996), which is even earlier than the classic case for Early Bronze Age olive domestication made by Colin Renfrew (Renfrew 1972). The same datasets have also suggested an Overall slow pace of aridification for the southern Aegean, which was not complete until the Middle Bronze Age (early second millennium Be) (Moody et al. 1996).

These models for the nature and timing of vegetation and climate changes in the prehistoric Aegean have important implications for theories concerning the economic base of Bronze Age societies, being directly related to key parameters such as the environmental setting of prehistoric agriculture in this region and local variation in economic production (for useful reviews see Hansen 1988, Halstead 1994). However, more precise reconstructions of local vegetation catchments based on pollen evidence and the extrapolation from these of climate patterns and the impact of human activities on the landscape have been hindered by the scarcity and poor preservation of pollen-bearing sediments in the Aegean (especially near settlement sites) and their low chronological resolution (Bottema 1994: 46-48).

The systematic study of suitable plant macrofossil assemblages (i.e. stratified wood charcoal macro-remains) from archaeological sites of this period should allow the investigation of the local vegetation settings at a spatial and temporal scale congruent with that of the prehistoric human settlement, thus overcoming to some extent the dating limitations and low spatial resolution of pollen sequences (for recent examples of this methodology in the Eastern Mediterranean see Asouti & Hather 2001; Asouti 2003, in press). The microscopic analysis of stratified wood charcoal assemblages from one of the most eminent Bronze Age island settlements in the Aegean, Akrotiri on Thera, has furnished important preliminary results about the vegetation resources locally available prior to the second millennium volcanic eruption, revealing signs of a moister climate, a wooded landscape, early olive cultivation and a wide spectrum of economic activities, including trade links with more distant places.

Bronze Age and modern landscapes of Santorini

A major feature of the island complex of Santorini (Thera) is the submerged caldera created by the 'Minoan' volcanic eruption dated to the mid-second millennium BC (for a detailed discussion of the dating debate see Manning 1999) (Figure 1a). A substantial contribution to our knowledge of the fate prehistoric geomorphological environment of Santorini has emerged from the systematic study of volcanic deposits and landforms associated with the mid-second millennium BC eruption. According to these studies, Bronze Age Santorini comprised a highly complex volcanic landscape: a pre-existing submerged caldera (corresponding to an older eruption at c.18000 BP) occupied its southern half, whilst the northern half consisted of overlapping shield volcanoes and composite cones (Heiken et al. 1990) (Figure 1b). Based on these reconstructions it is plausible to infer that the pre-emption Bronze Age landscape of Santorini comprised very diverse landforms including volcanic slopes and cones, sheltered bays and beaches and more exposed limestone peaks. Furthermore, estimations of the maximum height attained by the volcanic cone of Santorini before the eruption (c.350-500/600m; cf. Pilcher & Friedrich 1980; Heiken & McCoy 1984; Aston & Hardy 1990) have led some scholars to conclude that, although overall conditions could have been slightly more favourable for plant growth than today (given also the substantial period that had elapsed since the previous eruption at c. 18000 BP allowing soil development) the island could not have supported substantial tree and shrub vegetation due to the absence of peaks high enough to attract rainfall trapped in clouds and fog (Rackham 1990).


The pre-eruption evidence reported to date from the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri includes olive stones and the charcoal remains of vine (Vitis), possibly oak (Quercus), pine (Pinus) and tamarisk (Tamarix) alongside the casts of reeds (Arundo donax) and the remains of tree roots spotted under buried soil horizons (Friedrich et al. 1990; see also Grove & Rackham 2001: 321). Charred seed remains have indicated the presence in the later phases of the settlement of cultivated crops such as barley (Hordeum vulgate), fig (Ficus carica), almond (Amygdalus sp.) and several pulses (including lava beans, lentil, chickpea and lupin) (cf. Friedrich et al. 1990; Sarpaki 1990; Friedrich 2000).

At present, Santorini is almost completely devoid of tree and shrub vegetation with the exception of pines, cypresses and a few olive trees that occur mostly on the limestone outcrops of Profitis Ilias, the highest peak of the island (566m a.s.l.). Otherwise, cultivated carobs (Ceratonia siliqua) and vines (Vitis vinifera) are the sole higher woody plants that manage to flourish in the island's arid environment with an average annual rainfall of c.380mm

The wood charcoal evidence

In December 2000, at the invitation of the director of the Akrotiri excavations, Professor Christos Doumas, and the archaeobotanist responsible for the material, Dr. Anaya Sarpaki, the present author undertook a short assessment in the field of the wood charcoal macro-remains retrieved from stratified archaeological deposits excavated in the process of digging shafts for the supports for the new shelter of the excavations. Given the limited period of field study, it was decided to concentrate on stratified samples retrieved from one of the deepest excavated shafts (63A). In order to maximise information on sample composition, both the flots and the heavy residues (non floating fractions) were examined (i.e., all fragments >2mm; fragments <2mm were considered too small for secure identification). The results of the analysis, expressed as absolute and percentage fragment counts, are summarised by archaeological phase in Table 1 (phasing has been based on the pottery and other artefacts as reported in the excavation diaries). Full anatomical descriptions of the identified taxa are given in Table 2 (see also Figures 2, 3).


Both the Early (c.3200-2000 cal. BC) and the Late Bronze Age (for the purpose of this study its lower end is set at the time of the volcanic eruption, i.e. mid-second millennium BC) are very much under-represented compared to the Middle Bronze Age (early second millennium BC). Yet, despite the somewhat unbalanced nature of the dataset, the results of the analysis have nevertheless provided a very rich charcoal assemblage. Olive (Olea) is by far the best-represented taxon, on average accounting for approximately 50 per cent of sample composition, followed by pine (Pinus) with an average value of 20 per cent. Given that the sampled deposits comprised exclusively fill layers containing scattered charcoal and not 'specialised', short-lived contexts (e.g. hearths) which are likely to represent isolated events (cf. Chabal et al. 1999), these frequency values suggest that olive and pine were probably the species most intensively exploited for fuel in prehistoric times. The same appears to be the case with Cupressaceae (cypress and/or juniper; a more precise identification was hindered by the small size of the examined charcoal fragments).

Other Mediterranean elements present in the charcoal assemblage include deciduous and evergreen oak (Quercus spp.). Anatomically, only the distinction between deciduous and evergreen oaks can be drawn securely, since it is impossible to tell the difference between individual species on the basis of their anatomy alone (Schweingruber 1990:401). The main deciduous oaks of the southern Aegean are Quercus macrolepis and Q. pubescens, both shallow-rooted trees usually confined to water-retaining soils with good root penetration (Grove & Rackham 2001: 54). The ecology of prickly-oak (Q. coccifera) and holm-oak (Q. ilex), the evergreen oaks characteristic of the southern Aegean area, is well known from various studies (cf. Rackham & Moody 1996; Turland et al. 1993; Grove & Rackham 2001). Prickly-oak is a very versatile species, able to withstand a variety of soil substrata (including hard limestone) and abounds in maquis and open, "savanna"-like vegetation. Holm-oak is more moisture demanding and is usually associated with higher woodland. Both species can grow to high trees in the absence of browsing. They produce high-quality fuel, and are able to survive repeated woodcutting and fire through vegetative propagation.

Also present in the charcoal assemblage (albeit more sporadically) are a number of trees and shrubs associated with Mediterranean maquis woodland and scrub, such as pomegranate (Punica granatum), strawberry-tree (Arbutus), honeysuckle (Lonicera) and Maloideae (sub-family of the Rosaceae). Pomegranate (see also Figure 3) is reported in the literature as an endemic of south-west Asia, particularly the southern Caspian coastline, and is thought to have been naturalised in the Mediterranean region after its introduction from further east (Zohary & Hopf 2000: 170-171; Blondel & Aronson 1999: 226). It represents one of the earliest cultivated fruit trees in the region, with archaeobotanical finds from early Bronze Age Jericho and Arad, and late Bronze Age Hala Sultan Tekke (Cyprus) and Tiryns (Zohary & Hopf 2000:171). Its presence in the Santorini charcoal assemblage serves as a terminus ante quem for its introduction in the Aegean. It is possible that pomegranates were cultivated in Akrotiri, perhaps as planted trees in gardens.

Strawberry-tree (Arbutus) and honeysuckle (Lonicera) can be associated with maquis vegetation, growing on middle and low-altitude calcareous soils (Rackham & Moody 1996; Turland et al. 1993). It is not possible to distinguish anatomically the different genera of Maloideae (Schweingruber 1990: 617). On ecological grounds, they may equally represent hawthorn (Crataegus), a tree associated in this region with scrub "savanna" woodland, or wild pear (Pyrus amygdaliformis) one of the most drought-resistant open woodland trees currently encountered in the southern Aegean (Rackham 1990; Turland et al. 1993).

A few charcoal fragments have been identified as Fabaceae shrubs (woody legumes) and Lmiaceae (mint family). Due to their small size it was not possible to obtain more precise identifications. They most likely represent undershrubs growing in patches of garigue scrub (cf. Rackham & Moody 1996:113-114). Their very erratic presence in the charcoal record could be explained as the result of their small size, which may be responsible for their poor preservation due to high rates of charcoal loss when burnt.

Some charcoal specimens have been tentatively identified as tamarisk (Tamarix), caper (Capparis) and buckthorn (Rhamnus). Although these fragments were also poorly preserved, it is likely that all three taxa are represented in the charcoal assemblage. Buckthorn and caper are compatible with garigue scrub (caper can also grow on rocky surfaces and cliffs), whilst tamarisk could have occurred in halophytic communities growing on marshes and streams close to sea level (cf. Turland et al. 1993). Both tamarisk and Poaceae (the latter likely to represent reeds) have been previously identified in Santorini (see above).

Perhaps the most striking feature of the assemblage was the recovery of charcoal fragments belonging to cedar (Cedrus libani), yew (Taxus baccata) and beech (Fagus) (Figure 2). Presently, none of these trees occurs naturally in the southern Aegean. On the basis of modern ecology and the available palaeobotanical evidence it seems reasonable to infer that all three species were imported to Akrotiri. Cedar has a very localised distribution which includes the subalpine (1500-2000/2200m) slopes of the Taurus range in Anatolia and the Lebanon range in the Levant (Cedrus libani; the cedar of Lebanon), whilst two subspecies (C. libani ssp. brevifolia and C. libani ssp. atlantica; nomenclature follows Davis et al. 1965: 72) are known from the Cypriot highlands and the Atlas mountains in northern Africa respectively (ibid.). Yew and beech are more mesic species. Today beech does not occur south of Thessaly, whilst yew is found in the high-altitude coniferous forests of mainland Greece (Sfikas 1995: 56). The available pollen evidence confirms that these species were not present in southern Greece during later prehistoric times, with the exception of beech for which there are some records from central Greece (Mien 1997), the southern Peloponnese (Kraft et al. 1980; Bottema 1990) and Crete (Bottema 1980). Its low frequencies in the Cretan pollen diagrams had been previously interpreted as the result of long-distance transport (Bottema 1980). However, the occurrence of beech in more recently published diagrams from western Crete accords with evidence indicating the presence in this region during the first half of the Holocene of several mesic tree species such as alder, lime, hornbeam, elm and birch (although it seems rather unlikely that beech could have grown on Santorini itself, given its low altitude). This evidence has been interpreted as indicative of moister conditions prevailing in this area, with a reversal to more arid conditions from the mid/late Bronze Age (MBA/LBA) onwards (Moody et al. 1996; for a general summary see Grove & Rackham 2001: 55, 144-145).

Discussion: Bronze Age vegetation, timber trade and related activities

Previously proposed patterns of Bronze Age vegetation for the island of Santorini (cf. Rackham 1990) suffered from a lack of direct evidence and had to rely instead on observations of modern vegetation, geomorphological reconstructions and extrapolated rainfall patterns. The first systematically collected evidence from charcoal macro-remains associated with stratified archaeological deposits (including fifteen taxa believed to have grown locally) indicates that Bronze Age Santorini (unlike modern) was far from treeless.

The wood charcoal macro-remains suggest a highly variable vegetation cover for the island of Santorini prior to the volcanic eruption of the second millennium BC. The available evidence indicates the presence locally of pine forest and/or woodland. In general, pine and olive would appear to represent the main firewood resources exploited by the prehistoric inhabitants of Akrotiri. However, the overall poor preservation and high fragmentation of charcoal macro-remains do not allow a more precise estimation of the intensity of firewood consumption and the potential contribution of dung fuel as has been suggested elsewhere (cf. Rackham 1978: 758).

Much of the olive wood utilised in Akrotiri could have derived from the regular pruning of cultivated olive trees. This was almost certainly the case for the late Bronze Age phases of the settlement as there is supportive evidence from the archaeobotanical remains (Sarpaki pers. comm.; for taphonomic explanations of the low visibility of olive stones in domestic contexts in Akrotiri see Sarpaki 1992). In the present study it has not been possible to substantiate a hypothesis for the systematic pruning of olive trees based on the anatomy of the analysed fragments (e.g. through the recurrent presence of 'degenerate' growth rings, cf. Rackham 1972 or, alternatively, the size of terminal rings preserved in twig and round-wood) due to the small size of the examined charcoal specimens. Certainly, the frequency of occurrence of olive charcoal throughout the examined sequence would seem to suggest that olive trees (wild and/or domesticated) were regularly harvested for firewood, an activity that is likely to have taken place in association with the seasonal harvesting of the olive crop. The fact that olive charcoals appear in large proportions from the earliest examined samples (EBA) might also indicate that olive trees were exploited for their fuel and fruit from an early period in the history of the settlement. Such a pattern would in turn seem to suggest that, in agreement with Renfrew's original thesis (Renfrew 1972) and contrary to what has been proposed by Runnels & Hansen (1986) and Hansen (1988), olive cultivation (not necessarily implying domestication) had begun in the Cyclades by the EBA. This is consonant with the even earlier date for Crete (above; Moody et al. 1996) and casts doubt on earlier postulations for a strictly palatial context of Bronze Age olive oil production (cf. Hamilakis 1996). Clearly, more evidence is needed (particularly from the ongoing analysis of seed material from the EBA/MBA phases at Akrotiri) to test further the validity of this hypothesis.

In addition, the definite presence of both deciduous and evergreen oak alongside many typical Mediterranean elements such as juniper/cypress, strawberry-tree, wild pears, pomegranate (possibly cultivated) and honeysuckle suggests the co-occurrence of patches of maquis woodland (however "degraded" by browsing and/or woodcutting), garigue and deciduous open oak woodland. That some kind of "forest" may have existed on the island had been previously indicated by the finds of a troglodytic beetle species (Troglorhynchus cf. anophthalmus), which lives in thick leaf litter and damp environments, from Late Bronze Age domestic contexts in Akrotiri (Panagiotakopulu 2000: 62-63). The likely occurrence of reeds and tamarisk further points to the existence of more localised waterside vegetation that could have grown at the edges of streams and marshes.

Concerning prehistoric activities such as trade and manufacture, there is now firm evidence to demonstrate the importing of high-quality timber and/or finished wooden objects (cedar, yew and beech) from elsewhere. Possible direct sources for these species include the Lebanon range, Cyprus and the southern coast of Anatolia (cedar; also identified from

sites in Crete cf. Rackham 1978: 759) and mainland Greece and/or Crete (yew, beech). Both cedar and yew were widely revered in antiquity for their qualities as construction timber and carpentry wood respectively (the latter also being the case with beech; cf. Meiggs 1982). Particularly for cedar, there is at present sufficient direct evidence to consolidate its status as one of the principal trade items in the Eastern Mediterranean during the MBA and the LBA, mainly on the coastal route from Lebanon to Egypt as suggested by finds of imported cedar wood in Egypt (Gale et al. 2000; Pulak 2001) and at the Levantine sires of Tel Nami, Tel Ifshar, Kabri and Lachish (Lev-Yadun et al. 1996).

Further integration of the archaeobotanical evidence with the artefactual assemblages retrieved from the recent excavations is necessary for defining with greater precision the origins of such imported goods at Akrotiri. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the occurrence at Tel Nami of stored fava beans (Lathyrus clymenum), an Aegean pulse crop best known from Santorini (found in storage contexts in the West House of Akrotiri) (Sarpaki 1990; Kislev et al. 1993). In addition, other activities such as the feeding of silkworms and the production of silk, previously indicated in Akrotiri by the occurrence of a lepidopterous cocoon but otherwise questioned in the absence of evidence for the existence locally of suitable tree species (cypress, juniper, deciduous oak; cf. Panagiotakopulu et al. 1997) could be now re-addressed in the light of the charcoal data.

Future analyses of wood charcoal assemblages from a greater number of settlement sites in both mainland Greece and the islands would help substantially in elucidating local vegetation environments and regional variation in climate patterns during the Bronze Age. For Santorini in particular a preliminary hypothesis, open to further investigation through the examination of a larger charcoal assemblage, would posit a moister (and perhaps cooler too) climate during this period on the island, with an average annual precipitation substantially higher (possibly in the range of c.600mm) than at present. A systematic investigation of paleosols and buried land surfaces still preserved in Santorini is also required, in order to obtain direct evidence on the types of soils likely to have sustained different vegetation communities in the past. The limited studies available have indicated the presence of well-developed soils able to sustain higher vegetation and presumably more amenable to plough cultivation (cf. Limbrey 1990).
Table 1. Summary absolute and percentage fragment counts of charcoal
remains arranged by taxon (genus and/or species). Samples have been
provisionally grouped into periods (Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze
Age and Late Bronze Age) according to the artefactual evidence from
each sampled layer (reported in the excavation diaries) (percentages
have been calculated after the exclusion of unidentifiable fragments
from the sums, i.e. values represent percentages of identified
fragments; N=number of samples examined)

 (late MBA (up to
 4th-3rd (early 2nd mid-2nd
 millennium millennium millennium
 BC) BC) BC)

 N=5 % N=11 % N=7 %

Pinus (pine) 48 36.4 93 17.8 9 7.0
Cedrus libani (cedar) 14 2.7
Cupressaceac (cypress/
 juniper) 10 7.6 29 5.6 9 7.0
Taxus baccata (yew) 61 11.7
Olea (olive) 57 43.2 221 42.3 87 68.0
Punica granatum
 (pomegranate) 1 0.8 4 0.8 2 1.6
Arbutus (strawberry-tree) 7 1.3 3 2.3
Maloideae (pears/hawthorns) 1 0.8
Quercus deciduous (oak) 4 3.0 56 10.7 7 5.5
Quercus evergreen (oak) 2 1.5 10 1.9 5 3.9
Fagus(beech) 2 0.4
cf. Rhamnus (buckthorn) 9 1.7
cf. Tamarix (tamarisk) 2 1.5 8 1.5
cf. Capparis (caper) 4 3.1
Lonicera (honeysuckle) 1 0.2 1 0.8
Fabaceae (legume
 undershrubs) 6 4.6 1 0.2 1 0.8
Lamiaceae (mint family) 1 0.8 5 1.0
Poaceae (reeds?) 1 0.2
Indet. 119 315 106
Total 251 100 837 100 234 100
Total (-Indet.) 132 522 128

Table 2. Detailed anatomical descriptions of the tree and shrub taxa
found in the Akrotiri charcoal assemblages (Key to captions--TS:
Transverse Section, RLS: Radial Longitudinal Section, TLS: Tangential
Longitudinal Section)

The charcoal specimens were examined under a high power, Olympus BHMJ
epi-illuminating microscope, at magnifications of x50, x100, x200 and
x500. Identifications were made in the field using wood anatomical
descriptions and microphotographs available in Fahn et al. (1986)
and Schweingruber (1990), and were later checked by comparison to
charred specimens and thin sections of fresh wood from the A. C.
Western wood reference collection held at the Institute of Archaeology,
University College London. Rare and/or more problematic taxa were also
examined in greater detail under the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope)
at the Institute of Archaeology. No indeterminate taxa (i.e.,
identifiable fragments for which a botanical determination was not
possible to obtain) were encountered in the assemblage, the only factor
limiting identification being the small size of the charcoal fragments
(the number of specimens >4 and <5mm was in the range of 1-5 for each

Taxa Wood anatomical descriptions

Pinus (halepensis/ TS: early -- latewood transition abrupt, latewood
brutia type) part relatively short. Resin canals present; RLS:
 Ray tracheids present, occasionally with
 conspicuously dentate walls. Ray parenchyma cells
 with pinoid pits. Crossfields with 1-2(3) pits;
 TLS: Resin canals present. Rays 7-8 cells high,
 occasionally higher (up to 15 cells)

Cedrus libani TS: early -- latewood transition mostly gradual,
 latewood part relatively short. Traumatic resin
 canals occasionally present in tangential rows at
 the ring boundary; RLS: Tracheids bearing mostly
 uniseriate pits with scalloped tori (Fig. 3), the
 latter particularly visible in the earlywood. Ray
 tracheids present, uniseriate, thin-walled, with
 irregular borders. Ray parenchyma cells thick-
 walled, with taxodioid pits in the earlywood and
 mostly piceoid pits in the latewood. Crossfields
 with 1-4 pits; TLS: Resin canals present (TLS
 surface too narrow for a reliable estimation of
 ray height)

Cupressaceae TS: early -- latewood transition gradual, latewood
 part short. Resin canals absent; RLS: Tracheid
 pits uniseriate. Ray tracheids absent. Transverse
 ray walls rather thick, smooth. Tangential walls
 smooth, occasionally nodular. Ray parenchyma
 with cypressoid pits. Crossfields with 1-2(3)
 pits; TLS: (TLS surface too narrow for a reliable
 estimation of ray height)

Taxus baccata TS: early-latewood transition gradual, earlywood
 cells thick-walled. Resin canals absent; RLS:
 Tracheid pits uniseriate. Conspicuous helical
 thickenings on tracheid walls. Rays pits
 cypressoid. Ray tracheids absent; TLS: (TLS
 surface too narrow for a reliable estimation of
 ray height)

Olea TS: Wood diffuse porous, growth rings mostly
 indistinct. Pores thick-walled, arranged in short
 radial multiples of 2-4(5), sometimes in
 clusters, occasionally solitary, dense.
 Parenchyma frequent, paratracheal-vasicentric,
 occasionally confluent; RLS: Perforation plates
 simple. Rays heterogeneous, with a central
 proportion of strongly procumbent cells and
 1-2(3) rows of square and/or upright marginal
 cells. Inter-vessel and ray-vessel pits numerous,
 alternate, rounded, small. Librifonn fibres
 present. Gummy deposits occasionally present;
 TLS: Rays uni- to bi(3)-seriate up to 10(12)
 cells high (uniseriate rays rare, short)

Punica granatum TS: Wood diffuse porous, growth rings mostly
 indistinct, when present undulating. Pores
 solitary, in short radial multiples of 2(3-4) or
 clusters. Parenchyma infrequent; RLS: Perforation
 plates simple. Rays conspicuously heterogeneous,
 with a short central portion of procumbent cells
 and numerous rows of square and upright marginal
 cells. Inter-vessel and vessel-ray pits vestured,
 alternate. Libriform fibres present, septate.
 Gummy deposits present; TLS: Rays uni- to

Arbutus TS: Wood diffuse porous, growth rings distinct.
 Pores mostly angular, solitary, in short radial
 multiples (2-3) or clustered, numerous.
 Parenchyma mostly apotracheal, occasionally
 paratracheal (infrequent); RLS: Perforation
 plates simple. Rays heterogeneous, with a central
 portion of strongly procumbent cells and one row
 of upright marginal cells. Inter-vessel pits and
 vessel-ray pits with slit-like apertures. Fibre
 tracheids with bordered pits and (infrequent)
 septate fibres present. Conspicuous helical
 thickenings present on vessel members and fibre
 tracheids; TLS: Rays bi- to 3(4)-seriate

Maloideae TS: Wood diffuse porous. Growth rings distinct.
 Pores solitary; RLS: Perforation plates simple.
 Rays homogeneous to slightly heterogeneous with
 one row of square marginal cells. Fibre-tracheids
 present. Helical thickenings present on vessel
 members and tracheids. Vessel-ray pits simple
 rounded, enlarged; TLS: Rays mostly biseriate

Quercus (type 1 - TS: Wood ring porous, growth rings narrow,
deciduous) distinct. Early wood pores solitary, arranged in
 a single row, large. Latewood pores solitary, in
 dendritic to radially oblique arrangement. Broad
 multiseriate rays conspicuous; RLS: Perforation
 plates simple. Rays homogeneous. Libriform fibres
 and vasicentric tracheids present. Vasicentric
 tracheids abundant, forming the greater part of
 ground tissue. Apertures of vessel-ray pits
 simple, enlarged, round to horizontally elongate;
 TLS: Rays uni- and multiseriate, the latter very
 broad (> 15 cells)

Quercus (type 2 - TS: Wood diffuse porous, pores solitary, in
evergreen) dendritic arrangement; RLS: Perforation plates
 simple. Rays homogeneous. Libriforrn fibres and
 vasicentric tracheids present. Vasicentric
 tracheids abundant, forming the greater part of
 ground tissue. Apertures of vessel-ray pits
 simple, enlarged, round to horizontally elongate;
 TLS: Rays uni- and multiseriate, the latter very
 broad (> 15 cells)

Fagus TS: Wood diffuse to semi-ring porous. Growth
 rings distinct. Pores numerous, in clusters and
 radial multiples in earlywood, solitary in late-
 wood. Rays sometimes very large, distended along
 the ring boundary; RLS: Perforation plates simple
 and scalariform (bars >15). Rays homogeneous.
 Apertures of vessel-ray pits oval, enlarged,
 horizontal. Inter-vessel pits opposite to
 alternate. All transitions present from pits to
 perforations. Fibre tracheids very frequent,
 compose the greater part of the ground tissue;
 TLS: Rays uniseriate to multiseriate (the latter
 very high)

cf. Tamarix TS: Wood ring porous. Early wood pores large,
 solitary. Latewood pores very small, infrequent,
 predominantly solitary and in clusters/multiples
 of 2. Large rays visible in TS; RLS, TLS
 indeterminate due to salt encrustations

cf. Capparis TS: Wood diffuse to semi-ring porous. Growth
 rings indistinct. Early wood pores large,
 solitary or in radial multiples of 2, latewood
 pores smaller, mostly in clusters; RLS: Indeter-
 minate due to mineral encrustations. TLS: Rays 4-
 to 7-seriate, spindle-shaped with occasional
 sheath cells

Lonicera TS: Wood diffuse to semi-ring porous. Pores
 solitary. Growth rings distinct; RLS: Perforation
 plates simple. Rays conspicuously heterogeneous
 with multiple rows of square and upright cells
 and few central procumbent cells. Ray-vessel pits
 slightly enlarged. Inter-vessel pits alternate to
 opposite, rounded, with slit-like apertures.
 Fibre tracheids form the greater part of ground
 tissue. Vessels and fibre tracheids with fine
 helical thickenings; TLS: Rays uni- to

Fabaceae TS: Wood diffuse to semi-ring porous. Pores in
 oblique to dendritic arrangement. Parenchyma
 paratracheal and apotracheal banded (tangential
 bands); RLS: Perforation plates simple. Rays
 homogeneous to heterogeneous, the latter with a
 central portion of weakly procumbent cells and a
 few rows of square marginal cells. Inter-vessel
 pits ventured. Helical thickenings very
 conspicuous. Vessel members and parenchyma
 storied; TLS: Rays bi- to 3-seriate, storied

Lamiaceae TS: Wood diffuse to semi-ring porous. Pores
 small, in clusters, solitary and in radial
 multiples of two, usually in tangential
 arrangement; RLS: Perforation plates simple. Rays
 heterogeneous, composed of numerous rows of
 square and upright cells. Vascular tracheids and
 libriform fibres present. Helical thickenings
 occasionally present on vessel members. Abundant
 salt encrustations; TLS: Rays uni- to

Poaceae Monocotyledonous wood. Vascular bundles
 surrounded by sclerenchyma sheaths. Metaxylem
 vessels 2, large. 1-2 protoxylem vessels, thick-
 walled. The examined specimens were very
 fragmentary and brittle, probably the result of
 thermal degradation


I wish to thank Christos Doumas and Anaya Sarpaki for making available the material from Santorini and inviting me to spend some time at the on-site laboratory. I am very much indebted to Vassilis Gasparakis and Dimitra Marangaki for guiding me through the flotation and sorting archives of the excavation, and for their assistance with practical matters. Venediktos Lanaras, the archaeologist responsible for the excavation of shaft 63A, kindly discussed the associated finds and the stratigraphy of the analysed sequence. The on-site team provided access to archive material and the excavation diaries. Peter Ucko and David Wengrow made useful bibliographic suggestions. My thanks are also due to Cyprian Broodbank, Oliver Rackham, Todd Whitelaw and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier draft, to Eva Panagiotakopulu for discussing aspects of the analysis, and to Caroline Cartwright for offering her expert opinion on some of the botanical identifications.


ALLEN, H. 1997. The environmental conditions of the Kopais basin, Boeotia, during the postglacial with special reference to the Mycenaean period, in J. Bintliff (ed.) Recent developments in the history and archaeology of Central Greece. British Archaeological Reports (IS) 666: 39-58.

ASOUTI, E. (2003) Woodland vegetation and fuel exploitation at the prehistoric campsite of Pinarbasi, south-central Anatolia, Turkey: the evidence from the wood charcoal macro-remains. Journal of Archaeological Science, 30:1185-1201.

--(in press b) Woodland vegetation and the exploitation of fuel and timber at Neolithic Catalhoyuk: report on the wood charcoal macro-remains (in vol. II of the forthcoming publications of the Catalhoyuk Cambridge series, edited by I. Hodder).

ASOUTI, E. & J. HATHER. 2001. Charcoal analysis and the reconstruction of ancient woodland vegetation in the Konya basin, south-central Anatolia, Turkey: results from the Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk East. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 10: 23-32.

ASTON, M.A. & P.G. HARDY. 1990. The pre-Minoan landscape of Thera: a preliminary statement, in Hardy (ed.): 2: 348-61.

BLONDEL, J. & J. ARONSON. 1999. Biology and wildlife of the Mediterranean region. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

BOTTEMA, S. 1974. Late Quaternary vegetation history of northwestern Greece. Ph.D. thesis, University of Groningen.

BOTTEMA, S. 1980. Palynological investigations on Crete. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 31: 193-217

--1982. Palynological investigations in Greece with special reference to pollen as an indicator of human activity. Palaeohistoria 24: 257-289.

--1990. Holocene environment of the southern Argolid: a pollen core from Kiladha bay, in T.J. Wilkinson & S.T. Duhon (eds) Excavations at Franchthi Paralia--The sediments, stratigraphy and offshore investigations: 117-206. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

--1994. The prehistoric environment of Greece: a review of the palynological record, in P. Kardulias (ed.) Beyond the site: regional studies in the Aegean: 45-68. New York & London: University Press of America.

CHABAL, L., L. FABRE, J.F. TERRAL, & I. THERY-PARISOT. 1999. L'anthracologie, in C. Bourquin-Mignot, J.E. Brochier, L. Chabal et al. (eds) La botanique: 43-104. Paris: Errance.

DAVIS, P.H. et al. 1965. Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands--Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

FRIEDRICH, W.L., 2000. Fire in the Sea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

FRIEDRICH, W.L., P. WAGNER & H. TAUBER. 1990. Radiocarbon dated plant remains from the Akrotiri excavation on Santorini, Greece. In Hardy (ed.): 3: 188-96.

GALE, R., P. GASSON, N. HEPPER & G. KILLEN. 2000. Wood, in P.T. Nicholson & I. Shaw (eds) Ancient Egyptian materials and technology: 334-71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

GROVE, A.T. & O. RACKHAM. 2001. The nature of Mediterranean Europe: an ecological history. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

FAHN, A., E. WERKER, & P. BAAS. 1986. Wood anatomy and identification of trees and shrubs from Israel and adjacent regions. Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

HALSTEAD, P. 1994. The north-south divide: regional paths to complexity in prehistoric Greece, in C. Matthers & S. Stoddart (eds) Development and decline in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. 195-219. Sheffield: J.R. Collis.

HAMILAKIS, Y. 1996. Wine, oil and the dialectics of power in Bronze Age Crete: a review of the evidence. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 15(1): 1-32.

HANSEN, J.M. 1988. Agriculture in the prehistoric Aegean: data versus speculation. American Journal of Archaeology 92: 39-52.

HARDY, D.A. (ed.). 1990. Thera and the Aegean World III. London: Thera Foundation.

HEIKEN, G. & F. MCCOY. 1984. Caldera development during the Minoan eruption, Thera, Cyclades, Greece. Journal of Geophysical Research. 89: 844-62.

HEIKEN, G., F. MCCOY & M. SHERIDAN. 1990. Palaeotopographic and palaeogeologic reconstruction of Minoan tephra. In Hardy (ed.): 2: 370-76.

KISLEV, M.E., M. ARTZY & E. MARCUS. 1993. Import of an Aegean food plant to a Middle Bronze Age IIA coastal site in Israel. Levant 25: 145-154.

KRAFT, J.C., G.R. RAPP JR. & S.E. ASCENBRENNER. 1980. Late Holocene palaeogeomorphic reconstructions in the area of the bay of Navarino: Sandy Pylos. Journal of Archaeological Science 7: 187-210.

LEV-YADUN, S., M. ARTZY, E. MARCUS 8 R. STIDSING. 1996. Wood remains from Tel Nami, a Middle Bronze Age IIA and Late Bronze Age IIB port, local exploitation of trees and Levantine cedar trade. Economic Botany 50(3): 310-317.

LIMBREY, S. 1990. Soils studies at Akrotiri. In Hardy (ed.): 2: 377-83.

MANNING, S. 1999. A test of time. The volcano of Thera and the chronology and history of the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean in the mid second millennium BC. Oxford: Oxbow.

MEIGGS, R. 1982. Trees and timber in the ancient Mediterranean world. London: Clarendon Press.

MOODY, J., O. RACKHAM & G. RAPP JR. 1996. Environmental archaeology of prehistoric NW Crete. Journal of Field Archaeology 23: 273-97.

PANAGIOTAKOPULU, E. 2000. Archaeology and entomology in the Eastern Mediterranean. British Archaeological Reports (IS) 836.

PANAGIOTAKOPULU, E., P.C. BUCKLAND, P.M. DAY, C. DOUMAS, A. SARPAKI & P. SKIDMORE. 1997. A lepidopterous cocoon from Thera and evidence for silk in the Aegean Bronze Age. Antiquity 71: 420-29.

PILCHER, H. & W.L. FRIEDRICH. 1980. Mechanism of the Minoan eruption of Santorini, in C. Doumas (ed.) Thera and the Aegean World II. London: 15-30. Thera Foundation.

PULAK, C. 2001. Cedar for ships. Archaeology and History in Lebanon. 14: 24-37.

RACKHAM, O. 1972. Appendix III. Charcoal and plaster impressions, in P.M. Warren (ed.) Myrtos: an early Bronze Age settlement in Crete: 299-304. London: BSA suppl. 7.

--1978. Flora of Thera and Crete and the eruption, in C. Doumas (ed.). Thera and the Aegean World I. 755-64. London: Thera Foundation.

--1990. Observations on the historical ecology of Santorini, in Hardy (ed.): 2: 384-91.

RACKHaM, O. & J. MOODY. 1996. The making of the Cretan landscape. Manchester University Press: Manchester and New York.

RENFREW, C. 1972. The emergence of civilisation: the Cyclades and the Aegean in the third millennium BC. Methuen: London

RUNNELS, C.N. & J.M. HANSEN. 1986. The olive in the prehistoric Aegean: the evidence for domestication in the Early Bronze Age. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 5: 299-308.

SARPAKI, A. 1990. Small fields or big fields? That is the question, in Hardy (ed.): 2: 422-1992. A palaeoethnobotanical study of the West House, Akrotiri, Thera. Annual of the British School at Athens 87:219-30.

SFIKAS, G. 1995. Trees and shrubs of Greece. Athens: Efstathiadis Group (in Greek).

SCHWEINGRUBER, F. H. 1990. Anatomy of European woods. Stuttgart: Haupt

TURLAND, N.J, L. CHILTON & J.R. PRESS. 1993. Flora of the Cretan area. London: HMSO.

ZOHARY, D. & M. HOPF. 2000. Domestication of plants in the Old World (3rd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

E. Asouti, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK (Email:

Received: 28 March 2002 Accepted: 28 May 2002 Revised, 16 May 2003
COPYRIGHT 2003 Antiquity Publications, Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Greek Islands archaeobotany studies; Research
Author:Asouti, E.
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:Settlement and economy in Neolithic Ukraine: a new chronology.
Next Article:The Egyptian origin of the Greek alphabetic numerals.

Related Articles
... And the ancient volcano Thera.
A lepidopterous cocoon from Thera and evidence for silk in the Aegean Bronze Age.
Susan Sherratt. Catalogue of Cycladic Antiquities in the Ashmolean Museum: the Captive Spirit.
Camilla Dickson & James Dickson. Plants and People in Ancient Scotland.
New evidence for an early date for the Aegean Late Bronze Age and Thera eruption.
Geometric templates used in the Akrotiri (Thera) wall-paintings.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters