Woodland Ecology and Wood Fuel Use in the Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic Fayum, Egypt

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 09:45
, John - Boston University

The Western Desert of Egypt appeared radically different in the Early Holocene, prior to the aridification of the Sahara. In this savanna-like environment, we find evidence for the earliest agricultural populations in Africa in the Fayum Basin alongside the paleolake Birket Qarun. Recent archaeological investigation of Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic features in this landscape has yielded considerable wood charcoal, which provides evidence for woodland ecology in this region and for selective wood use by early farmers and herders.

This paper presents results of charcoal analysis from three sites in the Fayum region that indicate that sustained, low-effort exploitation of the riparian wood community was the most prevalent wood collection strategy in this region; evidence for collection of desert shrubs is limited. Low wood charcoal diversity indicates a lack of resource depression during the Early Holocene. The early agricultural impact on woodland communities in this region appears to have been minimal.