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A step forward in tropical anthracology: understanding woodland vegetation and wood uses in ancient Sri Lanka based on charcoal records from Mantai, Kirinda and Kantharodai

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Boivin,  Nicole
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Fuller,  Dorian Q.
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Allué, E., Murphy, C., Kingwell-Banham, E., Bohingamuwa, W., Adikari, G., Perera, N., et al. (2021). A step forward in tropical anthracology: understanding woodland vegetation and wood uses in ancient Sri Lanka based on charcoal records from Mantai, Kirinda and Kantharodai. Quaternary International, 593-594: 2020.12.009, pp. 236-247. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2020.12.009.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-A900-A
Abstract
The aim of this study is to present the anthracological results from three archaeological sites located in the North, North West and South East of Sri Lanka. The study is based on the observation and analysis of 1689 charcoal fragments using for support the reference collection of South Indian wood at the Institute of Archaeology ( UCL), Inside Wood (2004-onwards) and several wood anatomy atlases. Mantai (200 BCE-850 CE), an urban site, has yielded 25 taxa with significant presence of cf. Cocos nucifera among other taxa. Kantharodai (400-170- BCE), an urban site, has yielded 19 taxa from arid zones (Fabaceae, Rubiaceae), mangroves (Rhizophoraceae) and dune zones (cf. Cocos nucifera). Kirinda (500–900 CE), a fishing settlement, has yielded 24 taxa including Fabaceae (Dalbergia, Acacia) and Rubiaceae, belonging to dry deciduous forest and open savannas. This collective data set allows for the identification of discernible patterns related to the use of ecological interfaces between the forest and the open plains, used and actively managed by humans, and the possibility to identify if this changed with an increase in maritime trade and/or changes in agriculture over time. This study provides evidence of the differences in the vegetation present as well as use of wood fuel and other specific uses of wood for each site examined. It also sheds new light on tropical anthracology regarding quantification and accuracy in taxa identification.