Discussion issues at UISPP Session B14 “An archaeology of fuels…”

The UISPP2014 session will be held on September the 2nd at room from 9:00 to 15:00 with coffee and lunch breaks along the day. The session An Archaeology of fuels: social and environmental factors in behavioural strategies of multi-resource management” has 20 contributions (12 oral contributions and 8 posters) presenting a worldwide perspective, including studies of all continents: Asia (Australia, Turkey), Europe (Spain, Portugal, and France), South America (Brazil, Argentina, and Chile) and Africa (Algeria, Morocco). The diversity of these presentations is also reinforced by the wide range of topics related to fuel energy control by past societies, particularly in terms of theoretical and methodological approaches: phytoliths, micromorphology, ethnography, charcoal analysis, zooarchaeology, taphonomy and experimental archaeology. In addition, the research topics that are presented cover a chronological frame from the Middle Paleolithic to Roman period and include different materials used as fuel, such as wood, bone, non-woody plants, dung, peat-like materials, and subsurface hydrocarbons. The diversity of these original scientific contributions presented is expected to open innovative research routes particularly related to fuel provision, production and consumption.

Different issues that will be broadly discussed by the participants motivate this session focused on fuel. A core question is to disentangle the theoretical and methodological issues related with the little interest that the archaeological literature have given to fuel and energy management. In this sense, both the diversity in chronological and geographical frameworks of the works presented and in the multiple disciplines involved will offer an excellent opportunity to address it. From these starting point, some of the discussion topics suggested by the different works presented are:

  1. Is there a lack of theoretical formulation to integrate fuel and energy management and consumption in the archaeological narratives?
  2. Is there a theoretical (interpretation of past societies through the archaeological record) and scientific (technical specific disciplines involved in the identification of fuels use) divide to be broken down?
  3. How can we address preference and choosing of fuels through the archaeological record?
  4. Are there different choices and attitudes towards fuel and energy among hunter-gatherers, shepherds and farmers?
  5. Is there a lack of scientific knowledge on the variability of biomass-fuel quality and fire-product preservation through time with respect to environmental conditions?
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