Article: « From mud to wood: Addressing the study of wood resources through the analysis of earth building fragments » (2022)

Pastor Quiles M., Martín-Seijo M., Toriti M. (2022), From mud to wood: Addressing the study of wood resources through the analysis of earth building fragments, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 41, article n. 103269,

Highlights

  • Earth building fragments found in archaeological contexts are valuable sources of information on past building practices, informing also about building materials such as wood.
  • The macroscopic observation of imprints in hardened earth elements must pay attention on indicators of the state of wood when it was used as a building material.
  • Evidence of wood biodegradation in earth building fragments allows to raise hypothesis on wood selection and management.

Abstract

Earth has been a very common building material through History and since prehistoric times. Therefore, earth construction remains are frequently found in archaeological contexts, although they are rarely considered as valuable sources of information. This sort of materiality encloses crucial information, not only related to the mud material itself. Samples of architectural mud recovered from three Copper Age sites located in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula have preserved imprints with features which provide information related to raw materials used as structural timber and to their state before its use. During the macroscopical analysis of prehistoric earth construction elements indirect evidence of wood biodegradation has been observed. In the mud surface traces related with the action of xylophagous insects and even with the possible use of rotten wood have been identified. Their presence suggests that decayed wood was used as building material, wood degradation that occurred before being put on place. This evidence raises several questions in relation to timber selection and procurement. This study, as a transversal methodological contribution, aims to raise awareness on the informative potential of these often-neglected archaeological materials and the features present on them, as valuable sources of information on past societies. The integration of organic and inorganic evidence is needed to fully understand wood management and building techniques developed by prehistoric communities.

Keywords: Daub, Organics, Architecture, Construction materials, Biodegradation, Decayed wood, Xylophagous.


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