Charcoal identification in a species-rich environment: The example of Dibamba, Cameroon

Alexa Höhn, Katharina Neumann
  • IAWA Journal, February 2018, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/22941932-20170195

Sound identification of charcoal fragments from African tropical rain forests

What is it about?

Charcoal from archaeological sites can inform about the vegetation that had been exploited by past societies. In tree-rich environments such as tropical forests, it is difficult, and in many cases impossible, to assign a charcoal type to one definite tree species based on wood structure alone. Instead charcoal types often include smaller and larger groups of different trees. In the paper we describe how we proceed in order to reach valid and reliable identifications. In the Supplementary Online Material charcoal types from a site in Cameroon are described and depicted.

Why is it important?

The history of the African rain forest is still enigmatic. Soil charcoal and archaeological charcoal are a valuable evidence of past changes, but it is necessary to have a common reference base in assigning charcoal types to tree species or groups of species.


Alexa Höhn
Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main

Many years of experience and hours of scrutinizing over identifications have ultimately led to this paper. We hope it will lead to open and fruitful discussions on the dos and don'ts of charcoal identification in tree-rich environments.

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The following have contributed to this page: Alexa Höhn