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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2017 / Fuel for debating ancient economies. Calculating wood consumption at urban scale in Roman Imperial times

Ellen Janssen, Jeroen Poblome, Johan Claeys, Vincent Kint, Patrick Degryse, Elena Marinova, and Bart Muys (2017)

Fuel for debating ancient economies. Calculating wood consumption at urban scale in Roman Imperial times

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports , 11:592 - 599.

Abstract Estimating wood extraction rates from forests based on archaeological and historical evidence is an important step in evaluating the sustainability of past social-ecological systems. In this paper, we present a calculation tool to estimate human wood resource use for a selected location during a defined period in the past. We illustrate the method by its application to the ancient town of Sagalassos (South-west Anatolia, Turkey) during the Roman Imperial period, with a focus on pottery production and the Roman Baths. Based on archaeological data, thermodynamic formulas and calorific values, an estimation is provided of the amount of wood used within a time step of one year. Because quantitative information on ancient technology and lifestyle is rather scarce and uncertain, input values consist of ranges. In order to take this uncertainty into account, a Monte Carlo procedure is included, offering a probability distribution of possible outcomes. Our results indicate that wood consumption in 2nd century Sagalassos was quite high, with a lifestyle including frequent hot bathing, export driven pottery production and a climate that required heating during winter months. Based on the available woodland area, we conclude that the community of Sagalassos was intensively using the surrounding forests.

Peer Review, International Redaction Board, Impact Factor
Pottery production, Sagalassos, Human impact, Sustainable use, Forest resources, Roman baths, XylArch
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Earth and History of Life

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