Contribution of tyloses quantification in earlywood oak vessels to archaeological charcoal analyses: Estimation of a minimum age and influences of physiological and environmental factors

Abstract : Among the main parameters contributing to the characterization of firewood exploitation modes, the age of the collected wood is very difficult to assess in anthracology. In this paper, we propose an original way to investigate the age of the exploited wood, the heartwood formation process which takes place in 20 e25-year-old deciduous oak trees. The formation of tyloses in earlywood vessels is an important feature of the changeover of sapwood to heartwood. However, tylosis formation also occurs in sapwood. Therefore, the observation of the mere presence of tyloses in vessels, as routinely performed in anthracology, is not sufficient to distinguish sapwood from heartwood. The aim of this study was thus to use the proportion of vessels sealed by tyloses as a discriminating marker between sapwood and heartwood applicable to anthracology in order to characterize firewood exploitation in the past. The trunks and branches of ten deciduous oak trees ranging from 15 to 60 years old were sampled in three French sites. For an application to archaeological charcoal (tyloses are preserved until 800 C), thresholds of less than 65% for sapwood and up to 85% for heartwood appear to be significant at the population level for deciduous oak (Quercus petraea/robur) in a temperate climate. Besides the indication of the minimal age (ca. 25 years old in the case of deciduous oak), the variability of the proportion of vessels with tyloses in sapwood is explored as a good indicator of the vitality of the wood which opens new prospects for the exploitation of dendro-anthracological parameters, such as the discrimination of branch wood.
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Alexa Dufraisse, Sylvie Coubray, Olivier Girardclos, Aurore Dupin, Michel Lemoine. Contribution of tyloses quantification in earlywood oak vessels to archaeological charcoal analyses: Estimation of a minimum age and influences of physiological and environmental factors. Quaternary International, Elsevier, 2018, 463, pp.250-257. ⟨10.1016/j.quaint.2017.03.070⟩. ⟨mnhn-02337816⟩

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