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The Eastern Desert of Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period: Archaeological Reports

 | 
Jean-Pierre Brun
, 
Thomas Faucher
, 
Bérangère Redon
, 
et al.

Fuelwood and Wood Supplies in the Eastern Desert of Egypt during Roman Times

Charlène Bouchaud, Claire Newton, Marijke Van der Veen et Caroline Vermeeren

Texte intégral

Introduction

1Due to the scarcity of resources, fuel and wood supply was a major issue in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. This scarcity is caused by the hyperarid conditions that started some 6000 years ago, as indicated by paleo-climatic studies, carried out locally in the mountains of the Red Sea (Butzer 1999; Moeyersons et al. 1999) and west of the Nile (Bubenzer, Riemer 2007), as well as in the wider region (Hoelzmann et al. 2004; Kuper, Kröpelin 2006). The woody vegetation of this desert is concentrated mainly along ephemeral streams, wâdis, or in upland areas. Elsewhere, in the sandy and rocky plains, we find mostly shrubs rather than trees. Cooking, heating, lighting, reducing and melting ores, making doors, building roofs, firing bricks, carving tools were daily activities or at least regularly carried out by the occupants of the desert at different times, resulting in frequent use of woody resources, either present in the desert or imported. This was particularly the case in Roman times, during which the Eastern Desert experienced a peak of exploitation of local resources of minerals, precious stones and building stones, as well as the development of trade routes between the Nile valley and the Red Sea. Excavations on various Roman sites in this region, mainly occupied between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD, have provided a substantial corpus of wood and charcoal found in both domestic and craft contexts. These elements provide a unique opportunity to study the wide variety of uses of woody materials and the role of economic and environmental factors in their use and distribution.

The data

Study of wood and charcoal

  • 1 The French sometimes use the term "dendrologie".

2The present work is based on the analysis of raw archaeobotanical data, that is the remains of charcoal and wood found in a variety of archaeological contexts at a range of sites. In French, such studies are usually called “anthracologie” and “xylologie”,1 corresponding to the English words “anthracology” and “xylology”, though the terms “charcoal analysis” and “wood studies” are more commonly used in English.

  • 2 Depending on the areas and issues arising, the sieve mesh used for an anthracological study varies (...)

3In the Eastern Desert, as in many other regions, charcoal is among the most frequently found items on archaeological sites when the sediments from domestic levels, craft structures or fire layers are finely sieved.2 The hyperaridity of the region has also allowed the remarkable conservation of wooden elements, which are organic materials generally more vulnerable to insects and biological decomposition. Preservation of the wood varies across sites and contexts, dependent of local levels of humidity. Generally, humidity levels are very low and preservation good.

4The joint study of wood and charcoal answers various questions illustrating the diversity of the relationships between man and tree. The first aspect is of a utilitarian nature and makes it possible to understand how these remains were used. The study of wood includes an important technical dimension related to the manufacture of the objects and their use (see the studies of C. Vermeeren at Berenike and J. Whitewright at Myos Hormos, references below). Charcoal is mainly used to understand the management of fuel in domestic and artisanal contexts (Théry-Parisot et al., 2010). Identifying the botanical taxon of each item allows us to study the origin and supply of these woody resources.

  • 3 This collection consists mainly of material collected by Claire Newton and Hala Barakat in Egypt an (...)
  • 4 Taxonomy is the science and the laws of principles of the classification of living organisms. A tax (...)
  • 5 The botanical classification of angiosperms APG III (2009) does not recognize them as a family; Che (...)
  • 6 The “sp.” suffix indicates that a single species of the mentioned genus is considered but that its (...)

5The identification is carried out by microscopic examination of the fragments in reflected light for charcoal and certain woods, and in transmitted light for thin-section wood samples. The anatomy (the number and distribution of vessels, the width of the rays, the types of intervascular structures, etc.) is observed on three planes (cross-section, tangential and radial, Fig. 1) and is compared with descriptions from atlases (Fahn et al., 1986; Neumann 1989; Schweingruber 1990; Neumann et al., 2001) and modern reference collections, such as those of research centres in particular the IFAO (Institut français d'archéologie orientale) Archeometry Laboratory.3 The proposed identification is made according to different taxonomic ranks4 depending on the preservation and the size of the observed fragment and the diagnostic value of these anatomical features. Thus, the least identifiable elements are simply classified, as either angiosperms (flowering plants) or gymnosperms (including conifers). Some can only be grouped under a family name. For example the family of Chenopodiaceae5 includes several shrub species which are difficult to separate from the observed anatomical criteria alone. Many taxa can, fortunately, be identified to genus level, such as acacias (Acacia spp.)6 or some pines (Pinus sp.). A few taxa can be identified down to species level, such as wild caper (Capparis spinosa), or group of species, such as a group of acacias characteristic of desert areas, Acacia tortilis / etbaica.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Examples of anatomical sections of acacia charcoal from Xeron Pelagos, Roman period (1st-3rd c. AD). Left: cross-section, right: longitudinal tangential section. Anatomical observation of these allows us to identify a group of Acacia species, including: Acacia tortilis, A. ehrenbergiana, A. etbaica.

© C. Bouchaud

6We deduce the provenance of the pieces from the ecological growth requirements of the plant (or plants) and from the historical data associated with their diffusion. Different floras are thus used, such as Egyptian (Boulos 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005), but also Middle-Eastern / Mediterranean (Zohary 1966, 1972; Feinbrun-Dothan 1978, 1986) and European (Ellenberg 1988).

State of the art in the Eastern Desert of Egypt

7Wood and charcoal studies of Roman sites in the Egyptian Eastern Desert are less numerous than those conducted on seed and fruit remains (see Van der Veen et al. 2018). This is partly due to technical contingencies, linked to the obligation to study this material during the archaeological excavations or later at a location where the material has been stored. Unlike seed and fruit studies carried out using a stereomicroscope, the microscopic observation equipment used for analysing wood and charcoal is heavier, expensive and fragile, which implies more complicated logistics, difficult to implement on an excavation site or in an archaeological storeroom. Some laboratories in Cairo, in particular that of the IFAO, are equipped with transmitted and reflected light microscopes. When the samples can be exported to Cairo, post-excavation studies are possible.

8Despite these practical difficulties, wood and/or charcoal samples from eleven excavation projects have been studied (Table 1, Fig. 2). Their chronological distribution naturally reflects that of the excavated sites. The Roman period (late 1st century BC- 3rd century AD) is the best represented. These sites include the two main ports of the Red Sea, Berenike (Vermeeren 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b) and Myos Hormos (Thomas, Whitewright 2001; Whitewright 2007; Blue et al. 2011), the quarries of Kainè Latomia (originally called Domitianè, but renamed Kainè Latomia after the death of Domitian, now called Umm Balad) (Newton unpublished), of Mons Claudianus (Van der Veen 2001) and of Mons Porphyrites (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007), and three way-stations, Badia (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007), Didymoi (Tengberg 2011) and Xeron Pelagos (Bouchaud, Redon 2017; Bouchaud unpublished). Only the site of Samut offer data from the Ptolemaic period (Bouchaud forthcoming). Some samples of wood and charcoal dated to Late Antiquity (4th-7th century) have been collected in the worker’s village of Lykabettus near the site of Porphyrites (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007) and in the coastal site of Abu Sha'ar (Fadl 2013). Finally, wood and charcoal from the Islamic layers (11th-15th century) at the old Roman port Myos Hormos, which was re-occupied under the name Kusayr, were also studied (Hiebert 1991; Thomas, Whitewright 2001, Whitewright 2007; Blue et al. 2011; Van der Veen et al. 2011; Whitewright 2011). As the data for the Ptolemaic, Byzantine and Islamic periods are scarce, we concentrate here on the Roman period. Note that some wood and charcoal materials from Berenike could actually belong to earlier (3rd-2nd century BC) or later (4th-5th century AD) layers (pers. comm., Steve Sidebotham): the information available from published studies (Vermeeren, 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b) does not accurately separate earlier and later material from the Roman samples (1st-3rd century AD). Thus the Berenike data presented here combines all periods.

Table 1

SITE

PERIOD

FUNCTION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

MATERIALS

Myos Hormos /Kusayr

Qusayr al-Qadim

Rom-Islam

Port

Van der Veen et al. 2011

Wood

Charcoal

Rom-Islam

Port

Blue et al. 2011 ; Hiebert 1991; Thomas 2011; Thomas & Whitewright 2001; Whitewright 2007, 2011

Wood

Berenike (+Kalalat+Shenshef)

Rom

Port

Vermeeren 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b

Wood

Charcoal

Abu Sha’ar

Byz

Port

Fadl 2013

Wood

Charcoal

Mons Claudianus (+ Barud I + Hydreuma)

Rom

Quarry and way-stations

Van der Veen 2001; Van der Veen & Tabinor 2007

Charcoal

Hamilton-Dyer & Goddard 2001

Wood

Mons Porphyrites + Badia (+ Lykabettus)

Rom-Byz

Quarry and satellite forts

Van der Veen & Tabinor 2007

Charcoal

Domitianè / Kainè Latomia

Rom

Quarry

Newton unpublished

Charcoal

Didymoi

Rom

Way-station

Tengberg 2011

Wood

Samut (Bi’r Samut + Samut North)

Ptol-Rom

Gold mine and fort

Bouchaud forthcoming

Wood

Charcoal

Xeron Pelagos

Rom

Way-station

Bouchaud unpublished; Bouchaud & Redon 2017

Wood

Charcoal

Wood (uncharred) and charcoal (charred wood) identifications from the Egyptian Eastern Desert on samples from the Ptolemaic period (Ptol: 4th-1st century. BC), the Roman period (Rom: end 1st century BC – 3rd century AD), the Byzantine period, or Late Antiquity (Byz: 4th-5th century AD) and the Islamic period (Islam: 11th-15th century AD).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Location of sites (in red) for which wood and/or charcoal identifications are available in the Eastern Desert. See table 1 for details. Background map: Jean-Pierre Brun.

© All rights reserved

Selection and quantification of samples

  • 7 Only the taxon Myrtus/Santalum type was not taken into account in the corpus. The identification of (...)

9This synthesis is based on a selection of materials studied and presented in various publications and in unpublished works (Tables 2 and 3). Specimens poorly dated (except those from Berenike, see above), indeterminate fragments and imprecise determinations (e.g. angiosperms, gymnosperms, monocotyledons) have been ignored. Unclear identifications –at the family level or indicated by the addition of “cf.” before the scientific name (Tables 2 and 3)– were retained to illustrate the potential diversity of these taxa.7 Finally, among the wood specimens, only the worked elements were studied.

Table 2

MH

BE

DI

XE

Nb samples

112

252

33

11

Nb items

113

295

33

11

Nb taxa

26

20

5

5

TAXON

CODE

ORIGINE

Abies sp.

Fir

Sapin

ABIE

MEDEUR

1

1

Acacia tortilis/

etbaica type

Desert acacia

Acacia du

désert

ACTO

LOC

75

6

7

Acacia sp.

+ cf. Acacia sp.

Acacia tree

Acacia

ACAC

LOC

9

Alnus sp.

Alder

Aulne

ALNU

MEDEUR

1

Avicennia sp.

+ cf. Avicennia sp.

Grey mangrove

Palétuvier gris

AVIC

LOC

13

Baikiaea/Pterocarpus

BAIPTE

TROP

3

Bambusa sp.

Bamboo

Bambou

BAMB

TROP

3

Buxus sp.

+ cf.Buxus sp.

Boxwood

Buis

BUXU

MEDEUR

9

Cordia sp.

Sebesten

Sébestier

CORD

LOC

1

Dalbergia sp.

+ cf. Dalbergia sp.

African ebony,

African blackwood

Ébène du Mozambique

DALB

TROP

17

Diospyros sp.

Ebony

Ébène

DIOS

TROP

1

Fagus sylvatica

Beech

Hêtre

FAGSYL

MEDEUR

1

Ficus sp. + cf. Ficus sp.

Fig tree

Figuier

FICU

LOC

3

Fraxinus sp.

+ cf. Fraxinus sp.

Ash

Frêne

FRAX

MEDEUR

2

1

Juglans regia

+ cf. Juglans regia

Walnut tree

Noyer

JUGREG

MEDEUR

1

1

Juniperus / Cupressus

JUNCUP

MEDEUR

1

1

Larix/Picea

+ cf. Larix/Picea

Larche/spruce

Mélèze/épicéa

LARPIC

MEDEUR

1

Leptadenia pyrotechica + Leptadenia sp.

LEPPYR

LOC

22

1

cf. Maloideae

MALO

NIL

1

cf. Moraceae

MORA

LOC

2

cf. Olea sp.

Olive tree

Olivier

OLEA

NIL

1

Palmae + cf. Palmae

Palm tree

Palmier

PALM

LOC

6

1

Pinus sp.

Pine

Pin

PINU

MEDEUR

1

3

Pinus pinea/pinaster

Stone/maritime pine

Pin parasol/ maritime

PIPIPIN

MEDEUR

1

26

Pinus sylvestris/nigra

Scots/black pine

Pin sylvestre/noir

PISYNI

MEDEUR

9

Quercus sp.

Deciduous oak

Chêne à f. caduc

QUEDEC

MEDEUR

6

3

Quercus sp.

Evergreen oak

Chêne à f. sempervirent

QUEEVE

MEDEUR

8

Quercus suber

Cork oak

Chêne liège

QUESUB

MEDEUR

1

Rhamnus/Phyllirea

RHAM

MEDEUR

2

Rhizophora type

+ cf.Rhizophora sp.

True mangrove

Palétuvier rouge

RHIZ

LOC

1

3

cf. Saccharum sp.

SACC

TROP

1

Salix sp.

Willow

Saule

SALI

NIL

1

2

Tamarix sp.

+ cf. Tamarix sp.

Tamarisk

Tamaris

TAMA

LOC

18

4

3

1

Tectona grandis

+ cf. Tectona grandis

Teak

Teck

TECGRA

TROP

12

145

Ulmus sp.

Elm

Orme

ULMU

MEDEUR

4

2

Viburnum sp.

Viorne

VIBU

MEDEUR

1

cf. Wrightia sp.

WRIG

TROP

1

cf. Ziziphus sp.

Jujubier

ZIZI

LOC

1

Results from the identification of wooden artefacts. Presentation of the selected samples and list of identified taxa on the Roman sites of the Egyptian Eastern Desert. For each taxon, the scientific and vernacular names, code and assumed geographic origin used in the figures are detailed. The numbers in the table describe the number of samples in which the taxon was identified. MH= Myos Hormos (Van der Veen et al. 2011); BE= Berenike (Vermeeren 1998; 1999a; 1999b; 2000a; 2000b); DI= Didymoi (Tengberg 2011); XE= Xeron Pelagos (Bouchaud unpublished, Bouchaud & Redon 2017; LOC= local; NIL= Nile valley and Western oasis; MEDEUR= Mediterranean and European/continental regions; TROP= Tropical India and/or Africa.

Table 3

MH

BE

MC

MP

KL

BA

XE

N samples

34

20

18

10

4

3

6

N fragments

625

?

194

270

1117

104

338

N taxa

29

10

14

19

13

7

14

TAXON

CODE

ORIGINE

Acacia sp.

+ cf. Acacia sp.

Acacia

Acacia tree

ACAC

LOC

9

15

1

4

2

Acacia albida (Fadherbia

albida)

Faidher

bier

White acacia

ACAL

NIL

1

1

Acacia nilotica

Acacia du Nil

Nile acacia tree

ACNI

NIL

1

14

9

2

Acacia tortilis /

etbaica type

Acacia du désert

Desert acacia

ACTO

LOC

8

3

6

7

3

cf. Aerva sp.

AERV

LOC

2

Arundo /

Phragmites

Roseau

Reed

ARPHR

NIL

1

Artemisia sp.

Armoise

Mugwort

ART

LOC

1

Avicennia sp.

+ cf. Avicennia sp.

Palétuvier gris

Grey mangrove

AVIC

LOC

29

17

Boscia sp.

BOSC

LOC

2

Brassicaceae

BRASS

LOC

1

2

1

Calligonum comosum

+ cf. Calligonum sp.

CALL

LOC

3

2

cf. Calotropis procera

Pommier de Sodome

Sodom apple

CALPROC

LOC

1

Capparis decidua

+ cf. Capparis decidua

Câprier

Caperbush

CAPDEC

LOC

2

2

Capparis sp.

+ cf. Capparaceae

Câprier

Caperbush

CAPP

LOC

1

1

Capparis spinosa

+ cf. Capparis spinosa

Câprier

Caperbush

CAPSPI

LOC

1

Chenopodiaceae

CHENO

LOC

5

4

Chrozophora sp.

CHROZO

LOC

1

Cornulaca type

CORN

LOC

1

Cupressus sp.

+ cf. Cupressus sp.

Cyprès

Cypress

CUPR

MEDEUR

1

1

1

Dalbergia sp.

+ cf. Dalbergia sp.

Ebène du Mozam-bique

African ebony,

African blackwood

DALB

TROP

1

Diplotaxis harra

DIPHAR

LOC

1

cf. Dipterocarpaceae

DIPTE

TROP

2

Fabaceae

FABA

LOC

1

2

1

3

Ficus sp.

+ cf. Ficus sp.

Figuier

Fig tree

FICU

LOC

1

1

Frankenia sp.

FRAN

LOC

1

Fraxinus sp.

+ cf. Fraxinus sp.

Frêne

Ash

FRAX

MEDEUR

1

Grewia sp.

GREW

LOC

1

Juncus sp.

Jonc

Rush

JUNC

NIL

1

Juniperus /

Cupressus

JUNCUP

MEDEUR

1

Juniperus sp.

Genévrier

Juniper

JUNI

MEDEUR

1

Larix / Picea

+ cf. Larix / Picea

Mélèze/

épicéa

Larche/

spruce

LARPIC

MEDEUR

2

Leptadenia pyrotechnica

+ Leptadenia sp.

LEPPYR

LOC

4

6

7

1

1

1

Lycium shawii

Desert thorn

LYCSHA

LOC

1

Maerua sp.

+ cf. Maerua sp.

MAECRA

LOC

2

Mimusops sp.

Perséa

Persea

MIMU

NIL

1

cf. Moraceae

MORA

LOC

1

Moringa peregrina

Arbre à huile de Ben

Bentree

MORPER

LOC

1

3

7

2

1

Palmae+cf. Palmae

Palmier

Palm tree

PALM

LOC

3

3

cf. Periploca

PERIP

LOC

1

Pinus pinea / pinaster

Pin parasol/

maritime

Stone/

maritime pine

PIPIPIN

MEDEUR

16

11

Pinus sylvestris / nigra

Pin sylvestre/noir

Scots/

black pine

PISYNI

MEDEUR

13

1

Pinus sp.

Pin

Pine

PINU

MEDEUR

8

cf. Prosopis sp.

PROS

NIL

3

1

Quercus sp.

Chêne à f. caduc

Deciduous oak

QUEDEC

MEDEUR

5

1

2

Quercus sp.

Chêne à f. semper-

virent

Evergreen oak

QUEEVE

MEDEUR

2

Rhizophora type

+ cf. Rhizophora

Palétuvier rouge

True mangrove

RHIZ

LOC

4

7

Salvadora persica

Toothbrush tree

SALPER

LOC

1

3

Salsola / Suaeda

Soude

Saltwort/

sea blite

SALSUA

LOC

10

10

1

cf. Senna italica

Senné

Senna

SENITA

LOC

2

Tamarix sp.

+ cf. Tamarix sp.

Tamaris

Tamarisk

TAMA

LOC

23

5

1

1

3

Tectona grandis

+ cf. Tectona grandis

Teck

Teak

TECGRA

TROP

11

12

Ulmus sp.

Orme

Elm

ULMU

MEDEUR

13

3

cf. Zilla spinosa

ZILSPI

LOC

1

Ziziphus sp.

+ cf. Ziziphus sp.

Jujubier

Jujube tree

ZIZI

LOC

6

1

1

Results from the identification of charcoal. Presentation of selected samples and list of taxa identified on Roman sites in the Egyptian Eastern Desert. For each taxon, the scientific and vernacular names, code and assumed geographic origin used in the figures are detailed. The numbers in the table describe the number of samples in which the taxon was identified. MH= Myos Hormos (Van der Veen et al. 2011); BE= Berenike (Vermeeren 1998; 1999a; 1999b; 2000a; 2000b); MC= Mons Claudianus (Van der Veen 2001; Van der Veen & Tabinor 2007); MP= Mons Porphyrites (Van der Veen & Tabinor 2007); KL= Domitianè/Kainè Latomia (Newton unpublished); BA= Badia (Van der Veen & Tabinor 2007); XE= Xeron Pelagos (Bouchaud unpublished, Bouchaud & Redon 2017); LOC= local; NIL= Nile valley and Western oasis; MEDEUR= Mediterranean and European/continental regions; TROP= Tropical India and/or Africa.

10The corpus of wooden artefacts is based on the study of four sites –Berenike, Myos Hormos, Didymoi and Xeron Pelagos. The largest assemblages come from the two ports of the Red Sea. The woods of Didymoi are presented but not discussed, their function being, for the most part, unknown (Tengberg 2011). The wooden elements found at Xeron Pelagos are few, partly due to local, slightly damp, conditions. Wood elements, complete or fragmented, are recorded by number of samples. Generally a wood sample correspond to one artefact, but in some cases (especially at Berenike), one sample corresponds to several artefacts grouped together. Note that the Mons Claudianus quarry site also presents a corpus of everyday wooden objects, but the wood taxa of these objects have not been identified (Hamilton-Dyer, Goddard 2001).

  • 8 The charcoal study of the site of Xeron Pelagos is ongoing.

11Charcoal was studied from seven Roman sites.8 The samples were obtained from hand-picked or sediment sampling (sieving), though the volume sieved is not always known. Most of the time, a sample corresponds to a stratigraphic unit and contains a heterogeneous number of charcoal fragments. In Berenike, the only archaeological level recorded is that of the structure, and the number of fragments is only estimated.

  • 9 The charcoal from Berenike is not included in this total, since the exact number is not known, with (...)

12A total of 408 samples of wood, comprising 452 artefacts (Table 2), and 95 samples of charcoal, representing at least 2,648 fragments (Table 3),9 are considered for this study. This selection corresponds to 71 taxa identified at the level of family, genus or species. Forty taxa are preserved in desiccated form. Fifty-four taxa are represented as charcoal. Of these, 23 taxa are found both in the form of desiccated wood and charcoal. Each taxon is associated with a geographical origin according to four regions of provenance. Local (LOC) taxa are those that can grow in the desert –including the mountainous area of Gebel Elba– and the Red Sea coastline. The Nilotic and oasis group (NIL) refers to plants from the Nile valley and/or from the oases of the Western Desert. Mediterranean and European/continental taxa are referred to under the same name (MEDEUR). Tropical and sub-tropical plants (TROP), most of which can grow in Asia and Africa, form the fourth group. When a taxon falls into two categories –such as reed (Arundo / Phragmites) and tamarisk, which may belong to the group of local (coast of the Red Sea) or Nilotic plants, the closest geographically group has been chosen. These decisions, while aiming to simplify the reading and processing of the data, distort a reality which is probably more complex than that illustrated by the descriptions which follow.

13Despite the heterogeneity of data from one site to another, a first synthesis can be carried out by using a semi-quantitative presentation of the results.

Uses

14The presence of worked wood and charcoal on archaeological sites evokes various sectors of activity. Desiccated (uncharred) wooden artefacts include everyday objects, architectural timbers, maritime equipment (shipbuilding and objects connected with ships or fishing) and waste from cutting or shaping. Charcoal has been found in domestic (fireplaces, hearth refuse, ovens, domestic refuse deposits) and artisanal contexts, mainly related to metallurgical activities. Charring of wood thus results, a priori, from its use as fuel.

Woodworking

  • 10 The function of wood pieces from Didymoi is not known; their data are not included in this discussi (...)

15Uncharred worked wood elements found at Myos Hormos, Berenike and Xeron Pelagos can be separated into various major functional categories10 (Table 4, Fig. 3-5).

Table 4

Category

Identified items

Eléments identifiés

MH

BE

XE

Domestic objects

Firelighter

Allume-feu

LEPYR 1

Tool indet.

Outil indet.

ACTO 1

Tube

Tube

ACTO 1

Handle

Manche

FRAX 1

ZIZI 1

ACTO 1

VIBU 1

Brush

Brosse

ACTO 1

Needle

Aiguille

PIPIPIN 1

Basket

Panier

LARPIC 1

RHIZ 1

Bowl

Bol

DALB 1

FRAX 1

TAMA 2

ACTO 1

TECGRA 1

QUEDUC 1

Cup

Coupe

ACTO 1

Bung / lid / amphora stopper

Bonde / couvercle / bouchon d’amphore

ACAC 2

FICU 2

MORA 1

PISYNI 1

QUEDEC 1

QUEEVE 1

SALI 1

TAMA 3

TECGRA 1

ACTO 6

AVIC 2

BAIPTE 2

RHIZ 1

QUESUB 1

TECGRA 2

Knob

Bouton

ACTO 2

Box

Boite

TECGRA 1

Gorges

Hameçon

JUNCUP 1

TAMA 1

TECGRA 1

Key

Clé

QUEDUC 1

Pen

Stylet

ACTO 2

ACTO 1

Stick

Bâton

ACTO 1

Spatula

Spatule

DALB 1

PISYNI 3

TECGRA 1

ULMU 2

TAMA 1

Spoon

Cuillère

FICU 1

PISYNI 1

Vessel

Vaisselle

BUXU 1

TAMA 3

Ring

Bague

TECGRA 3

Ornament indet.

Ornement indet

ACTO 1

BAIPTE 1

Bracelet

Bracelet

ACTO 1

Comb

Peigne

BUXU 8

DIOS 1

RHAM 2

Architecture

Wedge

Coin

TECGRA 1

Plank, board

Planche

ACTO 3

FRAX 1

PINU 3

PIPIPIN 16

QUEDEC 1

TECGRA 32

ACTO 3

JUGREG 1

JUNI 1

TAMA 1

Pole, beam

Poteau, poutre

BAMB 1

PIPIPIN 4

TECGRA 6

ACTO 2

Pin, peg

Tenon

ACAC 2

DALB 1

QUEDEC 2

TAMA 2

TECGRA 7

ABIE 1

ACTO 7

CORD 1

PALM 3

PIPIPIN 2

RHIZ 1

TECGRA 14

Maritime

Brail ring

Anneau de cargue

DALB 11

OLEA 1

MALO 1

TAMA 1

WRIG 1

TECGRA 3

Deadeye

Cap de mouton

DALB 1

Tapered hole

Mortaise biseautée

TECGRA 1

Pulley

Poulie

TECGRA 1

Sheave

Réa

ALNU 1

DALB 2

TECGRA 1

Cleat

Taquet

QUEDUC 1

Wood shavings

Wood chips / shavings

Fragment de débitage / copeau

ACAC 5

JUGREG 1

MORA 1

PINU 1

PIPIPIN 1

PISYNI 4

QUEEVE 7

TAMA 2

ULMU 2

ACTO 31

AVIC 6

BAMB 2

PIPIPIN 1

QUEDEC 1

RHIZ 1

TECRA 48

ULMU 2

Other

Worked wood

Elément travaillé

TAMA 1

ACTO 14

AVIC 5

PALM 2

PIPIPIN 2

SACC 1

TAMA 2

TECGRA 33

Disc

Disque

TECGRA 2

Functional category of wooden artefacts found in Myos Hormos (MH), Berenike (BE) and Xeron Pelagos (XE) (1st-3rd c. AD). The identified items are presented using the names used in the original publications (in French or in English). For each functional type, the last three columns indicate for each site the types of wood used followed by the corresponding number of artefacts.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Examples of domestic wooden objects from the Roman period. A. Amphora stopper, Rhodesian teak/pterocarpus type (Baikiaea/Pterocarpus), Berenike (BE98-21 PB 045, after Fig. 7 in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photograph: Z. Kosc); B. Boxwood comb (Buxus sp.), Myos Hormos (W284, after Fig. 5.6 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 216, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen); C. Firelighter, Leptadenia pyrotechnica, Xeron Pelagos, (US 40510/Po220, © A. Bülow-Jacobsen, French mission in the Eastern Desert); D. Pen, acacia (Acacia sp.), Xeron Pelagos (US 40520/n°IFAO 5154, © G. Pollin, French mission in the Eastern Desert /IFAO).

© Z. Kosc, W. van Rengen, A.Bulow-Jacobsen, G. Pollin

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Architectural wooden elements from the Roman period. A. Teakwood (Tectona grandis) board with iron nail (left), cross lath (hole on the right) and layer of pitch or tar, also seen as re-used maritime element Berenike (after Fig. 14 in Vermeeren 2000a, photograph: C. Vermeeren, © Vermeeren 2000); B. Juniper (Juniperus sp.) plank, Xeron Pelagos (US 60608/Po2015 B, © A. Bülow-Jacobsen, French mission in the Eastern Desert).

© C. Vermeeren, A. Bülow-Jacobsen

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Roman maritime artefacts: A. Roughly cut ring made of teakwood (Tectona grandis), possibly a brail ring, Berenike (BE98-21.032 PB 042, after Fig. 9 in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photograph: Z. Kosc); B. Teak (Tectona grandis) object with tapered hole, used to block a rope, Berenike (BE98-21.027 PB 033, after Fig. 8a in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photographie: Z. Kosc); C. Brail ring made of African ebony (Dalbergia sp.), Myos Hormos (W072, after Fig. 5.1 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 208, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen); D. Dead-eye made of African ebony (Dalbergia sp.), Myos Hormos (W294, after Fig. 5.1 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 208, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen).

© Z. Kosc, W. van Rengen

Everyday objects

  • 11 Indications in parentheses are the code used to designate the taxa (acronym in uppercase) and/or lo (...)

16Everyday objects comprise the first, very heterogeneous, group of wooden artefacts (Fig. 3). Their numbers vary from one site to another. Three objects have been found in Xeron Pelagos, while Myos Hormos and Berenike have respectively 39 and 49 artefacts, representing a total of 27 types of objects whose function is more or less well recognized. There are fragments of tableware (bowl, spoon, spatula), tools (firelight, hook, handle), elements associated with storage and transport (stopper and lid, box), ornaments and hair accessories (bracelet, comb, ring), keys, styli, etc. The heterogeneity of these objects corresponds to analogous heterogeneity of the wood taxa. The large sample of wood used for amphora stoppers found at Berenike (N=14) and Myos Hormos (N=13) includes a first group of woods characteristic of the desert regions, which can grow locally or in the Nile valley, acacia, tamarisk and mangrove. Acacias (ACTO, ACTA)11 can include several species with anatomical features too similar to be distinguished by microscopic observations. The most common acacias of the Eastern Desert are trees up to several metres high, Acacia tortilis subsp. raddiana (sayyal) and Acacia tortilis subsp. tortilis (samur), and shrubs, Acacia ehrenbergiana (salam) and Acacia etbaica ('arad) (Mahmoud 2010, pp. 27-30) (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

A. Forest gallery of acacia trees (Acacia tortilis subsp. raddiana) along the wâdi Abu wasil (Photograph: C. Bouchaud). B. Acacia ehrenbergiana near Xeron Pelagos (al-Jirf) (Photograph: C. Bouchaud). C. Mangrove (Avicennia marina) growing on the Red Sea coast, south of Qusayr al-Qadim (after Fig. 5.15 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 222, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: M. van der Veen). D. Sea-blite (Suaeda monoica), near Berenike (Photograph: C. Vermeeren).

© C. Bouchaud, M. van der Veen, C. Vermeeren

17The genus Tamarix sp. (TAMA) comprises six species that can grow in Egypt in form of trees or shrubs, the two most common are Tamarix aphylla (itl) and Tamarix nilotica (turfa). Both grow either in the desert, on the edge of wâdis, in the sandy plains and saline soils, or in the Nile Valley (Boulos 2000, pp. 126-129). The grey mangrove Avicennia marina (AVIC shura manjaruf) and the red mangrove, Rhizophora mucronata (RHIZ) are typical of mangrove formations (Fig. 6) growing on the shores of the Red Sea (Boulos 2000, pp. 148-149, 2002, pp. 5-6, Schneider 2011). Some amphora stoppers are made of Mediterranean wood such as bark from cork oak, Quercus suber (QUESUB) and other deciduous (QUEDUC) and evergreen (QUEEVE) oaks. Finally more exotic taxa were also identified, including teak from India, Tectona grandis (TECGRA), known as hard, durable wood, and Baikiaea / Pterocarpus (BAIPTE) indicating an African or Indian origin (Vermeeren 1998 2000b; Van der Veen et al., 2011, p. 207).

18The taxa used for tableware –bowls, spatulas, spoons, undetermined containers– especially present at Myos Hormos, also show this great diversity. The wood of tamarisk and fig tree, Ficus sp. (FICU), suggests manufacturing locally or in the Nile valley. Fig wood has been arbitrarily classified in the local taxa group because wild fig, Ficus palmata (hummat, tin barri) can grow on rocky slopes and along the wâdis of the desert. However, the genus Ficus sp. can also refer to the common fig tree, Ficus carica, growing in the Nile valley and having a similar anatomy. The identification of sycamore fig, Ficus sycomorus can be excluded because it has other distinctive anatomic features. The tableware also includes several objects made of wood that cannot grow in Egypt, and, thus, were imported from Mediterranean regions and/or continental Europe, such as Scots/black pine group, Pinus sylvestris/nigra (PISYNI), ash, Fraxinus sp. (FRAXI) or elm, Ulmus sp. (ULMU) –or the Indian subcontinent, such as teak.

Domestic architecture

19Domestic building elements, boards, poles, wedges, tenons have also been identified from Myos Hormos, Berenike and Xeron Pelagos (Fig. 4). Most were found in destruction or rubbish levels, thus limiting our understanding of their function. The absence of technical study prevents us to know the exact nature and shape of these building elements, or to restore their exact place within the architecture. Nevertheless, some indirect evidence, such as door lintels, sockets and empty spaces, nevertheless suggests the almost systematic presence of wooden doors and roofing (see, for example, the architectural descriptions of the forts in Cuvigny 2003). Once again, the main taxa used show a large diversity dominated by local wood, especially acacia, Mediterranean wood, such as pine or juniper, Juniperus sp. (JUNI), which can come from the Sinai Peninsula (Boulos 1999, Zahran, Willis 2009) and Indian woods, especially teak. A pin fragment found at Berenike corresponds to one of the two occurrences of fir, Abies spp. (ABIE), the second comes from an unknown object found at Didymoi (Table 2). Fir, although growing in high-altitude areas of some Mediterranean regions, may also be imported from farther afield, from temperate Eurasian regions or Anatolia. At Berenike, several fragments of teak planks have a curved shape as well as iron nails, cross lathes and layer of pitch or tar that do not find any logical architectural explanation. These have been interpreted as reused boat hull planks (Vermeeren 2000b, pp. 340-341). It is, therefore, probable that all the teak fragments, such as the tenons found at Myos Hormos, correspond to material originally used in maritime equipment contexts.

Maritime equipment

  • 12 Many brail rings have been found at Berenike, but only two have been studied.

20These latter elements in teak can possibly be integrated into the third category of wooden artefacts which groups objects whose maritime function is clearly identified. They are only found on the two ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike. Multiple examples of brail-rings (Fig. 5) have been identified on both sites (16 at Myos Hormos, 2 at Berenike),12 including one from Myos Hormos found with a fragment of sail still attached to it. On this site, pulley wheels or sheaves, deadeye (Fig. 5) and cleats were also identified (Vermeeren 2000b, p. 332; Whitewright 2007; Van der Veen et al., 2011, p. 206.). This sailing equipment is mostly made of teak wood, tamarisk, and possibly African ebony, Dalbergia melanoxylon. Indeed, the structure and the very dark colour of objects made of Dalbergia sp. (DALB) found at Myos Hormos could indicate that they were made of African ebony, which is distinct from the more commonly known black ebony, Diospyros ebenum, native to India. African ebony, a native of sub-Saharan dry savannah is attested in Egypt from the Middle Kingdom onwards (Delange 1987, p. 129) and regularly used during the New Kingdom for making furniture and sculpture (Gale et al. 2000, pp. 339-340). These wooden elements, together with the actual remains of sails, linen and cotton, found in abundance on both sites (Wild, Wild 2001; Handley 2004; Wild, Wild 2014) attest the presence of merchant ships, which crossed the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean (Whitewright 2007; Blue et al., 2011). The origin of these ships, either Mediterranean, local or Indian, is an issue still widely debated (see below).

Wood shavings and chips

21A final group includes shavings and chips. These remains found at Myos Hormos (N=24) and Berenike (N=55) include a large number of taxa at both sites. The acacia, the evergreen oak, and the Scots/black pine group dominate at Myos Hormos (Van der Veen 2011, p. 207) while acacia and teak are the best represented taxa in Berenike (Vermeeren 1998, 1999b, 2000b). Among them, the local wood fragments (acacia, tamarisk, mangrove) probably illustrate the shaping of wooden trunks and branches available nearby, while the abundant presence of teak wood wastes indicates, like the boards mentioned above, probable re-use and cuttings of pieces of boats and furniture made of Indian wood (Vermeeren 2000b, p. 335).

Fuel

22The presence of charcoal in the soil layers and dumping areas shows its use as fuel in domestic activities for heating, cooking, lighting, etc. Some specific contexts also attest the use of fuel for metalworking and pottery firing (see below). These charcoal assemblages come mainly from secondary deposits (waste from the fireplace, dumps, etc.) and can result from one or more combustion events occurring over time, which are not necessarily of the same nature. Alongside these fuel remains, the presence of accidentally burnt timber (fire) cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, no clear context of burnt structures has been the subject of an anthracological study to date.

Local gathering

  • 13 Two other jujube species found in Egypt in the Nile Valley, Ziziphus lotus and Ziziphus nummularia (...)

23The vast majority of the fuel, all contexts and sites combined (7 sites), corresponds to taxa that can grow in the immediate vicinity of the sites (Table 3, Fig. 7). Acacia charcoal is identified at all sites, highlighting the major economic role of acacia trees as timber (see above) and fuel (Fagg, Stewart 1994; Le Floc'h, Grouzis 2003). Several desert taxa are present on at least three of the seven sites: the tamarisk, which can correspond to several tree and shrub species (see above); the Chenopodiaceae (CHENO containing the genus, Salsola and Suaeda, SALSUA), which includes a large number of tree and shrub species, growing along wâdis, sandy and rocky plains or on saline soils (Mahmoud 2010) including sea-blite (Fig. 6); and the bentree, Moringa peregrina (MORPER, maya), whose current distribution is reduced to areas above 700 meters (Mahmoud 2010: 99). The shrubs Leptadenia pyrotechnica (LEPPYR, markh) and Ziziphus sp. (ZIZI) –which probably correspond to the Christ’ thorn tree, Ziziphus spina-christi (nabq, sidr)13– also are part of the major taxa. Mangrove taxa, in particular grey mangrove, are only present on coastal sites, where they represent a significant proportion of the charcoal remains.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

Occurrence of the most common woody taxa at each site, wood in yellow, charcoal in grey, grouped by site and geographical affinity, following the data presented in tables 2 and 3. Each bar represents the number of samples in which a taxon has been identified. Only taxa attested on at least two sites or in at least five samples, as either charred or uncharred wood, are represented. Bevelled bars indicate that the taxon is present in more that 30 samples (actual number given in italics). See tables 2 and 3 for abbreviations of site names, plant names as well as qualitative and quantitative details.

24The twenty-nine remaining taxa are in the minority and correspond mostly to bushes and shrubs (Table 3). They illustrate both the diversity and amplitude of desert wood resources used by the inhabitants. These floristic spectra offer a priori a non exhaustive picture of the woody vegetation growing around archaeological sites. For example, mangrove wood is used as fuel on coastal sites where mangrove formations are present, and the bentree is mostly attested on the quarry sites, Mons Claudianus, Mons Porphyrites, Badia and Kainè Latomia (Fig. 7), all located in high altitude areas where this tree grows naturally. Beyond these qualitative observations, the number of samples and fragments of charcoal studied is not sufficient to detect possible differences in plant diversity from one site to another.

25It is worth noting that Zilla spinosa (ZILSPI, shuk), which is a fuel commonly used alongside acacia, is almost absent and only represented here in small quantities at Mons Porphyrites, and perhaps among the undetermined fragments from the Brassicaceae family at Myos Hormos and Kainè Latomia. Its scarcity is probably due to the fact that the light twigs of this bush are generally used to start a fire and are, therefore, less likely to be preserved among the ashes and charcoal of the fireplaces. However, the presence of charred fruits of this shrub on the sites (see for example the botanical results from Mons Claudianus in Van der Veen 2001, those from Mons Porphyrites in Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007 as well as the unpublished data of Xeron Pelagos), attests its presence and use as fuel. Other taxa identified within charcoal assemblages such as Cornulaca (CORN), Lycium shawii (LYCSHA), etc., also show the repeated use of twigs and small fire wood.

26In addition to wood resources, other flammable materials have been used as fuel, but do not appear in charcoal assemblages. These include cereal by-products, chaff and straw (see below), palm leaves and animal droppings (camel and sheep/goat), which were widely available at these sites. The use of dung, sometimes mixed with cereal by-products is widely documented archaeologically and ethnographically in domestic contexts. It is demonstrated at Badia (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007, pp. 106-107) and at Kainè Latomia (unpublished Newton). At Xeron Pelagos, the presence of camel dung with acacia and tamarisk charcoal highlights the effectiveness of this type of fuel to provide sufficient and durable heat for heating the baths (Bouchaud, Redon 2017).

Fuel imports from the Nile Valley

  • 14 Confusion with Prosopis is also possible, even if it is not present in Egypt.

27Alongside the extensive exploitation of fuel resources from the desert, there are at least two indications for the importation of fuel from the Nile Valley. The first is the identification of the Nile acacia, Acacia nilotica (ACNI, sunt) found at Myos Hormos, Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites. This tree has distinctive anatomical features that help to differentiate it from the other acacias. Nile acacia hardly grow in the desert and its charcoal is regularly found in artisanal contexts, suggesting the importation of fuel from the Nile Valley (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007, p. 107; see also discussion below). Of the three sites, the relative proportions of Nile acacia even exceed those of other types of acacia. Moreover, it is possible that the group of undifferentiated acacias (ACTA) on these sites and elsewhere include acacia from the Nile valley.14

28Secondly, there is the substantial presence among botanical assemblages of cereal by-products, such as chaff of durum wheat and, to a lesser extent, chaff of hulled barley. These remains are present in quantity in the communal kitchen at Mons Claudianus, possibly to fuel the bread ovens (Van der Veen, 2001, p. 216, Fig. 8.9) and in the dumps of Xeron Pelagos, here constituting probable waste from domestic households (see the contribution of Van der Veen et al. 2018). Botanical analysis of animal dung shows the import of cereal by-products from the Nile valley to provide feed and litter at the Eastern Desert sites (see the contribution of Van der Veen et al. 2018 and more generally Van der Veen 1999, 2007). It is reasonable to think that a part could be used in parallel as fuel.

Recycling timber

29At least ten tree taxa that could not grow in Egypt are present within the charcoal assemblages (Table 3, Fig. 7). They include taxa growing in high altitude areas of the Mediterranean or in Eurasian temperate regions –such as the group of Scots/black pine, deciduous oak (QUEDEC), elm, Ulmus sp. (ULMU)– as well as Mediterranean taxa such as stone/maritime pine, Pinus pinea/pinaster (PIPIPIN) and cypress, Cupressus sempervirens (CUPR) and tropical wood such as ebony (probably African ebony) and teak. They are mainly present at Myos Hormos and Berenike. Some rare occurrences have been recorded on other sites. It may seem surprising to find such exotic taxa among charcoal assemblages, since one can hardly consider that these woods originating from the Mediterranean regions of continental Europe, tropical Africa and India were specifically imported for feeding a kitchen fire. There is little doubt that they represent the reuse of end-of-life wooden objects as fuel. All these taxa are also represented among the uncharred wood elements. The practice of reusing timber as well as the use of diverse local trees and shrubs, animal waste, cereal chaff and straw and fuels imported from the Nile valley show the large spectrum of flammable materials.

Economic and environmental dynamics

30Here we look in more detail at how the study of wooden objects and charcoal can help us trace economic and environmental factors that may have influenced wood use from one site to another and across Egypt in the Roman period.

Species selection

The worked wood

  • 15 The architectural elements in question could be included in the category of maritime objects.

31Taxonomic identification of wooden artefacts, mostly from the ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike, and to a lesser extent from the fort of Xeron Pelagos, shows that certain categories of objects, such as the amphora corks or dishes were made from a wide variety of woods including Egyptian, tropical and Mediterranean woods (see above and Table 4). Other artefacts seem, instead, largely dependent on the choice of a taxon or a group (s). Thus, if we take into account the five best represented taxa (Fig. 7), namely the acacia (ACTO + ACTA), tamarisk, pine (PINU+PIPIPIN+PISYNI), African ebony and teak (Fig. 8), we note, first, that everyday objects are made with local wood (acacia and tamarisk); secondly, that the building elements are represented by local wood, pine (at Berenike) and teak (at Myos Hormos);15 thirdly, that the maritime objects are mainly made of African ebony and teak wood.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Distribution of wooden artefacts made of acacia, tamarisk, pine, African ebony and teak, according to their supposed function. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names as well as quantitative and qualitative details. Note that the boards made of teak from Berenike, which are probably boat parts reused in domestic architecture, are counted as maritime artefacts. Pegs from Myos Hormos are considered here as being building materials but they could also be maritime elements.

32The presence of tropical maritime woods including rigging and hull equipment at Berenike and Myos Hormos and the presence of linen and cotton sails (Wild, Wild, 2001, 2014) raise questions about how the ships were built and repaired. Indeed, it is been proposed that the technical construction was similar to that known in the Mediterranean world. It has also been suggested, from the study of epigraphic sources, that a “forest” of acacia could have been maintained and operated from Pharaonic times until the medieval period for ship building at Coptos, the parts being transported to the ports and reassembled on site (Gabolde 2002). This proposal is similar to that made in the late 19th century by W. Golenischeff who, crossing the desert to Berenike, suggested that the acacias near the ports were used to build boats (Golenischeff 1890, pp. 89-90). However, the raw materials (wood and textiles) clearly identified as belonging to old ships from the Roman period are neither of Egyptian nor of Mediterranean origin. Exceptions are the few objects made of tamarisk wood, potentially of olive tree, Olea europaea (OLEA) and of a taxon of the subfamily Maloideae (MALO), which includes fruit trees such as apple and pear whose cultivation is known at this time in the Nile valley (Barakat, Baum 1992). Flax sails probably came from the Nile valley too (Wild, Wild 2001). The objects made of African ebony reasonably indicate a tropical African origin while teak objects (Van der Veen et al. 2011, p. 207) and the weaving techniques for cotton sails (Wild, Wild 2001; Handley 2004; Wild, Wild 2014) clearly show an Indian origin. On this basis, we could have, on the one hand, Roman ships, made on Mediterranean models, built with Mediterranean and/or Egyptian woods, and on the other hand, boats built in India, whose manufacturing process is still poorly understood (Whitewright 2007; Blue et al. 2011). Some teak elements (wood chips and boards) and the cotton sails from the ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike may come from ships built in India, but reused for repairing locally built Roman ships, in such a way that it is not possible to recognize the wood species originally used to build the Roman ships.

33Less common wood taxa were also chosen for specific objects / categories. For example, combs are mostly made of boxwood, Buxus sempervirens (BUXU) and are amongst the everyday most frequently identified items at Myos Hormos (Van der Veen et al. 2011, p. 216). The boxwood grows in Europe, the Levant, North Africa, Central and East Asia (Gale Cutler 2000); it is, thus, impossible to pinpoint the place of origin / manufacture of these items. However, the frequency of boxwood combs on other contemporary sites in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean suggests that these objects travelled regularly along Roman trade routes, likely indicating a circum-Mediterranean origin (Bouchaud et al. 2011; Derks, Vos 2010).

Fuel in an artisanal context and charcoal making

  • 16 These military chores are mentioned at Xeron Pelagos (pers. comm. H. Cuvigny) and in other regions (...)

34The plant list obtained by the analysis of charcoal from the seven Roman sites shows the widespread use of fuel resources for which geographical proximity seems to be a determining factor. These resources were supplemented by fuel imports from the Nile Valley and recycled timber reaching the end of its life (see above). Several ostraka –or potsherds bearing texts, here in Greek– show that soldiers of the Roman army collected wood in the immediate vicinity of the military forts.16 Plant diversity expressed within charcoal spectra echoes modern Bedouin practices gathering a wide range of wood resources available in the area. Bedouin people used to collect dead wood and fresh cut wood, limiting their cutting to the branches rather than the entire trunk (Hobbs 1989, p. 53; Christensen 2001). Some of them have other criteria of selection, which are more subjective and difficult to identify in the archaeological context, preferring acacia for long lasting fires, sea blite (SALSUA) for cooking and the species Lycium shawii (LYCSHA) when the fire has to be started in the rain (Hobbs 1989; Vermeeren 2000b).

  • 17 As already mentioned, some charcoal contexts potentially result from a mixture of domestic and craf (...)

35The majority of charcoal come from waste contexts considered “domestic”.17 Several charcoal assemblages also clearly correspond to artisanal contexts, such as from the forge at Kainè Latomia (Newton unpublished), charcoal waste probably corresponding to craft or ‘industrial’ activities in the satellite fort of Badia and, at Mons Claudianus (sector “Well sebakh”) (Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007, pp. 107, 137), and in a probable brick-making workshop at Berenike (Vermeeren 1998). Comparison of these different types of charcoal assemblages shows the same trend from one site to another: the number of taxa present in domestic contexts is higher than the number of taxa found in craft/industrial contexts (Fig. 9). Of course, the larger number of domestic samples can naturally explain more plant diversity. However, taxa found in craft contexts correspond mostly to charcoal from acacias: Nile acacia (Acacia nilotica), a local type of acacia (Acacia tortilis) or undifferentiated acacias at Mons Claudianus (88%), Badia (more than 90% of the total number of fragments) and Kainè Latomia (100%). Mangrove charcoal dominates at Berenike (79%). The small number of specific contexts and the low number of charcoal fragments studied ask for caution, but, nevertheless, it looks very likely that specific fuel selection was practiced for ‘industrial’ activities such as metalworking (acacia) and brick making (It should also be considered that a clearing of the harbour area of mangrove would have provided a large availability), both activities that require control over the intensity and duration of the combustion.

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

Charcoal analysis. Comparison of the number of taxa represented in supposedly domestic contexts and in some contexts with technological function requiring high burning temperatures. For the latter, the dominant taxon is given, expressed as the relative proportion of the total number of fragments (%). Nb: number of samples, NR: number of fragments. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names.

36The use of charcoal from charcoal making, was essential for some of these ‘industrial’ activities. Charcoal can also be used for routine activities such as for making coffee today by the Bedouins of the Beja tribe in the mountains of the Red Sea (Christensen 2001). Several ostraka from Mons Claudianus mention the use and transport of charcoal from the Nile Valley to the sites of the imperial quarries of Mons Claudianus and Porphyrites (including Badia) (O.Claud. I 21; O.Claud. IV 697; O.Claud. IV 742; O.Claud. IV 826; O.Claud. IV 850). Three ostraka found at Kainè Latomia also mention the import of charcoal from the Nile Valley for workshops repairing metal tools (O.Kala inv. 596; O.Kala inv. 63; O.Kala inv. 507; A. Bülow-Jacobsen, pers. comm.). A major obstacle hindering the research on this topic is our present inability to differentiate, using anatomical observation, charcoal obtained from charcoal making from fresh or dried firewood. The presence of intentionally produced charcoal in charcoal assemblages has been demonstrated indirectly. The studies conducted at Mons Claudianus, Porphyrites and Badia relied on four indices: taxonomic identification, fragment size, the presence or absence of twigs and charcoal hardness. Charcoal of Acacia nilotica and Acacia tortilis had, in general, a greater proportion of large fragments (≥30 mm), more hard fragments (difficult to break), as well as fewer twigs than the two other main taxa in the charcoal corpus, namely Leptadenia pyrotechnica and Moringa sp. Both types of acacia are also proportionally more abundant in archaeological areas connected to metallurgical activities (as at Badia and in the Well sebakh sector of Mons Claudianus: Van der Veen, Tabinor 2007).

37Other studies assume that the observation of puffing effect (bubbles) and radial cracks indicate charcoal making from green wood (Vermeeren 1998, p. 346; Krzywinski 2001, p. 137). However, the size, the hardness of charcoal (from soft to hard) and the puffing effect are not criteria currently used by the specialists of charcoal making, and no methodological study has yet been conducted to demonstrate a correlation between these proxies and the degree of combustion. Furthermore, it has been shown that the observation of radial cracks in cross-section is not a relevant criterion to demonstrate the combustion of green woods (Thery-Parisot, Henry 2012). On the contrary, the reflectance measurement does appear to be an effective tool to estimate the temperature of combustion and thus intentional charcoal production. To date, this method has not (or little) been tested on archaeological material (Braadbaart Poole 2008).

  • 18 Nile acacia is a strong wood, which is difficult to work. It is used in the Nile Valley, especially (...)

38In addition to the written sources mentioning the importations of charcoal from the Nile Valley, the strongest argument in favour of this practice is the abundance of Nile acacia charcoal in non-domestic contexts. Its recurring presence in those specific contexts and its absence in the desiccated wood corpus18 suggests that at least some acacia wood was brought from the Nile Valley as charcoal, reducing the weight and volume for transportation while meeting the important fuel needs at different sites. The convergence of papyrological sources and the charcoal results (Fig. 7) indicate that these imports were particularly aimed at quarry sites. On the other hand, the hypothesis of locally made charcoal on these sites or elsewhere, using desert acacia, such as Acacia tortilis subsp. raddiana whose calorific value is recognized (Le Floc'h Grouzis 2003, p. 46) or mangrove wood, remains largely untested. This practice has been suggested for the exploitation of desert gold resources during Pharaonic times (Gale et al. 2000, pp. 353-354) and during the Ptolemaic period (Bouchaud forthcoming). It was still common until recently among Bedouin populations (Hobbs 1989; Belal et al. 2009; Andersen 2012).

Comparisons between sites: site functions and the regional economy

39The wood diversity differs from site to site, in both the number of taxa identified and their geographical origin. These differences partly depends on the amount of archaeobotanical samples as well as the state of preservation. For example, the small number of charcoal samples and the absence of desiccated wood identified at Badia, as well as the absence of charcoal studies at Didymoi certainly explain the low number of taxa identified on these sites. Similarly, the larger number of samples from Myos Hormos and Berenike produces a richer taxonomic list. In addition, other types of explanation can explain taxonomic differences between sites.

40The classification of taxa by provenance, combining the results of the analysis of uncharred and charred wood of each site (Fig. 10) provides an initial qualitative comparison.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Number of taxa identified per site, including results of both wood and charcoal identifications, grouped according to their most likely provenance. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names, provenances as well as quantitative and qualitative details.

  • 19 The persea is only present as charcoal at Mons Porphyrites. It could, however, like Scots/black pin (...)

41Thirty-five taxa are shrubs and trees growing in the desert. These local taxa, dominated by desert acacia (Acacia tortilis type) are attested everywhere. The cultivated or naturally growing plants coming from the Nile or the Western Desert oases are represented by nine taxa. The most ubiquitous taxon, Nile acacia, especially present at the quarry sites (Mons Claudianus and Porphyrites) is probably related to the import of charcoal. The remaining eight taxa are only represented sporadically, such as possible olive wood and Maloideae at Myos Hormos, the persea,19 Mimusops laurifolia (MIMU) at Porphyrites –a fruit tree protected by the state during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (Manniche 1989, p. 121)–, or the reed (ARPHR) at Xeron Pelagos. Nineteen taxa are typical of the Mediterranean region and/or more northern areas of Europe or the Middle East. Most of the imported taxa can grow in any part of the Mediterranean (maritime/stone pine, boxwood, evergreen oak, cypress, etc.), including the Sinai (juniper). Others, like the group of Scots/black pine, elm, fir, although growing in high altitude areas of certain Mediterranean regions, may also attest long distance imports from temperate regions of Eurasia or Anatolia. Among those, pine and elm are the most frequently identified taxa, but attested only at Myos Hormos and at Berenike. Finally, eight taxa only found on the two port sites are exotic woods characteristic of tropical and sub-tropical India (teak, bamboo, Bambusa sp., BAMB) or Africa (African ebony).

42These observations highlight the difference between the supply of port sites and that of forts and quarries located further inland. This is due, on the one hand, to the use of wood and, on the other hand, to the economic and social status of the sites. As previously shown, the exotic tropical taxa are related to shipbuilding; logically, they are more present in ports than inland sites. Moreover, the two harbours provided numerous wooden objects, including personal items such as combs, and architectural elements, such as planks, made of wood from the Mediterranean/European mainland. These ports saw a multiplicity of human activity, with traders, officials of the Roman army, soldiers and civilians passing through or settling, each requiring different materials, including wood. The recycling of these pieces of wood as fuel (see above) resulted in the diversity observed in the charcoal assemblage. Conversely, the forts, way-stations and quarry sites are areas of residence and movement less directly related to long-distance trade: this situation is reflected by the types of wood. They represent a smaller geographic diversity, especially focusing on local taxa and to a lesser extent on Nilotic wood (for charcoal, see above) and on wood from the Mediterranean. As well as the study of seeds and fruits, faunal remains, textiles, pottery (see the various contributions in this volume of Bender et al. 2018, Leguilloux 2018, Tomber 2018, Van der Veen et al. 2018), the wood and charcoal remains help us to figure out the economic system of the Eastern Desert during the Roman period and highlight supply differences between the Red Sea ports and the inland sites.

Chronological dynamics

The exploitation of wood resources in the longue durée and the uniqueness of the Roman period

43The wood studies from earlier periods, from the Old Kingdom to the Late Period, generally derive from funerary contexts, often of important figures (see for example for the New Kingdom: Waly 1996; Newton 2002, 2009; and for the Third Intermediate Period: Asensi Amorós 2017). They correspond to Egyptian wood, such as acacia, tamarisk and sycamore fig and imported wood, predominantly from Levant and Mediterranean regions, such as cedar (Cedrus sp.) (see also Asensi Amorós 2003, 2016; De Vartavan, Asensi Amorós 2010). The cedar and acacia woods are resistant to wood-boring insects; they can be over-represented as they preserve particularly well, but their well-known resistance could also have influenced their choice as a material for funerary furniture (Newton 2009). However, the sycamore fig, which is less durable and of poor quality, is particularly well attested, probably because of its availability (Asensi Amorós 2008, p. 30). One domestic context from Upper Egypt provides data for the Pharaonic period (Middle Kingdom and Late Period): desert acacia and tamarisk are used for headrests and rods (Waly 1999). Pharaonic boat timbers were found at Mersa Gawasis (Gerisch 2007; Bard, Fattovitch 2008; Ward, Zazzaro 2010; Ward 2012) and at Ayn Soukna (Newton unpublished data). Once again, the identified woods correspond to Egyptian supplies (acacia, fig) and to imports from the Levant (cedar and deciduous oak). While the data from the Roman period do not allow us to identify the woods originally used for Mediterranean shipbuilding (see above), these Pharaonic elements support the hypothesis developed by Golenischeff (1890) and Gabolde (2002) assuming the use of acacia “forests” for the building and repair of ships.

44Charcoal studies of periods preceding the Graeco-Roman show local fuel supplies (e.g. for the Pre-dynastic: Newton Midant-Reynes 2007; Gatto et al. 2009; for the Persian period: Newton et al. 2013). Acacia charcoal is dominant on urban sites or sites linked to religious institutions in the Nile Valley, for instance at Amarna (Gerisch 2004), Giza (Murray 2005) and Karnak during the Late Period (26th Dynasty) (Newton et al. forthcoming). At Karnak, charcoal data and textual sources indicate a possible management of acacia plantations for charcoal making (Newton et al. forthcoming).

45For the periods covered by this paper, desiccated wood and charcoal found on Egyptian sites outside of the Eastern Desert are generally dated vaguely to the Graeco-Roman period (Marchand in press; Waly 2003 Vermeeren 2016), and datasets clearly dated to the Ptolemaic period, such as Tebtynis in the Fayoum (Marchand 2015), or to the Roman period (Bouchaud, Redon 2017; Asensi Amorós 2008) are too small to understand global diachronic dynamics (Asensi Amorós 2003). The use of the published or unpublished papyri from these periods would bring important information, but this would exceed the limited scope of this paper. For both Greek and Roman periods, the available studies highlight local fuel supplies, dominated by the acacia, tamarisk trees and fruit trees (date palm, olive tree and vine) (Bouchaud, Redon 2017; Vermeeren 2016). The same woods as well as imported wood from the Mediterranean/European regions –boxwood, fir, cypress, ash, beech, lime– were used as building materials or for specific objects.

46The charcoal and wood corpus of the Eastern Desert stands out from those of sites in the Nile Valley and the Western Desert oases, firstly because of the number of samples analysed (limited, but bigger than in other Egyptian regions) and secondly because it reflects the economic dynamism of the Roman period, involving the transport and use of wood at local, medium and long distances. While most identified taxa are similar to those found in the Nile Valley or Fayoum sites, the Eastern Desert assemblages are distinct in some aspects. For example, pines from the Mediterranean, already present in small quantities in earlier times and occasionally identified on the contemporary sites of Fayoum (Marchand in press; Vermeeren 2016), seem to have been widely used at Myos Hormos and at Berenike (see above). Teak is identified for the first time at both these sites (Asensi Amorós 2003). Its absence on inland desert sites or in the Nile Valley and in the Western Desert oases indicates that this wood was preferentially linked to maritime activity, for Indian ships, and that it was not (or was little) traded in the Egyptian territory under Roman rule.

The use of cedar in Roman times

47Cedar, Cedrus sp., a prized wood regularly identified for making funerary furniture, buildings and boats from the pre-dynastic period onwards (Gale et al. 2000, p. 349; Newton 2002; Asensi Amorós 2003; Newton 2009) is absent from the Roman corpus of the Eastern Desert despite an impressive taxonomic list. This may be related to functional and contextual aspects, this wood being used for buildings or objects not used in the Eastern Desert. Nevertheless cedar has not been identified on other contemporary Egyptian sites, with the exception of two supports for painted portraits (Asensi Amorós 2008). Although an argumentum ex silentio should be used cautiously, it seems that cedar originated from Syrian-Lebanese regions (Cedrus libani) or, less likely, North Africa (Cedrus atlantica), but was not a main resource during the Greco-Roman period. Furthermore, the identification of cedar wood in written sources is rather confused. Indeed, the same popular name may be given to different botanical taxa as vernacular classification of plants does not necessarily coincide with the Linnaean classification. This is as true today as in the past, especially in the classical literature, suggesting that some Lebanese cedar identifications proposed in museum catalogues or archaeological reports might be incorrect, because a single term was used for both cedar and other conifers. Anatomically identified cedar is recognized for the Pharaonic period and perhaps for late Antiquity, as suggested by the fragments found at Abu Sha'ar (Fadl 2013), but its availability in Egypt during Greek and Roman times appears to have been significantly reduced. However, the reasons for these changes, potentially involving other products, such as sycamore fig, are not yet fully understand (changes in habits and/or practices of trade relations, or even decline of these resources are some of the many hypotheses that might be explored).

A scarcity of resources?

48The working hypothesis that comes to mind given the numerous activities involving the use of wood and charcoal on the “longue durée” is that these activities significantly affected timber resources available in the desert, in the Nile Valley or even, if we take the case of cedar, in other Mediterranean regions, leading to their scarcity. Current Bedouin populations perceive the Roman era as the first period of overexploitation of wood resources, partly because of large-scale charcoal making (Hobbs 1989, pp. 98-100). This hypothesis, if it is relevant (Krzywinski, Pierce 2001), is difficult to confirm. At present, the data prevent us to describe the qualitative and quantitative evolution of wood resources in the aforementioned regions. In the Eastern Desert, datasets are still too limited and suffer from excessive methodological bias (limited number of remains, narrow sampling) to describe the dynamics of biodiversity.

  • 20 Red mangrove is virtually absent from the Roman and Islamic corpus.
  • 21 This scarcity is observed in other parts of Egypt. The acacia was a rather normal find in Roman Kar (...)

49The only available data are for mangrove wood. The two main types, Avicennia and Rhizophora, probably corresponding to the grey mangrove, Avicennia marina, and red mangrove, Rhizophora mucronata, were recognized in the Eastern Desert datasets. Their presence, linked to coastal environments, is only recorded at Berenike and at Myos Hormos, suggesting both wide local use at these ports and low utility value elsewhere (Schneider 2006, 2011, 2017). The red mangrove is, for example, a timber known for its rot-proof qualities, making it popular for ship building and port architecture, but of little use at sites deprived of water. Currently, mangrove formations are extremely scarce, or even absent, around Berenike, and red mangrove has disappeared locally (Vermeeren 1998, p. 347, Schneider 2011, pp. 396-397). The study of wood and charcoal from medieval Kusayr offers the unique opportunity to compare these results with those of the Roman port of Myos Hormos and to follow the evolution of the corpus. This comparison highlights a net change between the two periods, marked in particular by a drop off of grey mangrove20 (Van der Veen 2011, p. 226). These few clues are the only relevant arguments demonstrating the impact of Human activities on the local vegetation. The chronological evolution of acacia population cannot be measured at present because of the lack of data. However, modern testimonies indicate that potential Roman over-exploitation did not cause irreversible consequences. At the beginning of the 19th century, Linant Bellefond described wâdis filled with acacias (Linant Bellefonds in 1831). E.A. Floyer made the same observation and observed, in the 1880s, acacia trees, some up to 10 metres high, exploited by the Bedouin for charcoal production (Floyer 1887, p. 670; quoted in Hobbs 1989). The scarcity of the wood resources of the desert21 observed nowadays seems to be the result of very recent developments during the last 50 years, marked among other things by the gold rush and increase of charcoal making, leading as well to the destruction of archaeological heritage and increasing desertification (Hobbs 1989, p. 100; Andersen, Krzywinski 2007; Redon 2017).

Summary and conclusion

50This first synthesis of wood and charcoal studies conducted on eight Roman sites in the Eastern Desert offers a regional overview of the uses and supply of wood resources. The arid conditions have allowed the preservation of wooden objects that are not generally found in archaeological contexts. These findings show the use of a wide spectrum of wooden artefacts and timber (domestic and maritime). Their presence underlines the important place of wooden furniture and objects in ancient societies and, indirectly, their under-representation on sites where the organic material is not preserved. The taxa list demonstrates the complex routes of supply which combine local exploitation of desert resources (acacia, tamarisk, bentree, mangroves, etc.), especially to satisfy fuel requirements, and acquisitions from the Nile valley (acacia) or Sinai (juniper), and imports from more distant Mediterranean regions (pine, oak), continental Europe (elm tree, fir) or tropical African regions (African ebony). The re-use of wood, such as teak from Indian boats, for building or as fuel also seems to be a common practice.

51Despite the heterogeneity of the studies between sites and the small amount of data in some cases, the results highlight both the diversity of resources and the selection practices. Special attention was paid to choose specific woods for buildings, for shipbuilding, for everyday objects and for heating. Thus, while the use of wood for making some objects (amphora corks, dishes) or for fuel might be described as opportunistic, some selection have been made for maritime objects and building material (tropical timber and pine) at the ports and for smithing activities in the quarries (acacia wood, some of which were being imported from the Nile Valley as charcoal) in order to benefit from the specific properties of the wood. Comparisons between sites show significant differences between the coastal sites (Myos Hormos and Berenike) and the inland sites. Like the studies of other materials presented in this volume, the study of wood resources identifies ports as the main hubs for the transfer and use of many products used in the Eastern Desert.

52Results from the Eastern Desert also provide unique data for Roman period in Egypt. The comparison with other contemporary sites in the Nile Valley and the Western Desert oases highlights the similarities, but also the emergence of new species such as teak, and the scarcity of cedar. The available corpus, however, remains too small to address some issues, such as the hypothetical local making charcoal and the impact of human activities on biodiversity dynamics. Ongoing archaeobotanical analysis and the examination of papyrological evidence are two paths that will be explored in the coming years in order to complete this first synthesis.

Aknowledgements

53Charlène Bouchaud and Marijke van der Veen wish to thank Jean-Pierre Brun and the College de France for the invitation to the conference of Paris 2016, where this study was presented by the first author. Charlène Bouchaud and Claire Newton thank Hélène Cuvigny for the invitation to participate in the French archeological mission of the Egyptian Eastern Desert, while Marijke van der Veen thanks Valerie Maxfield and David Peacock for inviting her to join their projects in the Eastern Desert, and Caroline Vermeeren thanks Steve Sidebotham and Willeke Wendrich for the invitation to join their excavations at Berenike. Also thanks to Hélène Cuvigny and Adam Bülow-Jacobsen for information about unpublished ostraka and Valerie Schram and Victoria Asensi Amorós for their comments on the previous versions of this article. Finally, we would like to thank Steve Sidebotham for this English translation of the French text.

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Notes

1 The French sometimes use the term "dendrologie".

2 Depending on the areas and issues arising, the sieve mesh used for an anthracological study varies between 2 and 4 mm (for details on the theoretical and methodological aspects of anthracological studies see Théry-Parisot et al., 2010).

3 This collection consists mainly of material collected by Claire Newton and Hala Barakat in Egypt and the North of Africa, and continues to be enriched. The wood is partly kept unchanged, and partly carbonized in order to facilitate its use for the identification of archaeological charcoal.

4 Taxonomy is the science and the laws of principles of the classification of living organisms. A taxon is an entity comprising living organisms, in this case plants, with common defined diagnostic characteristics and a phylogenetic relationship.

5 The botanical classification of angiosperms APG III (2009) does not recognize them as a family; Chenopodiaceae are now included in the family Amaranthaceae. However, for this paper we use the term traditionally used by the archeobotanical community.

6 The “sp.” suffix indicates that a single species of the mentioned genus is considered but that its identity is not known. The suffix “spp.“ indicates that several species of the same genus may be considered.

7 Only the taxon Myrtus/Santalum type was not taken into account in the corpus. The identification of these two fragments from Berenike as Myrtus/Santalum is very uncertain (Vermeeren 2000a, 2000b), and further represents two potentially rare taxa from completely different origins (Mediterranean region for Myrtus sp., and India for Santalum sp.)

8 The charcoal study of the site of Xeron Pelagos is ongoing.

9 The charcoal from Berenike is not included in this total, since the exact number is not known, with the exception of those studied during the 1996 campaign (Vermeeren 1998). Note, however, that tens of thousands of fragments were observed (Vermeeren 1999b, 2000b).

10 The function of wood pieces from Didymoi is not known; their data are not included in this discussion.

11 Indications in parentheses are the code used to designate the taxa (acronym in uppercase) and/or local Arabic names used by the ‘Ababda where known (from Hobbs 1989; Mahmoud 2010). The vernacular term in English is also stated in the text where applicable.

12 Many brail rings have been found at Berenike, but only two have been studied.

13 Two other jujube species found in Egypt in the Nile Valley, Ziziphus lotus and Ziziphus nummularia , may also be considered (Boulos 2000, pp.  85-86).

14 Confusion with Prosopis is also possible, even if it is not present in Egypt.

15 The architectural elements in question could be included in the category of maritime objects.

16 These military chores are mentioned at Xeron Pelagos (pers. comm. H. Cuvigny) and in other regions controlled by the Roman army, such as Dura-Europos, Syria (P.Dura 82, col. 2, l. 9) and Bu Njem, Lybia (R. Marichal 1992, p. 94).

17 As already mentioned, some charcoal contexts potentially result from a mixture of domestic and craft activities. In the absence of any other context index, only the particularity of the taxonomic spectrum (e.g. the over-representation of a taxon, see below) may indicate the existence of non-domestic discharges.

18 Nile acacia is a strong wood, which is difficult to work. It is used in the Nile Valley, especially in architecture, but this is not always the first choice (observation C. Newton)

19 The persea is only present as charcoal at Mons Porphyrites. It could, however, like Scots/black pine wood, match timber recycled into fuel.

20 Red mangrove is virtually absent from the Roman and Islamic corpus.

21 This scarcity is observed in other parts of Egypt. The acacia was a rather normal find in Roman Karanis where it is nowadays not or hardly present anywhere in/around the site (per. obs. Caroline Vermeeren).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Examples of anatomical sections of acacia charcoal from Xeron Pelagos, Roman period (1st-3rd c. AD). Left: cross-section, right: longitudinal tangential section. Anatomical observation of these allows us to identify a group of Acacia species, including: Acacia tortilis, A. ehrenbergiana, A. etbaica.
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Titre Fig. 2
Légende Location of sites (in red) for which wood and/or charcoal identifications are available in the Eastern Desert. See table 1 for details. Background map: Jean-Pierre Brun.
Crédits © All rights reserved
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Titre Fig. 3
Légende Examples of domestic wooden objects from the Roman period. A. Amphora stopper, Rhodesian teak/pterocarpus type (Baikiaea/Pterocarpus), Berenike (BE98-21 PB 045, after Fig. 7 in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photograph: Z. Kosc); B. Boxwood comb (Buxus sp.), Myos Hormos (W284, after Fig. 5.6 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 216, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen); C. Firelighter, Leptadenia pyrotechnica, Xeron Pelagos, (US 40510/Po220, © A. Bülow-Jacobsen, French mission in the Eastern Desert); D. Pen, acacia (Acacia sp.), Xeron Pelagos (US 40520/n°IFAO 5154, © G. Pollin, French mission in the Eastern Desert /IFAO).
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Titre Fig. 4
Légende Architectural wooden elements from the Roman period. A. Teakwood (Tectona grandis) board with iron nail (left), cross lath (hole on the right) and layer of pitch or tar, also seen as re-used maritime element Berenike (after Fig. 14 in Vermeeren 2000a, photograph: C. Vermeeren, © Vermeeren 2000); B. Juniper (Juniperus sp.) plank, Xeron Pelagos (US 60608/Po2015 B, © A. Bülow-Jacobsen, French mission in the Eastern Desert).
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Titre Fig. 5
Légende Roman maritime artefacts: A. Roughly cut ring made of teakwood (Tectona grandis), possibly a brail ring, Berenike (BE98-21.032 PB 042, after Fig. 9 in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photograph: Z. Kosc); B. Teak (Tectona grandis) object with tapered hole, used to block a rope, Berenike (BE98-21.027 PB 033, after Fig. 8a in Vermeeren 2000a, © Sidebotham & Wendrich 2000, photographie: Z. Kosc); C. Brail ring made of African ebony (Dalbergia sp.), Myos Hormos (W072, after Fig. 5.1 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 208, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen); D. Dead-eye made of African ebony (Dalbergia sp.), Myos Hormos (W294, after Fig. 5.1 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 208, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: W. van Rengen).
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Titre Fig. 6
Légende A. Forest gallery of acacia trees (Acacia tortilis subsp. raddiana) along the wâdi Abu wasil (Photograph: C. Bouchaud). B. Acacia ehrenbergiana near Xeron Pelagos (al-Jirf) (Photograph: C. Bouchaud). C. Mangrove (Avicennia marina) growing on the Red Sea coast, south of Qusayr al-Qadim (after Fig. 5.15 in Van der Veen 2011, p. 222, © Van der Veen 2011, photograph: M. van der Veen). D. Sea-blite (Suaeda monoica), near Berenike (Photograph: C. Vermeeren).
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Titre Fig. 7
Légende Occurrence of the most common woody taxa at each site, wood in yellow, charcoal in grey, grouped by site and geographical affinity, following the data presented in tables 2 and 3. Each bar represents the number of samples in which a taxon has been identified. Only taxa attested on at least two sites or in at least five samples, as either charred or uncharred wood, are represented. Bevelled bars indicate that the taxon is present in more that 30 samples (actual number given in italics). See tables 2 and 3 for abbreviations of site names, plant names as well as qualitative and quantitative details.
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Titre Fig. 8
Légende Distribution of wooden artefacts made of acacia, tamarisk, pine, African ebony and teak, according to their supposed function. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names as well as quantitative and qualitative details. Note that the boards made of teak from Berenike, which are probably boat parts reused in domestic architecture, are counted as maritime artefacts. Pegs from Myos Hormos are considered here as being building materials but they could also be maritime elements.
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Titre Fig. 9
Légende Charcoal analysis. Comparison of the number of taxa represented in supposedly domestic contexts and in some contexts with technological function requiring high burning temperatures. For the latter, the dominant taxon is given, expressed as the relative proportion of the total number of fragments (%). Nb: number of samples, NR: number of fragments. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names.
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Titre Fig. 10
Légende Number of taxa identified per site, including results of both wood and charcoal identifications, grouped according to their most likely provenance. See table 2 for abbreviations of site names, provenances as well as quantitative and qualitative details.
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Auteurs

© Collège de France, 2018

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