This paper presents the earliest evidence for the exploitation of lignite (brown coal) in Europe and sheds new light on the use of combustion fuel sources in the 2nd millennium BCE Eastern Mediterranean. We applied Thermal Desorption/Pyrolysis–Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and Polarizing Microscopy to the dental calculus of 67 individuals and we identified clear evidence for combustion markers embedded within this calculus. In contrast to the scant evidence for combustion markers within the calculus samples from Egypt, all other individuals show the inhalation of smoke from fires burning wood identified as Pinaceae, in addition to hardwood, such as oak and olive, and/or dung. Importantly, individuals from the Palatial Period at the Mycenaean citadel of Tiryns and the Cretan harbour site of Chania also show the inhalation of fire-smoke from lignite, consistent with the chemical signature of sources in the northwestern Peloponnese and Western Crete respectively. This first evidence for lignite exploitation was likely connected to and at the same time enabled Late Bronze Age Aegean metal and pottery production, significantly by both male and female individuals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This research is part of Philipp W. Stockham-mer’s European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project ‘FoodTransforms: transformations of food in the Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age’ (ERC-2015-StG 678901-FoodTransforms) funded by the European Research Council. The anthropological research in Tiryns was funded within the project “Negotiating Change – Cultural and Social Transformations in the Late 2nd Millennium BCE East Mediterranean: Case Studies from Tiryns, Greece, and Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel” (German-Israel Foundation for Science and Research; GIF; Grant No. 1080–132.4/2009; Aren Maeir and Joseph Maran) as well as the German Research Foundation (MA 1058/7–1 and 7–2; Joseph Maran). Katerina Harvati is supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 2237) and the European Research Council (ERC CoG 724703). Joann Fletcher is supported by Pharos Research.
© 2021, The Author(s).
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