Burning Forests of the Past in Eastern Tigrai


The influences of Ethiopia's palaeoenvironments on its past societies may inform land management practices now. A staple for reconstructing palaeoenvironments is to record palaeovegetation changes. Botanical remains for reconstructing palaeovegetation are usually archived in lake sediments. Eastern Tigrai had the most developed ancient civilizations known to sub-Saharan Africa but no lakes. When we began research in Eastern Tigrai, the region had been deforested for so long that botanists assumed the natural vegetation was juniper forest from inventories conducted elsewhere in Ethiopia. We found charcoalized wood to be ubiquitous in soils that had been exposed by gullying in Eastern Tigrai, however. We started a reference collection and learned to identify larger charcoal fragments. Although we found evidence that juniper (Juniperus procera) forests had existed throughout the Holocene, they shared the landscape with vegetation types whose dominant species were less shade tolerant. Initial results suggested that climate may have influenced how forested sites were at any given time since forests were much rarer at ca. 2100 m than at 2500 m elevation. However, the quantity of identifiable charcoal in subsequent lower elevation sites near Mezber and Ona Adi suggests that factors other than climate could have a greater influence on vegetation types.

Cite this Record

Burning Forests of the Past in Eastern Tigrai. Zewdu Eshetu, Tsige Gebru Kassa, Valery Terwilliger, Mitchell Power, A. Catherine D'Andrea. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430981)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15297