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Maria Ntinou
Maria Ntinou, Ph.D.
Aristotle University
Thessaloniki, Greece

Maria Ntinou earned her degree in Archaeology in 1990 from the Dept. of History and Archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessa-loniki, Greece. In 2001 she completed her Ph.D. in the Dept. of Prehistory and Archaeology at the University of Valencia, Spain, where she specialized in the analysis and interpretation of the remains of wood charcoal (anthracology) from archaeological sites. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher in the research program, PlantCultl, of the European Union’s Research and Innovation Program, Horizon 2020, based at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She is also involved in the study of wood charcoal remains from several projects at the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete (Azoria, Moch- los, Papadiokampos, Gournia) and future studies will be carried out under her current research position (Mesorachi, Chryssi, Pelekita).

Wood charcoal macro-remains are common archaeobotanical finds in archaeological sites because, until recently, wood has been the main fuel source both in domestic (heating, cooking, lighting, etc.) and industrial activities (metallurgy, pottery kilns, glass manufacture, etc.). Moreover, in the past timber was widely used in the construction and manufacture of various objects. Wood charcoal remains can provide information on the vegetation and ecological conditions of the past, the management of woodlands, the utilization of woody plants in domestic and/or industrial fuel-demanding activities, and in construction or carpentry.

Olive charcoal (tangential longitudinal section) from Mochlos.
Systematic recovery methods are used to collect wood charcoal remains in the field (water flotation, dry sieving). In the laboratory, incident light dark/bright field microscopy (with x100–500 magnification lenses) is used to identify the woods that produced the charcoal remains. The botanical identification of wood is based on its unique anatomy, which varies between families, genera, and species, and it requires an observation of the type, shape, size, and distribution of the cells, fine details of the cell walls, and the interrelationship of the types of cells.

The interpretation of the laboratory analysis is based on the following distinctions: a) wood charcoal remains that are  concentrated in thermal structures and burned layers provide ethnobotanical information on the use of specific structures and woody plants; b) wood charcoal remains that are scattered in the sediments may pro- vide information on the diachronic composition of the woodlands that were managed for the provision of firewood.

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