Provenancing East Mediterranean cedar wood with the 87Sr/86Sr strontium isotope ratio
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87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios of cedar wood from forests in the East Mediterranean have been compiled in order to investigate the feasibility of provenancing archaeological cedar wood finds. Cedrus sp. forests furnished a great amount of wood in antiquity, for purposes ranging from ship to temple construction, and for fashioning cult statues and sarcophagi. The 87Sr/86Sr signatures of archaeological cedar samples may be compared with the preliminary dataset presented here to help determine the geographic origin of wooden artifacts. Sample sites include two forest areas in the Troodos Massif of Cyprus, five in the Lebanon, and two in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains. Sr ratios for wood varieties (i.e., early heartwood, late heartwood, sapwood, and twig wood) demonstrate relative uniformity between the xylem types frequently recovered from archaeological contexts. As such, this pilot study also assesses important issues of archaeological sampling and the geographical factors that influence Sr uptake in cedar trees of this region. While the regional signatures are distinct in most cases, small sample sizes and range overlap indicate the need for additional methods to make a case for a certain source forest. Alone, this method continues to be best used to disprove assumed wood provenances.
KeywordsCedrus sp Dendroprovenance East Mediterranean Strontium isotopes Timber trade
This project is supported by the Aegean and Near Eastern Dendrochronology Project and the Department of Classics at Cornell University, and the Centre for Archaeological Sciences at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Research support was also provided by the Central Africa Museum’s Laboratory of Wood Biology and Xylarium in Tervuren and the IAP VII Project: Greater Mesopotamia, Research of its Environment and History. Special thanks to the Belgian-American Educational Foundation and the Flemish Government’s Departement Onderwijs en Vorming for their generous financial support. We also thank the Cypriot Department of Forests for permission and assistance (in particular, Andreas Christou)—and especially the forestry officers at the Stavros tis Psokas station. Additional thanks are extended to Nabil Nemer at the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve in Lebanon for his invaluable support, field and otherwise, in 2010. For lab analyses and data management, the authors thank Kris Latruwe (Ghent) and Dennis Braekmans (Leuven). At the Cornell Laboratory in 2009 and 2012, we especially thank Charlotte Pearson and Peter Brewer.
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