Many words for fire: An etymological and micromorphological consideration of combustion features in indigenous archaeological sites of Western Australia

Ingrid A.K. Ward, David E. Friesem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The word ‘fire’ encompasses an enormous variety of human activities and has diverse cultural meanings. The word hearth not only has links with fire but also has a social focus both in its Latin origins and in Australian Indigenous languages, where hearth fire is primary to all other anthropogenic fires. The importance of fire to First Nations people is reflected in the rich vocabulary of associated words, from different hearth types and fuel to the different purposes of fire in relation to cooking, medicine, ritual or management of the environment. Likewise, the archaeological expression of hearths and other combustion features is equally complex and nuanced, and can be explored on a microscale using micromorphology. Here we highlight the complexity in both language and micromorphological expressions around a range of documented and less well documented combustion features, including examples from archaeological sites in Western Australia. Our purpose is to discourage the over-use of the generalised term ‘hearth’ to describe charcoal and ash-rich features, and encourage a more nuanced study of the burnt record in a cultural context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-24
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Western Australia
Volume104
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Royal Society of Western Australia 2021.

Keywords

  • Australia
  • Fire
  • Hearth
  • Language
  • Micromorphology

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