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Journal Article

Olive Oil Pressing Waste as a Fuel Source in Antiquity

Erica Rowan
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 119, No. 4 (October 2015), pp. 465-482
DOI: 10.3764/aja.119.4.0465
Stable URL:
Page Count: 18
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Olive Oil Pressing Waste as a Fuel Source in Antiquity
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While wood and charcoal were undoubtedly the most widespread and commonly used fuels in antiquity, they were not the only sources of fuel, nor were they always the least expensive or the most favored. Cereal chaff, dung, coal, and animal fats, among others, were also used. There is growing scholarly recognition of the use of secondary fuels in the ancient world, particularly with reference to the production of a specific good, such as pottery. Olive oil pressing—so-called press cake, or pomace, the solid material that remains after the oil is collected—provide an underrated yet highly archaeologically observable example of these secondary fuels. The carbonization process turns material into a mass of carbon that does not decompose, is impervious to microbial attack, and does not react with other minerals and chemicals. Thus, the burning of pomace leaves behind fragments of carbonized olive stone, which are durable and invulnerable to decay.

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