A man with a hoe stands atop a huge smoldering heap of dirt, while smoke emerges from a second pile nearby. What’s going on here? What lies beneath the dirt, and what exactly is this man doing? The production of charcoal began in ancient times, and the methods used for small-scale charcoal production changed very little over the years. A pile of logs was covered with dirt and straw and allowed to burn very slowly. If the covering was torn or cracked by the fire, additional soil had to be added to keep the pile airtight. This is apparently what the man with the hoe is doing. After about five days, the wood would be converted into charcoal. Connecticut’s iron industry used huge quantities of charcoal during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the production of charcoal during this period contributed to the deforestation of Connecticut’s western hills. Traditionally, charcoal burning was carried out in the fall, when the sap content of trees was lowest. The charcoal pits in this photograph were located in Burlington, Connecticut. The photograph was taken on October 10, 1890.