Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

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Recent archaeological investigations in the lagunas di Santa Giusta and Mistras, waterlogged sites in central-west Sardinia, Italy, have enabled the recovery of archaeobotanical remains, exceptional in terms of quantity and preservation, dated to the Archaic and Punic periods in the 7th–3rd century bc . Among the finds was a significant amount of Olea europaea fruitstones (endocarps), which are discussed here. The morphometric features of these fruitstones, extrapolated by image analysis, were analysed statistically and compared to modern wild olive populations and cultivars. Thanks to the image analysis, it was possible to recognize the presence of O. europaea var. sylvestris (wild olive) and O. europaea var. europaea (cultivated olive) from the Archaic and Punic periods and to make suggestions about their use. Moreover, most of the cultivated type fruitstones identified by the statistical analysis can be attributed to a group of modern Sardinian cultivars, providing new data on the origin of cultivation and use of olives in Sardinia.
Around 400 bc , pottery- and iron-producing populations immigrated into the Inner Congo Basin (ICB) and subsequently spread upstream some major tributaries of the Congo River. Until recently, their subsistence was almost completely unknown. We present an archaeobotanical study of three sites in the ICB covering parts of the Early Iron Age (ca. 400 bc - ad 650) and of the Late Iron Age (LIA) as well as subrecent times (ca. ad 1300–2000). We studied 82 flotated samples of botanical macroremains, and 68 soil phytolith samples, recovered from the terra firme sites Iyonda and Mbandaka, and the floodplain fishing camp site of Bolondo. The EIA assemblage from Iyonda yielded domesticated Cenchrus americanus (pearl millet), Vigna unguiculata (cowpea), Canarium schweinfurthii , Elaeis guineensis (oil palm), several wild plants, and parenchyma fragments tentatively attributed to Dioscorea sp. (yams). The exploitation of these plants originated in the savannas and forest-savanna ecotones of West Africa. The presence of C. americanus in LIA contexts at Bolondo and Mbandaka, dated to ca. ad 1350–1550, indicates that its cultivation is not dependent on a seasonal climate with a distinct dry season, contrary to previous views. The role of C. americanus as a staple is difficult to assess; it might have been used for special purposes, e.g. beer brewing. In spite of extensive screening, we did not detect any banana phytoliths in the EIA samples. Musa phytoliths were only present in LIA contexts after ca. ad 1400, leaving room for the possibility that the introduction and spread of Musa spp. AAB ‘Plantain’ in the ICB was a late phenomenon.
The two-step Landscape Reconstruction Algorithm—comprising the models REVEALS and LOVE—translates fossil pollen assemblages into quantitative reconstructions of past vegetation cover. The REVEALS model has been applied to lakes and bogs of varied sizes, but application to records from alluvial sites is currently lacking and could further extend these reconstructions to areas where lakes and bogs are absent. In addition, since alluvial sites are often located in areas that experienced early anthropogenic impact, such data will provide more insight into land cover change in the context of agricultural development. In this paper, we test the performance of the REVEALS model using pollen records from multiple alluvial sites obtained from the floodplains of the Belgian Dijle catchment. The modelled vegetation cover is compared to the observed vegetation cover based on a historical land cover map of ca. ad 1775 (ca. 175 cal bp). The discrepancy between the modelled and the observed regional vegetation cover is relatively small and can largely be explained by local differences in land cover surrounding the sites, based on the results of the LOVE model. This study concludes that the LRA approach accurately reconstructs the regional vegetation cover of the river catchment based on pollen obtained from alluvial floodplains, and shows that it is able to reflect major local differences in land cover as well. Including pollen data obtained from alluvial floodplains could lead to a substantial increase in spatial coverage of future LRA-based land cover reconstructions.
Temperate broadleaf forests in eastern North America are diverse ecosystems whose vegetation composition has shifted over the last several millennia in response to climatic and human drivers. Yet, detailed records of long-term changes in vegetation composition and diversity in response to known periods of human activity, particularly multiple distinct periods of human activity at the same site, are still relatively sparse. In this study, we examine a sediment record from Avery Lake, Illinois, USA, using multiple metrics derived from pollen data to infer vegetation composition and diversity over the last 3,000 years. This 3,000-year history encompasses the Baumer (300 bce–300 ce) and Mississippian settlements (1150–1450 ce) at Kincaid Mounds (adjacent to Avery Lake), and captures differences in the impact that these groups had on vegetation composition. Both groups actively cleared the local landscape for settlement and horticultural/agricultural purposes. Given the persistence of fire-tolerant Quercus in conjunction with declines in other tree taxa, this clearing likely occurred through the use of fire. We also apply a self-organized mapping technique to the multivariate pollen assemblages to identify similarities and differences in vegetation composition across time. Those results suggest that the vegetation surrounding Avery Lake was compositionally similar before and after the Baumer settlement, but compositionally different after the Mississippian settlement. The end of the Mississippian settlement occurred simultaneously with a regional shift in moisture characterized by drier summers and wetter winters associated with the Little Ice Age (1250–1850 ce), which likely prevented this ecosystem from returning to its pre-Mississippian composition.
This paper summarises the results of multidisciplinary research, including pollen, plant macroremains, diatoms, Cladocera, molluscs and geochemistry from a 14C dated core and geomorphological records, which reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental conditions faced by Late Palaeolithic hunter-gathers in western Poland. Particular attention was paid to evidence for both human activity and the degree to which Late Palaeolithic groups may have affected the local environment, as recorded by the biogenic sediments in lakes located close to their campsites. Vegetation first appears locally in the Oldest Dryas, and consisted of subarctic tundra vegetation. During the Bølling period the landscape was generally open, with dwarf shrubs and scattered patches of Juniperus and Hippophaë shrubs. Betula (tree birch) expanded locally in the area only in the later Allerød; during the second part of the Allerød period, Pinus and Populus joined birch as a sparse woodland developed. During the Younger Dryas, the landscape changed significantly in comparison to the preceding warm period, as a result of cooling and drying of the climate. The presence of microscopic charcoal and charred herbaceous plant particles made it possible to detect human activity. These analyses allowed us to reconstruct fire events near the site during its occupation by Hamburg and Federmesser cultural groups. An increase in the proportion of biogenic elements such as Na, K and Mg in the sediments indicate soil erosion, reflecting the activity of Hamburg groups. A relative increase in the frequency of Cladocera which favours eutrophic and turbid water was recorded in the period linked to Federmesser group activities. The intense use of this area was also indicated during the Younger Dryas.
Calcium oxalate crystals: raphides and styloids; a-b, single raphide, aEphedra viridis, leafy green, bTypha latifolia female flower spike; c-d, raphide bundle of similar orientations, cArtemisia tridentata leaves, dT. latifolia female flower spike; e–f raphide bundles of different orientations, eA. tridentata leaves, fCercocarpus ledifolius leaves; g-j small raphide-types connected together and of different orientations, gAmelanchier utahensis fruit, hArtemisia dracunculus leaves, iA. tridentata leaves, jEphedra viridis leaves; k raphide “dumbbell” bundle; k Solanum jamesii leaves; l-q single styloid, lAmelanchier utahensis fruit, mFragaria vesca fruit, nHolodiscus dumosa leaves, oPinus flexilis nuts, pSolanum jamesii leaves, qT. latifolia female flower spike; r-w styloid cluster, rAmelanchier alnifolia fruit, sFragaria vesca fruit, tHolodiscus dumosa leaves, uP. flexulis nuts, vS. jamesii leaves, wT. latifolia female flower spike. Scale bars = 20 µm
Calcium oxalate crystals: crystal sand, druses, and prismatics; a-g crystal sand, aAmelanchier alnifolia fruit, bArtemisia tridentata leaves, cPinus flexilis nuts, dSambucus cerulea fruit, eSherpherdia argentea fruit, fSolanum jamesii leaves, gTypha latifolia female flower spike; h-j druse and druse-like, hOpuntia polycantha pads, iP. flexilis nuts, jS. jamesii leaves; k-p rectangular, single prismatic, kAmelanchier utahensis fruit, lA. tridentata leaves, mCercocarpus ledifolius leaves, nFragaria vesca fruit, oHolodiscus dumosa leaves, pP. flexilis nuts; q rectangular, prismatic cluster, qPinus edulis twigs; r-t hexagon prismatic, rA. tridentata leaves, sHolodiscus dumosa leaves, tRosa woodsii leaves; u rhombohedral prismatic, uPrunus virginiana leaves. Scale bars = 20 µm
Calcium oxalate crystals recovered from groundstone artifacts; a FS 219 raphide-like; b FS 219 prismatic; c FS 11975 prismatic; d FS 16494 prism; e FS 16642 druse. Scale bars = 20 µm
Organ/tissue collection
Calcium oxalate crystals observed in reference specimens examined
While developing a reference collection of silica phytoliths produced by plant species native to the Great Basin (Pearce and Ball 2019), we also observed another type of plant microfossil, calcium oxalate crystals, produced by the sampled taxa. Given that these crystals can be found in archaeological contexts, such as on six ground stone artefacts from Wolf Village, Utah, we report these observations, as they may be useful for researchers conducting microbotanical analyses of archaeological sites.
Basketry, matting and cordage were part of the material culture of past societies, but usually in most cases these materials are poorly preserved, unless special conditions like waterlogging, desiccation or salt play a key role in the depositional environment. This paper presents such a case study, dealing with the detailed analysis of a twilled burial mat fragment originating from the Kitova mound (second century ad-first half of third century ad) – a tumulus situated in eastern Thrace, Bulgaria. The reduced oxygen conditions inside the burial mound and the contact with metal corrosion products ensured the remarkable preservation of plant material forming the mat in a desiccated state and allowed the application of an integrated set of analytical techniques. This instrumental approach combined Light Microscopy (LM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and X-ray Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS). The matting technique was identified, being diagonal twilling, and the presence of spiny rush (Juncus acutus) as the raw material chosen for weaving the mat was confirmed; a possible local origin of the matting plants was suggested. It targeted the technological and taxonomical identification of the studied mat fragment and its archaeological interpretation. The design of this study remains flexible and could be successfully applied to archaeological basketry remains across different periods and geographical regions.
The island of Cyprus showing the seven phytogeographical zones, major settlements, palaeoenvironmental records and archaeological sites with Juglans pollen or Roman – Byzantine archaeobotanical remains. Phytogeographical zone 2 (Troodos Mountains), where Juglans regia is mainly found today, is highlighted in yellow. Phytogeographical divisions follow Meikle (1977, 1985) and Hand et al. (2011)
The chronological distribution of Juglans pollen on Cyprus, pollen concentration values in the Akrotiri Marsh records and key pre-historical and historical events relating to Juglans on Cyprus and in the wider eastern Mediterranean region. (1) Kearns and Manning (2019); (2) Kaniewski et al. (2013); (3) Harris (2007); (4) Lardos (2006); (5) Rautmann (2003); (6) Jouffroy-Bapicot et al. (2016); (7) Douché et al. (2021); (8) Langgut et al. (2013); (9) Eastwood et al. (1998); (10) Bell (2012); 11) Broodbank (2013);12) Langgut (2015); 13) Benzaquen et al. (2019)
The island of Cyprus has a long history of human impacts, including the introduction of more than 250 plant species. One of these introduced species is Juglans regia (walnut), which is considered a naturalised non-native (introduced in last 500 years). Here we report the earliest occurrence of Juglans regia pollen grains from a sedimentary deposit on Cyprus. The pollen recovered from the Akrotiri Marsh provides an earliest introduction date of 3,100-3,000 cal yr bp. This Bronze Age occurrence of Juglans regia is sporadic. However, by 2,000 cal yr bp the pollen signal becomes more persistent and indicates that introduction or expansion of Juglans regia was highly likely in the Roman period. We integrate our new results with younger pollen occurrences of Juglans regia on Cyprus, the archaeobotanical record and documentary evidence to provide an overview of this archaeophyte. Our findings show that, following the conventions of the Flora of Cyprus, Juglans regia should be reclassified from naturalised non-native to indigenous.
This paper presents new evidence for the harvesting of edible plant roots and tubers at Northton, a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer site on Harris, in the Western Isles of Scotland, in the north-west corner of Europe. The excavations uncovered abundant root tuber remains of Ficaria verna Huds. (lesser celandine), an excellent high energy and carbohydrate-rich food source, and produced the first evidence for the use of tubers of Lathyrus linifolius (Reichard) Bässler (bitter-vetch) at a hunter-gatherer site in Europe. Here we report on the analysis of the charred root and tuber remains and other charred plant macrofossils from the site and consider the significance of these results within the wider context of European hunter-gatherer subsistence. The wide range of root and tuber taxa recovered from European hunter-gatherer sites and the importance of appropriate sampling on hunter-gatherer sites are highlighted.
In order to better understand the potential effects of climatic change on forest cover during and after the Little Ice Age (ad 1550 to 1880), a high-elevation cirque Lake (Wildsee am Ruhestein) was cored and analysed using continuous plant macrofossil analysis, supplemented by standard pollen analysis. The plant macrofossil record provides local information for climate changes not clearly seen in regional pollen records for the Northern Black Forest. Abundant deposition of white fir (Abies alba) needles is restricted to the Little Ice Age, suggesting reaction to climatic cooling. Human impacts, particularly forest clearing, are well documented historically during the past millennium, but discrete peaks in needle flux are only recorded at Wildsee once Little Ice Age cooling begins. The first needle flux event at 39–42 cm depth has a median modelled age of ad 1650, at the start of the Maunder Minimum, recognized as a particularly cold interval. Also of climatic significance is the flux of 19 immature Abies needles recovered from the 30–33 cm layer, dated around ad 1720. This finding is interpreted as clear evidence of severe spring frosts during the Little Ice Age, discrete events that are well-recorded in historical observations. Pollen analysis also supports cooling, beginning at a depth of 54 cm, modelled at ad 1560 during the beginning of the Little Ice Age. A decline in oak (Quercus) pollen begins around ad 1560 at the start of pollen zone IV, which also includes the lowest total pollen accumulation rates seen, suggesting a climatic influence. The significant forest dieback (Waldsterben) events that were observed during the late 1970 and 1980 s could not be identified in our pollen and macrofossil data. The combined approach of using pollen and detailed macrofossil analysis provides a better reconstruction of forest history than either technique in isolation, and the combination is potentially important for management of protected areas such as the Black Forest National Park.
Locations of the sites
Botanical composition of remains from coffin pillows. a, number of taxa according to frequency classes (all samples); b, proportion of taxa in abundance classes I-IV (all samples); c, frequency of taxa in particular habitat groups (all samples and all abundance classes); d, Kraków and e, Byszewo), proportions of the number of taxa in particular habitat groups of plants (the data based on abundance classes II-IV). For further explanation see the text
Plant remains from Byszewo. a, Anthemis tinctoria, fragment of a receptacle with fruits; a1, pollen (Anthemis type); b, Centaurea cyanus, flower; b1, pollen; c, Artemisia sp., flowers; c1, pollen clump; c2, separate pollen; d, Mentha type; e, Tagetes type; f, Cerealia; g, Pinus; h, Secale cereale, spikelets; i, Hypericum perforatum, fruit capsule; j, Humulus lupulus, hop bracts; j1, stigmas; k, Fagopyrum esculentum, fruit; l, Satureja hortensis, calxy with fruits; l1, separate fruit; m, Buxus sempervirens, leaves; macroremains, scale bar, 1 mm (j and m. - 1 cm). Photos by M. Badura, M. Jarosińska, A. Kosmaczewska, A. Moryśkiewicz, Z. Grunt
Correspondence analysis biplot of the pillow samples and the number of taxa in the habitat groups of plants (data based on abundance classes II-IV); for further explanation see the text
The aim of this article is the study of the botanical material in the fillings of 54 coffin pillows from Catholic and Protestant burials dated to the 17th-18/19th centuries, collected during the investigation of 15 church crypts in different regions of Poland, and consideration of the role of the plants used for this purpose. In a large part of the dataset, a comprehensive picture of the botanical composition of the pillow fills has been obtained through the parallel studies of plant macroremains and pollen. Advantages and pitfalls in the use of pollen analysis on these specific remains are discussed. The results show that a large number of taxa were used in pillow fillings. The choice of plants was mostly dictated by their aromatic, insect repellent and preservative properties as well as their symbolic meanings, but the morphology and other physical properties of plants used in the fillings was also of importance. In some cases, the use of plants from bouquets which had been blessed in specific Catholic church ceremonies is suggested. The possible season of burial according to the botanical composition of the pillows is discussed.
Non-woody plant remains are known from burial contexts in North–western Europe, but get overlooked when preservation is suboptimal. While phytolith analysis has demonstrated its value regarding the detection of vegetative grave goods, systematic application of this method to graves in European archaeology is, however, scarce. This paper concerns the examination of the elite Viking-Age equestrian burial at Fregerslev II, where phytolith analysis, combined with pollen analysis, revealed the presence of two types of plant material in the grave. The phytolith analysis of Fregerslev II included the investigation of chaff located close to a horse bridle, the chaff being both detected in the field and during investigation of a block sample by means of stereomicroscopy, and systematic examination of other parts of the grave to interpret this find. Elongate dendritic chaff phytoliths were subjected to systematic morphological and morphometric analysis and subsequent statistical analysis. The application of both methods simultaneously to large numbers of phytoliths is unique. Comparison of the various samples showed that the chaff represents a concentration of oat, which is most likely common oat, with minor admixture of barley, interpreted as horse fodder, while bedding consisting of hay or straw was presented elsewhere on the bottom of the grave. The finds are placed in a wider context and methodological implications of the two identification methods applied to the chaff concentration are discussed.
The Dinaric Mountains are a region considered as a hotspot for late-successional montane mixed Abies alba-Fagus sylvatica-Picea abies old-growth forests. This is likely due to historical deforestation levels being presumably lower than in other European regions. This paper provides new insights into the long-term vegetation dynamics and possible legacies of past human activities in old-growth forests in the montane zone of the Dinaric Mountains. Our extensive ground survey and the detailed land-cover types map show that the mixed A. alba-F. sylvatica old-growth forest with sparse P. abies is surrounded by almost pure F. sylvatica stands at Biogradska Gora. The well-dated stand-scale palaeoecological records (pollen, spores, stomata, macrofossils, macroscopic charcoal, and magnetic susceptibility) show that land use (cereal crop cultivation, cattle herding, and fire) during the Middle Ages caused a reduction of the A. alba and P. abies-dominated forest. After a major land abandonment around the Black Death pandemic (mid-14th century) and weaker land-use phases, F. sylvatica-dominated stands developed in the more accessible areas surrounding the old-growth forest. The legacy of past land uses is still visible as the almost pure F. sylvatica stands show less old-growth characteristics than other European beech-dominated old-growth forests. Markedly in contrast to decreasing tree cover elsewhere in the region, tree cover increased several centuries before the formal protection of the forest (1878 ce). These results support the view that historical land-use pressures played an important role for the small extent and the continuity of disturbance-sensitive A. alba and P. abies-dominated old-growth forest stands.
Forests in the upper continental montane zone are important ecotones between lowland and subalpine forest ecosystems. A thorough understanding of the past vegetation dynamics at mid elevation is crucial to assess past and future altitudinal range shifts of tree species in response to climate change. Lake sediments from Lac de Champex (1,467 m a.s.l.), a small lake in the Canton Valais in the Central Swiss Alps were analysed to reconstruct the vegetation, land use and fire history for the last 14,500 years, using pollen, macrofossils, non-pollen palynomorphs and charcoal. The record indicates that the tree line had already reached the Champex area during the Allerød (14,000 cal bp ) but dropped below the lake’s catchment during the Younger Dryas cooling (12,750–11,550 cal bp ). Reforestation started again with Betula and Pinus sylvestris in the Early Holocene at 11,500 cal bp in response to rapid climate warming. Temperate tree species ( Ulmus , Tilia , Quercus , Acer ) may have reached the altitude of the lake during the Holocene Thermal Maximum (ca. 10,000–5,000 cal bp ). Mixed forests with mesophilous Abies alba were dominant between 7,500 and 5,000 cal bp . The mass expansions of Picea abies after 5,000 cal bp and Alnus viridis thickets after 4,500 cal bp were directly linked to increasing human disturbance. High values of coprophilous Sporormiella fungal spores and cereal pollen suggest pastoral and arable farming at the site from the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age onwards (5,000 cal bp ). Our data imply that vegetation at intermediate elevation was less affected by human activities than at higher or lower elevations but that these areas served as important stations between the permanent settlements in the valleys and the seasonally occupied alpine huts at higher elevations. We argue that future climate warming will lead to drastic reorganizations of mountain ecosystems.
Archaeobotanical investigations at the Roman town of Aelia Mursa, located near the Danube frontier in modern day Croatia, have revealed an extraordinary assemblage of food remains from a series of pits dated to the early 2nd century ad . The site yielded a wide array of economically important food remains, including staples such as Hordeum (barley), Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet), Triticum aestivum (bread wheat), Secale cereale (rye), Lens culinaris (lentil) and Vicia faba (broad bean). We also found a range of fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables, such as Daucus carota (carrot), Cichorium intybus (chicory), Allium sativum (garlic), Ficus carica (fig), Vitis vinifera (grape) and Olea europaea (olive). Further, we found clearly identifiable remains of eggshell, fish bones and scales, unidentifiable fruit flesh and porridge or bread remains, as well as possible animal dung. The site provides important evidence of exotic foods including Piper nigrum (pepper), Oryza sp. (rice) and Punica granatum (pomegranate). This diverse and unique assemblage provides a tantalising insight into the character of food, farming and trade of the people living on the frontier of the Roman Empire.
The history of forager subsistence strategies on the Tibetan plateau during the middle Holocene has been studied extensively, with valuable results from archaeozoology and archaeobotany being produced in recent years. However, changes to the resources collected by the foragers and the factors that influence them have rarely been discussed. Here we examine the differences and factors influencing charcoal identification and analysis results from both hand picking and flotation recovery methods at the Zongri site, revealing more accurately the use of firewood by the foragers and its relationship with climate change and the agricultural population. Our results show that there is a clear deficiency in tree taxa arising from hand picking, perhaps related to the quantity of charcoal collected and identified. The Zongri people mainly used nearby trees and shrubs, including Picea (spruce), Populus (poplar) and Hippophae (sea buckthorn). The material collected was dominated by green (living) wood, which might have been influenced by the farming culture in the adjacent area. The increasing use of Picea may be attributed to the selective collection of wood by the Zongri foragers, and not caused by climate change.
Palaeoecological research in Iceland has rarely considered the environmental consequences of landlord-tenant relations and has only recently begun to investigate the impact of medieval monasticism on Icelandic environment and society. Through the medium of two tenant farm sites, this investigation seeks to discern whether or not monastic landlords were influencing resource exploitation and the land management practices of their tenants. In particular, sedimentary and phyto-social contexts were examined and set within a chronological and palaeoecological framework from the late 9th century down to the 16th century. How this relates to medieval European monasticism is also considered while the prevailing influences of climate and volcanism are acknowledged. Palaeoecological data shed light upon the process of occupation at the two farms during the settlement period, with resources and land use trajectories already well-established by the time they were acquired by monastic institutions. This suggests that the tenant farms investigated were largely unaffected ecologically by absorption into a manorial system overseen by monasticism. This could be a consequence of prevailing environmental contexts that inhibited the development of alternative agricultural strategies, or simply that a different emphasis with regard to resource exploitation was paramount.
Location of the medieval settlements; 1, Donji Miholjac-Đanovci (DM-D); 2, Đakovo–Franjevac (D–F), Tomašanci–Palača (T–P), Pajtenica–elike Livade (P–VL), Jurjevac–Stara Vodenica (J–SV), Ivandvor–Šuma Gaj (I–SG), Ivanovci Gorjanski–Palanka (IG–P); 3, Bijela Stijena, Rašaška, Sv. Ivan Trnava
(adapted from Ramspott 2017)
Map showing the Kingdoms of Hungary and of Slavonia (Regnum Sclavoniae) in the middle of the 14th century and divisions of Slavonia into zupanija (regions)
(adapted from Regan 2003, pp 143–144, map 90–91)
Carbonised plant remains from medieval Donji Miholjac–Đanovci (DM–D); aCannabis sativa; bLinum usitatissimum; cSisymbrium sp.; dVerbena officinalis; from medieval layers at Tomašanci–Palača T–P; eTriticum aestivum/durum; fPhysalis alkekengi; gAgrostemma githago; scale bar = 1 mm, images by K. Reed
Excavation of the pit at Ivanovci Gorjanski–Palanka (IG–P) and a closer view of context SJ73, where sample 31 was collected; (image by J. Balen)
of the economic plant remains identified at each site
This paper presents the results from archaeobotanical remains collected from ten medieval settlements and fort sites in the region of present-day Slavonia, Croatia. From the 12th century ad , Slavonia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, although the region benefited from a certain amount of autonomy. Examining the archaeobotanical data from this period shows a diverse agricultural system, where crop fields, gardens, orchards, pastures and woodlands were all used to produce a range of cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs, as well as fibre plants. The dataset is dominated by cereal remains, especially Triticum aestivum/durum (free-threshing wheat), Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet) and Secale cereale (rye). Vitis vinifera (grape pips) were the most common fruit recovered, which corresponds with the presence of vineyards and international trade in wine noted in the literature by the late Middle Ages. Also of significance was the recovery of Cannabis sativa (hemp) and Linum usitatissimum (flax), which suggest local cultivation, possibly for linen and hemp fibres, for oil or for medicinal purposes.
Approximate distributions of wild Fagopyrum species, based on Ohnishi (2018, Figs. 12.5 and 12.6) and Hunt et al. (2018, Fig. 3). Land cover data from Natural Earth 1 (
Archaeobotanical records of Fagopyrum in China. Land cover data from Natural Earth 1, Borders of China and its administrative divisions from DIVA-GIS (2017). 1, Xindian; 2, Beizhuangcun; 3, Wang Xianggou; 4, Xishanping; 5, CM97; 6, Jingbian; 7, Fuxian; 8, Canduntou; 9, Wenhai lake; 10, H9602; 11, Jinchuan; 12, Muchang; 13, GH09B; 14, Lucheng; 15, Chenqi mogou; 16, Changning; 17, Dingjiawa; 18, Haimenkou; 19, Xueshan; 20, Yingpandi; 21, Yangjiawan; 22, Maquan; 23, Mozuizi; 24, Kyung-lung mesa; 25, Bayantala; 26, Sunchangqing; 27, Donghuishan; 28, Qugong; 29, Bangga; 30, Heshui; 31, HQ98; 32, Charisu; 33, Luochuan; 34, Shayema lake; 35, Wangjiadian; 36, Sihailongwan lake; 37, Xindian
Responses of the predicted log area under cultivation to changes in each of the predictor variables, while all the other ones are kept constant, at their mean values
Distribution of predicted values of log area under cultivation for administrative units in China (each weighted by its area) over the past 8,000 years, with 15,000 bp also included for contrast. Grey shadows represent violin-like plots that show the shape of the distribution; box plots represent the interquartile range for the same values. They are overlaid with a scatter of points representing values predicted for administrative units with buckwheat finds (pollen, charred seeds and starch grains). Sites mentioned in the text are labelled
Predicted log area under cultivation for that past 8,000 years, overlaid with locations containing past buckwheat records. Sites and areas mentioned in the text are labelled. The dashed black line indicates a minimum threshold at which buckwheat is present in the archaeological record and approximates the potential niche
We present a species distribution model (SDM) of Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat) in China using present distribution data and estimates for the past based on palaeoclimatic reconstructions. Our model estimates the potential area suitable for buckwheat cultivation over the last 8,000 years, with northeast China consistently showing the highest suitability, providing insights on the discrepancy between the location of the earliest archaeobotanical records in the area and its origins in southwest China based on biogeographic and genetic data. The model suggests little to no variation over time in the spatial extent of the potential area suitable for buckwheat cultivation. In the northern parts of China, the limits of the ecological niche largely fall within the borders of the study area, while to the west it never extends into the main Tibetan plateau, explaining the lack of fossil evidence from Central Asia. In the southwest, the niche overlaps with the borders of modern China, which supports this direction as a viable route of westward dispersal. The comparison between the prediction from the model and sites with archaeobotanical evidence for Fagopyrum indicates that the environmental niche it occupied remained stable over time. This may contrast with a dispersal pattern characterised by continuous adaptations to new environments facilitated by human activity, which may be suggested for other major and minor crops.
Throughout northern Africa, evidence for an intensification of wild grass gathering is reflected in Holocene archaeological contexts. However, both the recovery of macrobotanical assemblages and the specificity of their taxonomic classification are heavily influenced by food processing and post-depositional conditions. In contrast, inflorescence phytoliths provide high levels of taxonomic specificity and preserve well in most archaeological contexts. This study analyses the in situ morphology of inflorescence phytoliths from modern specimens of nine wild C4 grass species commonly observed in ethnographic studies and recovered in seed assemblages from archaeological contexts across northern Africa. Morphological differences in Interdigitate phytoliths within the fertile florets of six Paniceae species enabled differentiation between them. The morphological parameters established in this study provide an additional resource for archaeological and palaeoecological analyses using phytoliths, which demonstrates the effectiveness of applying this method to African wild grass species.
Although the Xinzhai period (1850–1750 cal bce ) has been widely regarded as a critical time for the development of urbanization in China, little is known about the labour and social organization of the time. In this paper, archaeobotanical assemblages have been used to explore evidence of crop processing and they have provided further insights into the organization of labour and society at the Xinzhai site on the Central Plain of China. This is the first case study linking agricultural activities and social organization in the Xinzhai period. By discussing macro-botanical and phytolith results together, we conclude that the hulled cereals Setaria italica (foxtail millet), Panicum miliaceum (common or broomcorn millet) and Oryza sativa (rice), and the free-threshing pulse Glycine max (soybean) were all partly processed before storage to reduce labour demand in the harvest period. Since these summer-sown crops are all harvested in autumn, the practice of partial processing might imply that less labour was needed before storage. Thus, the labour for crop processing appears to have been organized on the basis of small production units such as households. This pattern is different from the communal bulk processing of crops before storage by the contemporary inhabitants of Dongzhao. Different patterns of social organization in various settlements in the Xinzhai period can thus be suggested. This conclusion contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the social development of communities living on the Central Plain and indicates that a steady increase in social complexity was very likely in the period before urbanization.
a Province of Santa Cruz (Patagonia, Argentina) and location of sites used for regional palaeoenvironmental integration. (1) Buenos Aires lake (Rio Zeballos, McCulloch et al. 2017); (2) Lake Pueyrredón (Cueva Milodón Norte 1-CMN1, Cueva Milodón Norte 2-CMN2, Cerro Cuadrado-COCU, Horta et al. 2016, 2019; Marcos et al. 2020a, b); (3) Belgrano lake (CCP5, CCP7, Mancini 2007); (4) Deseado Massif (La Gruta, Mancini et al. 2013, La Martita, Mancini 1998, La Maria, Los Toldos, De Porras et al. 2009, Piedra Museo, Borromei 2003); (5) San Martín lake (La Tercera and Paisano Desconocido peat-bog, Bamonte and Mancini 2011 and Bamonte et al. 2015 respectively); (6) Argentino lake (Mallín Alto Península Avellaneda-MAPA, Mallín Bajo Península Avellaneda-MBPA, Cerro Frías, Sottile et al. 2020 and Mancini 2009 respectively); (7) Cardiel lake (Markgraf et al. 2003); b location of the study area, sedimentary sequence Los Flamencos and archaeological sites (CMN1, CMN2, COCU) used in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction; c detail of Los Flamencos shallow lake
Palaeoenvironmental information (represented by dotted lines) during the Holocene according to the vegetation reconstruction carried out from the archaeological sites CMN1, CMN2 and COCU (from Horta et al. 2016, 2019; Bamonte and Marcos 2019; Marcos et al. 2020a, b). The black boxes represent the periods of human occupation in archaeological sites (from Horta et al. 2016, 2019; Sacchi et al. 2018; Aschero et al. 2019)
Stratigraphy, loss on ignition and age-depth model of Los Flamencos sequence
Percentage pollen diagram, palynological richness, pollen zones and hypothetical water level of Los Flamencos shallow lake
Hypothetical model of the changes in vegetation during the Holocene for the Lake Pueyrredón area considering the available sources of pollen, archaeological and palaeogeographic information (Bozzuto 2013; Bozzuto et al. 2013; Horta et al. 2016, 2019; Marcos et al. 2020a, b). The environmental reconstruction was carried out by the integration of the palynological information from the CMN1, (Cueva Milodón Norte 1) and COCU (Cerro Cuadrado) archaeological sites and the LF (Los Flamencos) continuous sequence (this work), based on the information availability for each period. Black dashes in each period indicate the pollen record and/or records used for environmental reconstruction
This paper reconstructs the vegetation history of the Lake Pueyrredón area during the Holocene and contextualizes the use of space and resources by hunter-gatherer groups according to palaeoenvironmental evolution. The pollen analysis of the Los Flamencos lake sequence is presented and integrated with local archaeological pollen data. Early Holocene vegetation consisted of a dwarf-shrub-grass steppe associated with cold conditions. From 7,600 cal bp a shrub vegetation with forest patches is inferred, suggesting a high moisture availability and possibly involving an eastwards displacement of the forest-steppe ecotone boundary. Human occupation, previously interrupted by the Hudson volcano eruption, and use of space is evident in this period. Between 6,600 and 5,400 cal bp an environmental change to drier conditions suggests a heterogeneous shrub steppe and the higher availability of floristic resources possibly used by hunter-gatherer groups. The predominance of shrub steppe with dwarf shrubs from 5,400 cal bp indicates more arid than current conditions, which correlates with a higher human-environment interaction related to changes in the lake configuration allowing new north–south circulation roads and vice versa, and major floristic resources availability. A decrease in dwarf-shrubs indicates a slight increase in moisture availability since 3,550 cal bp, suggesting a weakening of the westerly winds. The results indicate local and regional changes in vegetation linked mainly to moisture availability and Southern Westerly Winds fluctuations. The integration of pollen, archaeological and palaeogeographic information available and its comparison with other fossil records studied in Patagonia complement palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and explain the changes in a regional palaeoenvironmental framework.
Map of study area. Shaded area indicates the likely region of domestication for finger millet (Harlan 1971; Hilu and de Wet 1976a, b; Hilu et al. 1979). Archaeobotanical assemblages analysed in this study are indicated by white dots and collection sites for modern landraces and wild accessions are marked by black dots and labelled with codes listed in Table 2
Ventral, lateral and dorsal views of well preserved grains from Iron Age contexts at Kakapel, showing dimensions measured for this study. Measurements of shape and area were taken from ventral view, far left. Top row, E. coracana; bottom row, the wild progenitor E. coracana ssp. africana; scale bar = 1 mm
Seed size (length × width) for modern comparative material and corrected archaeobotanical assemblages. The wild progenitor of E. coracana is represented by black dots and box plots. Comparative collection sources can be found in Table 2, measurements for Muzanze II and III, Nguri Cave and Karama from Giblin and Fuller (2011). Boxes represent median and 1st–3rd interquartile range, whiskers = 1st/3rd quartile ± 1.5 × interquartile range
Kakapel E. coracana seed area and aspect ratios compared to modern material. Domesticated grains are easily distinguished by aspect ratio despite their small size. Kakapel E. coracana, even after correction for carbonization, is significantly smaller grained than E. coracana landraces
Correlation between seed size and latitude for modern comparative and archaeobotanical assemblages
Eleusine coracana (finger millet) is a nutritious and easily storable grain that can be grown in unfavourable environments and is important to the food security of millions of farmers in Africa and South Asia. Despite its importance and promise as a sustainable crop for smallholders in the Global South, its history remains poorly understood. Eleusine coracana has only rarely been recovered from archaeological sites in the region of Africa where it was domesticated and never in quantities large enough to study its evolution under cultivation. Here we report on a large assemblage of Iron Age (ca. 900–700 cal bp) E. coracana grains recovered from Kakapel rock shelter in western Kenya. We also carried out carbonization experiments on modern grains in order to directly compare these archaeological specimens to extant landraces. We found that finger millet is only well preserved when carbonized at temperatures lower than 220 °C, which may contribute to its scarcity in the archaeological record. Eleusine coracana shrinks but does not significantly change shape when carbonized. When corrected for the effects of carbonization, the E. coracana grown by Iron Age farmers at Kakapel was smaller grained than modern landraces, but is nonetheless identifiable as domesticated on the basis of grain shape and surface texture. A comparison with other Iron Age E. coracana reveals considerable variation in the grain size of landraces cultivated during this era. This is the largest quantitative morphometric analysis of E. coracana grains ever conducted, and provides a basis for the interpretation of other archaeological populations. This assemblage is also the first evidence for E. coracana cultivation in western Kenya, a biodiversity hotspot for landraces of this crop today.
Continuation of archaeobotanical and palaeoecological research on three semi-artificial lake islands, Nowy Dworek, Chycina and Lubniewice, has provided new information on the history, development and use of grasslands in Ziemia Lubuska (Lubusz land) in western Poland during the early Middle Ages. Pollen analysis reveals that the reduction in woodland and opening up of the regional landscape and the appearance of grassland communities there began around the 7th century ad , which preceded the construction of the islands in the lakes. The analysis of plant macroremains collected from the settlement layers on these islands, of pollen from cores in the lakes and studies of the phytosociological plant communities of recent vegetation have helped to describe the botanical composition of these past meadows and pastures. The results show strong similarities between the three sites, which suggests that the local populations were using the same grassland types, which were on soils ranging from damp to rather dry and sandy. The main grassland in the vicinity of the islands included the Molinio-Arrhenatheretea syntaxonomical class of communities, although Festuco-Brometea grasslands were also present. The presence of plant remains associated with various other types of meadows and pastures shows the diversity of habitats represented by the plant remains.
Maximum extent of Last Glacial Maximum glaciation (21,000–19,000 cal bp) in continental western North America (in grey) and the percentages of migrant Yukon-Alaska taxa (n = 609) in the floristic summary units. Arrows indicate reallocated portions of the landscapes relative to geopolitical boundaries
Scatter diagram and regression model of prorated percent migrant taxa by geographical summary unit and their distance from the Alaska-Yukon border. The number of Alaska-Yukon taxa was 609. Floristic summary unit size (km²) was the basis for prorating taxa percent occurrence
a, cluster analysis dendrogram and b, detrended correspondence analysis ordination of Alaska-Yukon migrant taxa occurrences (n = 609) in selected western and midwestern North American floristic summary units (BC – British Columbia, US – United States). Recognized clusters and circumscribed sets of summary units represent potential migrant source areas (SA) for plants. The positions of points (dots) on the ordination represent relative degrees of (dis)similarity among summary units. The dashed line on the dendrogram indicates the point where the clustering process was discontinued due to a substantial increase in aggregation error. Arrows indicate the nearest floristically similar summary unit north of the United States, which could have provided a route to Alaska-Yukon
Possible locations and extent of Alaska-Yukon migrant plant source areas within the US during the Last Glacial Maximum (A, Pacific Coast; B, Rocky Mountains; C, Midwest), and associated postglacial migration routes. The migration route from southern Alberta to southern Yukon roughly follows the ice-free corridor
Numbers of Alaska-Yukon postglacial migrant plant taxa (n) associated with three Last Glacial Maximum source areas in the western and midwestern United States. Subtotals indicate the number of taxa potentially contributed by each source area, excluding those which occur in all three source areas
About 38% of indigenous vascular plants in Alaska and Yukon (609 of 1,620 taxa) were likely postglacial migrants from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) refugium that occurred in the United States. Their possible source areas were assessed using present-day plant presence and absence data, based on the assumption that members of the LGM flora still occur within the former refugial area. Present-day occurrences indicate that 42% of migrant taxa in Alaska-Yukon could have originated from anywhere within the Pacific Coast, Rocky Mountains, or Midwest portions of the refugium. Another 34% were only found in the two western areas, and 64–82% of all postglacial migrants and the majority of taxa unique to each source area were concentrated in westernmost Washington and Oregon and the northern Rocky Mountains (Montana, Wyoming and Idaho). The veracity of these specific refugial locations was supported by LGM (22,000–19,000 cal bp) archival phylogenetic tree data and pollen evidence. Macrofossil evidence was also available for westernmost Washington-Oregon. Alaska-Yukon taxa which originated from westernmost Washington-Oregon likely migrated northwards along coastal British Columbia to southern Alaska. Taxa from the Rocky Mountains probably moved northwards through both inland British Columbia and along the lower eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains after glaciers had receded sufficiently to allow their passage. Migrant taxa from the Midwest likely followed the eastern slopes route to Yukon. The purported LGM occurrence of Picea mariana (black spruce) in eastern Oregon was questioned, based on its present-day absence, no evidence of its past presence, and what would have been an uncharacteristic botanical association with non-boreal species.
Workflow for the HUMPOL software suite. Mosaic produces plant community grids in the hypothetical land-cover. PolSack is a data collection editor, where the plant community composition and taxon-specific inputs (cover percentage, pollen productivity estimate and fall speed) are defined. PolFlow simulates the pollen assemblage in the hypothetical land-cover based on data collected using PolSack
Land-cover design in Mosaic and example scenarios in terms of real land-cover. a Land-cover with one taxon: spruce plantation in the United States (photo by Adam Torres). b Land-cover with two taxa: bog forest in Estonia (photo by c Land-cover with five taxa: boreal mixed forest in Russia (photo by Maria Mekht). d Land-cover with eight taxa: temperate broadleaved forest in Scotland (photo by Craig Bradford)
Relationships between plant and pollen richness (a, c, e) in Scenario II and between plant evenness and pollen richness (b, d, f) in Scenario III along gradients of pollen productivity (PPE), pollen fall speed and basin size values. Values on the Y-axis are on a continuous scale. The X-axis presents six (a, c, e) or four (b, d, f) discrete groups. Symbols represent mean values, and vertical lines show standard errors. The red arrow indicates the break-point in the change in the dominant factor from plant richness to pollen productivity
Relationship between average pollen richness and patch size at different basin radii
The factor importance scheme by different Scenarios using ΔR²adj (R²adj of the model without the particular factor subtracted from R²adj of full model). Boxes with crosses indicate that the factor was not included in the respective scenario, C indicates that the factor was constant, NS indicates that the factor was non-significant. Scenario Ib* threshold 0.01; Ib** threshold 0.001; Ib*** threshold 0.0001
Our study aims to increase the understanding about the impacts of potential drivers of pollen richness by using a pollen-vegetation modelling approach. We used the Sutton-Prentice dispersal model implemented in the HUMPOL software suite to explore the effects of factors commonly associated with pollen richness: vegetation diversity (plant richness and evenness), land-cover characteristics (patch richness, evenness and size, and basin size) and pollen-related parameters (productivity and fall speed). The impact of the factors was tested using modelling scenarios involving all combinations of the included factors and their values. All tested factors had a statistically significant impact on modelled pollen richness. Pollen-type based plant richness was the dominant determinant of pollen richness; however, pollen productivity became co-dominant at higher plant richness levels, effectively limiting the detection of species with low pollen productivity. The fall speed of pollen and sedimentary basin size had moderate impact, but gained importance in simulations with elevated plant richness. In patchy land-cover, patch richness was the most significant determinant of pollen richness, while patch evenness and size were the least important factors. Our modelling approach provides insights into the significance of common factors in determining pollen richness and its connection to plant diversity, as well as a theoretical basis for understanding the substantial variation among earlier empirical pollen-plant richness studies. The estimation of plant richness from pollen richness in past vegetation diversity studies could be improved by the separation of taxa with low and high pollen productivity and an awareness of the pollen source area.
The Roman economy of the Iberian Peninsula has habitually been characterised in terms of prestige goods and economic activities such as mining, salting, and metallurgy. Apart from the trade in wine and oil, the economy of plant-based foods-less prestigious but more essential in everyday life-has commonly been marginalised in state-of-the-art reviews. The O Areal saltworks is exceptional in terms of the large number of organic materials it preserves, and the excellent state of that preservation. After its abandonment (end of the third/fourth century ad), the saltworks was briefly used as a dumping ground for the surrounding area. The site's archaeobotanical remains, preserved under anoxic, waterlogged conditions, consist of the building materials used at the saltworks, tools and other artefacts, organic objects employed in activities such as fishing, and refuse. The assemblage suggests a wide diversity of species to have been introduced into northwestern Iberia during the Roman period, including Morus nigra (mulberry), Prunus persica (peach), Ficus carica (fig), Prunus domestica ssp. insititia (plum), Vitis vinifera (grapevine), and Cucumis melo (melon). The notable presence of other edible fruit species that normally grew wild during this period, such as Castanea sativa (chestnut), Juglans regia (walnut), Pinus pinea (stone pine), and Prunus avium (wild cherry) trees, might be related to the start of their cultivation.
This article presents some major aspects of environmental resource management by the Guaraní indigenous people in southern Brazil and the Río de La Plata basin. Drawing upon a broad interdisciplinary database from various authors since the 16th century AD, we suggest that the Guaraní passed down a system of knowledge about their particular way of life through many generations, which had begun in the Amazon region where they originated. This system was based on the form and function of their material culture, as well as their knowledge of their surroundings including the plants and animals there, and their practices. Their subsistence was based upon the long-term cultivation and management of a wide range of plants for food, medicine and raw materials. These resources were brought with them into newly colonized areas, and new plants were continually adopted for use, enabling the Guaraní to create settlements and manage the plants and animals within some very different ecosystems. These practices provided them with food security and eventually led to the modification of the vegetation in these landscapes by their activities.
The ad 79 eruption of the Vesuvius severely affected the floodplain surrounding the ancient city of Pompeii, i.e. the Sarno River floodplain. The landscape was covered with volcaniclastic materials that destroyed the ecosystem but, at the same time, preserved the traces of former environmental conditions. This study provides—for the first time—a pollen sequence reconstructing the environmental evolution and the plant landscape of the Sarno floodplain between 900 and 750 cal bc and ad 79, i.e. before and during the foundation of the city, and during its life phases. Previous geomorphological studies revealed that the portion of the Sarno floodplain under the “Pompeii hill” was a freshwater backswamp with patchy inundated and dry areas. Palynology depicts a thin forest cover since the Early Iron Age, suggesting an open environment with a mosaic of vegetation types. The local presence of Mediterranean coastal shrubland, hygrophilous riverine forest and mesophilous plain forest is combined with the regional contribution of mountain vegetation through the sequence. Oscillations between inundated and wet ground characterized the studied area until the ad 79 eruption. Such a natural environment shows anthropogenic traits since pre-Roman times: pasturelands, cultivated fields and olive groves, which probably occupied drier soils. The most important change in the land use system was the introduction of cabbage cultivation in the fourth century bc and its intensification from the second century bc , when Roman influence grew. The presence of tree crops and of ornamental trees reveals the opulence of the Imperial age until the catastrophic eruption.
Pollen and plant macrofossils are often well-preserved in coastal sediments, providing a palaeoenvironmental record of sea-level and landscape change. In this study, we examine the pollen and plant macrofossil assemblages of a well-dated saltmarsh sediment core from southwest Newfoundland, Canada, to establish recent coastal vegetation and land use change, to increase the knowledge of anthropogenic activities in the area and develop pollen chronozones for reconstructing marsh accumulation rates and to examine the representation of plant macrofossil remains in the wetland pollen profile. Grouping the pollen record into upland and wetland assemblages allows local events related to hydrological change to be separated from landscape-scale changes. The wetland pollen and plant macrofossil records indicate a general acceleration in sea-level rise ca. ad 1700. The sedge pollen and plant macrofossil records attest to multiple phases of rhizome encroachment during inferred periods of marine regression. Two chronozones are identified from the upland pollen profile; the first associated with the settlement of St. George’s Bay ca. ad 1800, signalled by increases in Plantago lanceolata and Ambrosia pollen; the second with the permanent settlement of the Port au Port peninsula ca. ad 1850, indicated by increased P. lanceolata and Rumex pollen. Comparison of the plant macrofossil and wetland pollen profiles highlights the underrepresentation of grass pollen preserved in the saltmarsh sediments and a need for further analysis of the zonation, pollen dispersal and macrofossil representation of sedge species in saltmarshes.
Location of the study site and other palaeoecological and palaeoclimatic records in Central Eastern Europe (left) and the coring location in Lake Svityaz (red star)
Age-depth model of the Lake Svityaz sediment record, based on eight calibrated radiocarbon dates (blue density curves). One radiocarbon date was rejected due to an unrealistic age (red cross). The grey area shows the 95% confidence interval of the age–depth model using Monte Carlo sampling with 10,000 iterations and a monotonic spline function. The dashed blue lines show 95% confidence intervals of a mixed-effect model, taking into account between-object variance (sample thickness; Heegard et al. 2005). The black line shows the best fit of the age–depth model that has been used for drawing the pollen diagram. The age–depth model was calculated using the program clam 2.2 (Blaauw 2010) with the IntCal13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013)
Combined pollen and macrofossil diagram of selected taxa, including lithology, spores, stomata and microscopic charcoal concentration and influx. Direct cultural indicators include only crops, i.e. Cannabis sativa and cereals. LPAZ local pollen assemblage zone. Empty curves show 10 × exaggeration. Grey bars indicate total macrofossil concentrations (for 8 cm³) on the scale given at the top of the diagram. Black dots show presence of stomata
PCA biplot showing species and sample scores of the Lake Svityaz pollen record. PCA axis 1 represents a climatic gradient from temperate arboreal taxa with low scores to boreal and steppic taxa with high scores. PCA axis 2 indicates a gradient of anthropogenic disturbance, with human pollen indicators and taxa expanding in the Late Holocene having high scores and taxa from closed natural forest with low scores. The sample groups are based on the statistically significant pollen zones, showing a transition from open, steppic landscapes to closed forest and on to the present-day agricultural landscape
Comparison of biotic proxies from Lake Svityaz with insolation and regional climate reconstructions: a Summary diagram of the pollen analysis showing total tree, shrub and herb pollen percentages; b pollen influx (grains cm⁻² year⁻¹) of Ulmus, Tilia and the sum of direct human pollen indicators; c sample scores of PCA axes 1 and 2, respectively representing climatic and anthropogenic gradients of vegetation change; d palynological richness (PRI), evenness-detrended palynological richness (DE-PRI) and evenness of the Lake Svityaz pollen assemblage as biodiversity measures; e microscopic charcoal influx (black curve) and macroscopic charcoal concentrations (grey bars); f July (red) and January (blue) insolation at 51°N (Laskar et al. 2004); g chironomid-inferred July temperatures at sea level from the Baltic region (Heiri et al. 2014), Hypkana in eastern Slovakia (Hájková et al. 2016) and Tăul dintre Brazi, in the southern Carpathians of Romania (Tóth et al. 2015); and h) δ¹⁸O from the Scărișoara Ice Cave in the Apuseni Mountains as a proxy for autumn through early winter temperatures (Perșoiu et al. 2017)
Observing natural vegetation dynamics over the entire Holocene is difficult in Central Europe, due to pervasive and increasing human disturbance since the Neolithic. One strategy to minimize this limitation is to select a study site in an area that is marginal for agricultural activity. Here, we present a new sediment record from Lake Svityaz in northwestern Ukraine. We have reconstructed regional and local vegetation and fire dynamics since the Late Glacial using pollen, spores, macrofossils and charcoal. Boreal forest composed of Pinus sylvestris and Betula with continental Larix decidua and Pinus cembra established in the region around 13,450 cal bp, replacing an open, steppic landscape. The first temperate tree to expand was Ulmus at 11,800 cal bp, followed by Quercus, Fraxinus excelsior, Tilia and Corylus ca. 1,000 years later. Fire activity was highest during the Early Holocene, when summer solar insolation reached its maximum. Carpinus betulus and Fagus sylvatica established at ca. 6,000 cal bp, coinciding with the first indicators of agricultural activity in the region and a transient climatic shift to cooler and moister conditions. Human impact on the vegetation remained initially very low, only increasing during the Bronze Age, at ca. 3,400 cal bp. Large-scale forest openings and the establishment of the present-day cultural landscape occurred only during the past 500 years. The persistence of highly diverse mixed forest under absent or low anthropogenic disturbance until the Early Middle Ages corroborates the role of human impact in the impoverishment of temperate forests elsewhere in Central Europe. The preservation or reestablishment of such diverse forests may mitigate future climate change impacts, specifically by lowering fire risk under warmer and drier conditions. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00334-021-00844-z.
Map of the Indus Civilization sites with archaeobotanical remains (based on Bates 2019b); labelled sites are those with reported ‘grape’ pip finds
Measurements of Indus grape pips from published literature placed on scatterplot of measurements from Shortugai. Measurements from Loebanr 3, a contemporary site in the region, added for comparison (Costantini 1987).
Modified from Willcox 1991: Fig. 12.7; left: histogram of frequency distribution of length:breadth index of Vitis sp. pips; right: scatter diagram of length and breadth measurements of Vitis sp. pips
Measurement placement points for grape pips from Chen and Manchester (2007) and Bouby et al. (2013: Fig. 2). Further points where measurements can be taken can be seen in Chen and Manchester 2007: Fig. 2.
Modified from Tiffney and Barghoorn 1976: Fig. 1
Examples of Vitaceae seed morphology from taxa that can be found within the study region. aTetrastigma rumicispermum (Chen and Manchester 2011: Fig. 10f); bParthenocissus quinquefolia (Brizicky 1965: Fig. 1f); cP. tricuspidata (Martín-Gómez et al. 2020: Fig. 8); dAmpelocissus tormentosa (Chen and Manchester 2007: Fig. S2); eA. latifolia (Chen and Manchester 2007: Fig. 5d); fTetrastigma obtectum (Habib et al. 2018: Fig. 5d); gT. lanceolarium (Chen and Manchester 2007: Fig. S7h); scale bar 2 mm
Examples of Vitis sp. morphology diversity. Although these species (beyond the debates surrounding sylvestris and vinifera) are not found in the Indus region, they demonstrate the problems of assuming that a ‘grape’ pip is either sylvestris or vinifera when other species of this genera are present in a region. This would be exacerbated when taphonomy and preservation are taken into account, and other genera of Vitaceae are also considered (Martín-Gómez et al. 2020: Fig. 5), and it can also be noted that in Martín-Gómez et al. (2020) there is morphological consideration of modern vinifera variant morphology variation and within variant diversity. aVitis amurensis; bV. labrusca; cV. rupestris; dV. sylvestris; eV. vinifera; scale bar 2 mm
Grape (Vitis vinifera L. ssp. vinifera) has been identified as part of the Indus Civilization crop assemblage. As a non-native crop, with a wild ancestor that does not grow in the region, its presence in northern South Asia ca. 3200–1300 bc has thus been used to argue variously as evidence for crop diffusion, long distance trade, and the adoption of foreign agricultural strategies and foodways. Grape identification, particularly between wild and domesticated species, is complex. In this article the challenges of identifying ‘grape’ in South Asian antiquity are explored. The overreliance on length, breadth and thickness measurements, with limited description and a lack of standardisation are considered. Furthermore, an examination of the local flora demonstrates that there are multiple Vitaceae genera being possible ‘grape’ contenders in the region. Identification criteria for local Vitaceae need to be better developed to more understand the role of Indus grapes in order for the complicated social interpretations of ‘what grapes means in the Indus’ to be maintained.
An international research project (FWF I-1693) recently finished investigating archaeological sites in the hinterland of the lake pile dwelling sites of Mondsee and Attersee in Oberösterreich (Upper Austria), with the goal of reconstructing the spatial networks of Copper Age (agri-)cultural landscapes and human-environmental interactions in the region. Charred plant macroremains from the two hinterland sites of Lenzing-Burgstall (1,517 plant macrofossil finds in total) and Ansfelden-Burgwiese (24,115 total finds) from Copper Age (= Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic) cultural layers were analysed as a contribution towards elucidating the agricultural practices and food choices of the inhabitants. Despite the generally poor state of preservation at Lenzing-Burgstall, a rich spectrum of cultivated crops with barley, einkorn and emmer wheats, and lentil, together with surprisingly high quantities of hazelnut shell fragments were identified. The site of Ansfelden-Burgwiese, on the other hand, contributed not only additional taxa (free-threshing wheat and Triticum cf. timopheevii) to the spectrum, but also the earliest evidence for Triticum spelta (spelt) in the region so far.
Quantitative estimates of past vegetation cover are needed both regionally so human-landscape interactions can be better understood, and globally to evaluate the effects of changing vegetation cover on the climate system. Models reducing the bias in the pollen representation of vegetation cover have been developed in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, while experience applying them in other parts of the world is limited. The Araucaria forest-grassland mosaic of southern Brazil is an area where open and forested plant communities exist naturally and have changed their cover over time due to changing climate and human activities. Therefore, this area is of particular interest for such studies. Modern pollen and vegetation comparisons were carried out in two protected areas: Vila Velha State Park in Paraná state and Aparados da Serra National Park in Rio Grande do Sul. Vegetation mapping and analysis focused on Araucaria angustifolia as the characteristic tree of this vegetation type. In the Araucaria forest-grassland mosaic open vegetation and woodland change at a scale of hundreds of metres. These changes are difficult to capture based on pollen proportions in surface samples. While the abundance of Poaceae pollen is not a good indicator of locally open conditions, several pollen taxa can be used as indicators of the local vegetation cover. Pollen vegetation ratios (R-values) compare well between the two study regions, indicating that pollen production of individual species within the large plant families of Poaceae and Asteraceae are similar within the overall region. Araucaria angustifolia pollen is underrepresented with regards to its vegetation cover, while Poaceae are among the highest pollen producers in the region. Diverse woodland species other than A. angustifolia were grouped as one forest taxon and as the species composition of woodlands differed between the two study areas, so did the estimated pollen productivity of this group. It would be rewarding in future investigations to estimate pollen productivity for groups of trees with the same pollen dispersal syndrome. The application of pollen dispersal models designed for closed canopy in the protected areas was challenging. Further model development is required to deal with pollen released at different levels in semi-open vegetation types.
(a) The location of Scotland in north-west Europe, (b) the topography of Scotland (Robinson et al. 2014) marking the major divisions of the Grampian Mountains and the Midland Valley and the location of Fig. 1c; (c) the topography, drainage of central Loch Lomond (contour interval 10 m) and the pollen sites Coille Mhor Hill (this study), Dubh Lochan (Stewart et al. 1984) and Ptarmigan (Stewart 1979). Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2021)
Age-depth model for the peat on Coille Mhor Hill generated by BACON, showing (a) the positions of the calibrated ¹⁴C assays, the 2σ age range constrained within black dotted lines, all probable age-depth models in grey, darker areas with increasing probability and the best model based on the weighted mean average by the red dotted line, (b) the number of MCMC iterations in the model; (c) prior (curve) and posterior (histogram) distributions for accumulation rate estimates and (d) the ‘memory’ in accumulation rate estimations
Peat humification and percentage-based (% TLP) diagram at Coille Mhor Hill as follows: (a) pollen and spores (% TLP + spores), (b) coprophilous fungal spores (% TLP + fungi) and (c) microscopic charcoal (% TLP + charcoal), plotted against depth
(a) Influx values at Coille Mhor Hill of major taxa and charcoal fragments; (b) major taxa as % AP and (c) preservation characteristics of major taxa as % TLP. All data are plotted against depth
Later prehistoric woodland decline over most parts of Scotland is widely regarded as having been anthropogenic, via a range of mechanisms, to create farmland. Climatic causes are seen only to have driven the rapid expansion and then terminal decline of Pinus sylvestris around 2000 cal BC. Here we report radiocarbon dated analyses of pollen, microscopic charcoal, coprophilous fungal spores and peat humification from a small, water-shedding interfluve peat bog at 230 m elevation on the west-facing slope of the mountain Ben Lomond in west-central Scotland. The record spans the interval ca. 3450 − 200 cal BC. It shows marked and rapid changes in woodland composition before ca. 2600 cal BC, and from then to ca. 1940 cal BC a gradual decline of Betula woodland. This happened with no palaeoecological or archaeological evidence for anthropogenic activity. Woodland decline is interpreted at this site as climatically driven, perhaps through paludification or, more likely, exposure to wind, within a period of pronounced climatic deterioration. Anthropogenic activities are hinted at only after ca. 850 cal BC.
Environmental changes and human activities in a mangrove ecosystem in Bang Khun Thian, south of Bangkok, the upper Gulf of Thailand were reconstructed through the analyses of pollen, charcoal, organic carbon, carbonate, particle size, heavy metals and radiocarbon dating. The results showed that fluctuating sea levels supported mangrove establishment since at least ad 840. From ad 840 to 1240, a delta progradation from the Lower Chao Phraya river was recorded with associated dry conditions. A short period characterized by wetter conditions was recorded from ad 1050–1240. After ad 1240, mangroves were gradually replaced by terrestrial grasses indicative of a period of sea-level fall with relatively drier conditions. There was extension of the intertidal shoreline of Bang Khun Thian farther south allowing open grassland and wetland to form as a young deltaic plain until around ad 1660. During this period, intense agricultural practices, particularly paddy and orchards, expanded in the Lower Chao Phraya delta during this marine regression. From ad 1660, an upper intertidal habitat was gradually re-established, characterised by the presence of back mangroves that possibly result from sea-level rise in the last 300 years. The pollen and heavy metal data also track increasingly intensive human activities such as agriculture, aquaculture, urbanisation and industrial activity in the catchment during the last century.
In this paper, we present the results of the plant macrofossil analyses from the site of Tel Lachish, Israel with focus on the botanical assemblage of the Middle and Late Bronze Age layers collected in two different areas of the tell: Area S, a trench on the western edge of the site, whose samples belong to Late Bronze Age deposits, and Area P, the palace area on the top of the mound with samples ranging from the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Systematic sampling of these areas and analysis of the remains have extended our knowledge of the agricultural resources of one of the most influential Late Bronze Age cities in the southern Levant. Multivariate statistics have been applied to gain insight into regional patterns of crop growing. Fruit crops account for the majority of the identified remains from this site, which also included large quantities of Hordeum vulgare (barley) and Triticum dicoccum (emmer wheat) grains. The virtual lack of chaff remains is not solely a matter of preservation, since the Late Bronze Age assemblage preserved fragile small seeds. Rather, this finding suggests that cereal processing took place some distance from the area of deposition. Overall high diversity, ubiquity and proportions of fruit crops indicate that these played a fundamental role in their cultivation and probably also in cultural life at Lachish throughout the 15th–12th centuries bce.
A Location of Lake Xingxinghai (XXH) on the Tibetan Plateau (ISM India summer monsoon, EASM East Asian summer monsoon). B Vegetation types in the lake’s surrounding areas. C Drainage basin of Lake Xingxinghai
Lithology and Bayesian age-depth model for the core collected from Lake Xingxinghai. Dashed grey lines indicate the 95% probability intervals of the model, darker shading implies greater probability, and dashed red line indicates the mean values of ages
Pollen percentages of common taxa, Cyperaceae/(Artemisia + Poaceae) (Cy/(A + P)) ratio, principal component axis-1 scores, richness, and evenness for the Lake Xingxinghai core
Principal component analysis (PCA) of pollen assemblages of Lake Xingxinghai shown by different symbols (samples from Zone 1: filled blue circles, Zone 2: filled yellow triangles, Zone 3: filled grey squares) with pollen taxa shown as black arrows
Records of grain-size components, carbonate, and total organic carbon content
The terrestrial ecosystem in the Yellow River Source Area (YRSA) is sensitive to climate change and human impacts, although past vegetation change and the degree of human disturbance are still largely unknown. A 170-cm-long sediment core covering the last 7,400 years was collected from Lake Xingxinghai (XXH) in the YRSA. Pollen, together with a series of other environmental proxies (including grain size, total organic carbon (TOC) and carbonate content), were analysed to explore past vegetation and environmental changes for the YRSA. Dominant and common pollen components—Cyperaceae, Poaceae, Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae and Asteraceae—are stable throughout the last 7,400 years. Slight vegetation change is inferred from an increasing trend of Cyperaceae and decreasing trend of Poaceae, suggesting that alpine steppe was replaced by alpine meadow at ca. 3.5 ka cal bp. The vegetation transformation indicates a generally wetter climate during the middle and late Holocene, which is supported by increased amounts of TOC and Pediastrum (representing high water-level) and is consistent with previous past climate records from the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau. Our results find no evidence of human impact on the regional vegetation surrounding XXH, hence we conclude the vegetation change likely reflects the regional climate signal.
It is often argued that the repetitive removal of branches to improve the quantity and the quality of wood, i.e. woodland management, has been practiced in Europe from the Mesolithic and/or Neolithic onwards. The Neolithic pile dwelling of Alvastra in Sweden has been mentioned in textbooks as a classical example of this practice. The conclusion about woodland management at Alvastra was primarily based on palynological data, which do not provide any direct evidence. Is it correct to conclude that woodland management was practiced at Alvastra? To investigate that, this paper reviews the previous arguments and interpretations, focusing on wood data, and by comparing archaeological data with modern wood data. First, the assemblage of vertical posts from the latest excavations at Alvastra include a wide range of taxa, showing opportunistic use of the woody vegetation. Second, while the dendrochronological analysis of Quercus and Ulmus carried out in the 80 s has clearly indicated that the trees used for the posts grew under highly similar conditions and that particularly many Quercus trees started to grow more or less at the same time, the reason for the partially simultaneous start of growth remains unknown, and the posts used for the construction of the site do not provide evidence of repetitive removal of trunks from stools. Finally, analysis of the age/diameter data of the Corylus wood indicates the use of branches from unmanaged vegetation, while age data of Salix do not support management either. In conclusion, the data do not support the hypothesis of woodland management at Neolithic Alvastra, and it is most likely that people did not practice woodland management. This outcome corresponds to the conclusions in some of the previous publications about the site.
The grazing lands of the High Atlas are vulnerable to climate change and the decline of traditional management practices. However, prior to the mid-20th century, there is little information to examine historical environmental change and resilience to past climate variability. Here, we present a new pollen, non-pollen palynomorph (NPP) and microcharcoal record from a sub-alpine marsh (pozzine) at Oukaïmeden, located in the Marrakech High Atlas, Morocco. The record reveals a history of grazing impacts with diverse non-arboreal pollen assemblages dominant throughout the record as well as recurrent shifts between wetter and drier conditions. A large suite of radiocarbon dates ( n = 22) constrains the deposit to the last ~ 1,000 years although multiple reversed ages preclude development of a robust age-depth model for all intervals. Between relatively dry conditions during the Medieval period and in the 20th century, intervening wet conditions are observed, which we interpret as a locally enhanced snowpack during the Little Ice Age. Hydrological fluctuations evidenced by wetland pollen and NPPs are possibly associated with centennial-scale precipitation variability evidenced in regional speleothem records. The pollen record reveals an herbaceous grassland flora resilient against climatic fluctuations through the last millennium, possibly supported by sustainable collective management practices ( agdal ), with grazing indicators suggesting a flourishing pastoral economy. However, during the 20th century, floristic changes and increases in charcoal accumulation point to a decline in management practices, diversification of land-use (including afforestation) and intensification of human activity.
Due to the complex relationship between pollen and vegetation, it is not yet clear how pollen diagrams may be interpreted with respect to changes in floristic diversity and only a few studies have hitherto investigated this problem. We compare pollen assemblages from moss samples in two southeastern European forests with the surrounding vegetation to investigate (a) their compositional similarity, (b) the association between their diversity characteristics in both terms of richness and evenness, and (c) the correspondence of the main ecological gradients that can be revealed by them. Two biogeographical regions with different vegetation characteristics, the Pieria mountains (north central Greece) and the slopes of Ciomadul volcano (eastern Romania), were chosen as divergent examples of floristic regions, vegetation structure and landscape openness. Pollen assemblages are efficient in capturing the presence or absence, rather than the abundance in distribution of plants in the surrounding area and this bias increases along with landscape openness and vegetation diversity, which is higher in the Pieria mountains. Pollen assemblages and vegetation correlate better in terms of richness, that is, low order diversity indices. Relatively high correlation, in terms of evenness, could be potentially found in homogenous and species poor ecosystems as for Ciomadul. Composition and diversity of woody, rather than herb, vegetation is better reflected in pollen assemblages of both areas, especially for Pieria where a direct comparison of the two components was feasible, although this depends on the species-specific pollen production and dispersal, the openness of landscape and the overall diversity of vegetation. Gradients revealed by pollen assemblages are highly and significantly correlated with those existing in vegetation. Pollen assemblages may represent the vegetation well in terms of composition, diversity (mainly richness) and ecological gradients, but this potential depends on land use, vegetation structure, biogeographical factors and plant life forms.
The taxonomic resolution of palynological identification is determined by morphological criteria that are used to define pollen types. Different levels of taxonomic resolution are reached in palynology, depending on several factors such as the analyst's expertise, the palynological school, the aim of the study, the preservation of the pollen grains, the reference collections and the microscope facilities. Previous research has suggested that attaining pollen records with high taxonomic resolution is important to reconstruct correctly past land use and human impact. This is in turn central to disentangling past human activities from other drivers of long-term vegetation dynamics such as natural disturbance or climate variability. In this study, we assess the impact of taxonomic resolution on the indicative capacity of anthropogenic pollen types. To achieve this, we attribute the pollen types of sixteen sedimentary records, located along a latitudinal gradient spanning from Switzerland to Italy, to three levels of taxonomic resolution previously proposed at the European scale. Our results show that higher taxonomic resolution improves the identification of human impact by enhancing the indicative power of important pollen indicators widely used in the research field. Our results may contribute to the improvement of palynological reconstructions of land use and human impact by identifying key pollen types whose determination requires particular attention. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00334-021-00838-x.
Map of the last journey of the Vrouw Maria. She was on her way from Amsterdam to St. Petersburg. 1 her journey started on 5.9.1771 from Amsterdam, 2 on 23.9.1771, she passed through the Øresund, x she ran aground on 4.10.1771, and sank on 9.10.1771 in the Saaristomeri, 3 her destination was St. Petersburg
a Outer seed coats of coffee beans, b two intact beans were preserved complete, scale bars 2 mm (photos by Mia Lempiäinen-Avci)
a Fragment of indigo dye and a small fragment of a leaf on top, scale bar 1 mm, b fine short hairs on the lower surface of the leaf, a distinctive feature of Indigofera tinctoria; scale bar 0.2 mm (photos by Mia Lempiäinen-Avci)
Archaeobotanical analyses together with historical records can provide unique information about the cargoes and histories of sunken ships, which are found as wrecks at the bottom of the seas all over the world. An interdisciplinary research project was undertaken on the Vrouw Maria (Lady Mary), a Dutch wooden two-masted merchant ship that sank on October 9th in 1771 in the Finnish Baltic Sea. She rested at a depth of 41 m and was in good condition when discovered. Based on written sources and archaeological research, the ship was carrying a valuable cargo including, for example, sugar, dyes, cloth, porcelain, wood and goods that the Russian nobility had ordered. Among them were paintings that the Russian Empress Catherine the Great (1729–1796) had bought at an auction in Amsterdam. Samples from four wooden barrels and from one wooden packing crate among the ship’s cargo were investigated. Botanical analysis revealed products such as stimulants, dyes and fruits originating from the Mediterranean, India, Africa and South America. One of the most intriguing finds from the cargo was Indigofera tinctoria L. (true indigo), a valuable dye plant. Our paper presents the botanical data analysed from the barrels and summarizes the plants mentioned in the historical records on the cargo of the Vrouw Maria.
Location map of Kharahneh IV (KHIV) within the Azraq basin (after Jones et al. 2016a, b). Inset shows locations of other Epipalaeolithic sites with published archaeobotanical remains (details in text); Wadi Jilat 6 (WJ6), Shubayqa 1 (SH1), Wadi Hammeh 27 (WH27), Ohalo II (OHII), Hayonim cave (HC), el-Wad (EW)
Relative densities of archaeobotanical remains within stratigraphic zones of Area B and the change in relative density between zones
Relative densities of archaeobotanical remains by taxon within stratigraphic Zones of Area A and the change in relative density from A2 to A1
Rarefaction curves, with standard errors (dashed lines) comparing the taxa richness of each stratigraphic zone. a the entire range of sample sizes for each zone; b sample sizes from 0 to 50, to show patterns at small sample sizes. Zone B3 is shown in black to make it visible as it overlaps with other curves
a Densities of archaeobotanical remains (= ‘seed’ density) in numbers of remains/L of taxa that represent wet, dry or varied (generalist) habitats by stratigraphic zone; b densities of taxa as number of taxa/L that represent wet, dry or varied (generalist) habitats by stratigraphic zone, a measure of diversity. Zone B3 is the deepest (oldest) and Zone A1 is the uppermost (youngest). Habitat generalisations are given in ESM 2
This paper presents the first archaeobotanical results on plant macroremains other than charcoal from the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic site of Kharaneh IV in the Azraq basin, one of the largest Epipalaeolithic sites in the southern Levant and one of the few with evidence for multiple phases of occupation. The analysis of the substantial archaeobotanical assemblage from the site provides new insights into the local environmental conditions and how these changed throughout occupation, potentially affecting the use of the site, and it further contributes to debates about hunter-gatherer lifeways during the earlier Epipalaeolithic. A variety of potential food plant resources was identified, including several starch-rich seeds and tissues, fruits and various other wild seeds and grains. Comparison of the Kharaneh IV archaeobotanical assemblage with those from other Epipalaeolithic sites in the southern Levant reveals a number of similarities and differences. These comparisons, and especially with the contemporary nearby site of Wadi Jilat 6, support the emerging picture of an ecological mosaic within the Epipalaeolithic Azraq basin, and a general pattern of local resource use across the wider region.
Fire is inextricably linked to the vegetation that provides the fuel load. For palaeofire records to contribute meaningfully to the reconstruction of past landscape fire history, it is helpful to identify the vegetation that has been burnt, for example, grassy versus woody vegetation in tropical savannas. The morphological characteristics of charcoal particles can provide useful information on source vegetation type, and the aspect ratio of charcoal particles has been proposed to identify the contribution of grasses to environmental records. Stable carbon isotope analysis of pyrogenic carbon can also chemically identify the proportion of C3 and C4 biomass in charcoal samples but has yet to be widely applied alongside charcoal morphological analysis. Using carbon isotope analysis we demonstrate that C3 sedges contribute elongate charcoal to a fire record where C4 grasses are absent. These results challenge the widespread assumption that elongate charcoal is primarily or exclusively derived from grass, as most experimental studies demonstrating this relationship were conducted in environments where graminoids (grass-like forms) did not significantly contribute to available fuels. In turn, this complicates the simple interpretation of elongate aspect ratios for charcoal in fire records as direct proxies for the proportion of grasses in an environment, beyond differentiating temperate forests from grasslands. Minimal work to date has been done on separating charcoal derived from different graminoid types and future studies would benefit from the ability to differentiate graminoids including Poaceae and Cyperaceae in fire records. These results highlight the benefits of a multi-proxy approach to the interpretation of fire records in tropical savannas.
The El Tigre archaeological site (39°46′49″ S; 62°22′32″ W) is located in the south of Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina, on an ancient delta of the Río Colorado. Its sedimentary sequence shows periods of landscape stability and soil formation processes during the period ca. 1,000–400 years bp. The aim of this paper is to investigate the evolutionary history of the vegetation in order to understand palaeoenvironmental changes during the late Holocene. The study of microremains, mainly phytoliths, from the sedimentary sequence indicates that cold and dry conditions predominated at 2,700–2,200 cal bp, from deposition of non-pedogenetic, aggradational sediments in arid or semi-arid environments and/or sparse vegetation cover. Then the climate became much warmer at ca. 2,200–1,200 cal bp, with greater availability of moisture and the presence of xerophytic shrubs and halophytic grasslands, and also extra-regional trees and shrubs. The records indicate that for ca. 1,500–300 cal bp the climate conditions changed to temperate with periods of greater water availability and the presence of a saline steppe and a greater abundance of Monte-Caldenal scrub vegetation elements. This climatic trend is also in agreement with the soil formation processes defined in the archaeological site sequence. The upper layers of the El Tigre site show lower temperatures in the last 300 years, accompanied by variations in the availability of moisture, with alluvial processes characterized by the presence of saline grasslands with xerophytic shrubs and an increase in Asteraceae and Poaceae, continued by the recent top samples with ruderal communities and sandy grasslands.
WOODAN is an online database developed to gather, present and analyse research results on archaeological wooden artefacts The database was released in 2017 and now contains over 2,150 wooden objects found during archaeological excavations in the Netherlands and Belgium, covering finds from the Mesolithic up to the modern era (First World War). For ca. 85% of these artefacts the wood species was identified and registered in the database. Furthermore, detailed meta-data is linked to the records, making WOODAN an excellent resource for finding comparable items and to study wood selection and craftsmanship throughout human history. WOODAN is accessible through a highly intuitive website which allows users to query the entire database. When a query is performed the results are instantly analysed (frequency of wood species used; number of objects for each chronological period), mapped (the geographical distribution of the finds) and visually presented in an interactive display (photographs, 3D-models). An export function allows further analysis of the search results—based on the available meta-data—tailored to specific research questions. Although WOODAN currently contains items from The Netherlands and Belgium only, its ambition is to become a pan-European database on archaeological wooden objects.
Top-cited authors
Thomas Giesecke
  • Utrecht University
Harriet Hunt
  • University of Cambridge
Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute
  • Lithuanian Institute of History; Vilnius University
Sue Colledge
  • University College London
Dorian Q Fuller
  • University College London