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The use of wild plants in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic of Northwestern Africa: preliminary results from the PALEOPLANT project

Carrión, Y., Jacob, M., Portillo, M., Pérez-Jordà, G., Peña-Chocarro, L. and Zapata, L. (2018) The use of wild plants in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic of Northwestern Africa: preliminary results from the PALEOPLANT project. In: Mercuri, A. M., D'Andrea, A. C., Fornaciari, R. and Höhn, A. (eds.) Plants and Humans in the African Past. Progress in African Archaeobotany. Springer International Publishing, Basel. ISBN 9783319898384

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-89839-1

Abstract/Summary

This contribution presents preliminary results from PALEOPLANT, a European Research Council (ERC) multidisciplinary research project that focuses on the analyses of plant remains from Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites in North Africa. The project aims are: 1) to characterize wild plant exploitation among human communities; 2) to refine current knowledge on past landscapes; 3) to improve archaeological methodology and fieldwork when studying plants. We discuss preliminary results from charred plant macroremains (wood, seeds and fruits) and plant microfossils (phytoliths and calcitic ash pseudomorphs), as well as dung spherulites recorded in several northwestern African sites spanning from the Late Pleistocene to the Early-Middle Holocene (35 to 4 ka BP). Charcoal assemblages show the presence of mixed oak/juniper woodlands during the Late Pleistocene while conifers become the main element of the vegetation in the transition from Late Glacial to Early Holocene. In these formations, some of the main species of the thermo- and meso-Mediterranean Holocene landscapes (Olea europaea, Pistacia…) were already present but their spread occurred during the Middle Holocene being coincident with the Neolithic occupation. The combination of wood charcoal with other plant macroremains (seeds and fruits) and plant microfossils, including both plant and dung indicators, provides a new insight not only on the presence of a wide range of plant resources (wild pulses, Ziziphus lotus, Pinus halepensis, Quercus sp., Stipa tenacissima and Chamaerops humilis) but also on the variability of their potential uses (fuel food, fiber, bedding, fodder, etc.). Archaeobotanical results suggest continuity in the use of wild plants during the Neolithic. Besides, wood charcoal reflects the important changes that occurred in plant composition including the expansion of thermo-Mediterranean species.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:78042
Publisher:Springer International Publishing

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