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Our new research on the history of the Mediterranean vegetation during the last 2000 years

An “anthracological” response to the debate on the role of climate and humans in spreading evergreen vegetation


In a study published in Annali di Botanica, our team analyzed wood charcoals from two archaeological sites in a sub-coastal area of northern Maremma, dated between the Roman period and the Late Middle Age, in order to detect land use and the forest cover changes. The aim of this work was to give a contribution to the debate on the relationship between the vegetation history and the late Holocene climate changes.

Charcoal analysis showed that the vegetation history is independent from the climatic variations characterizing the studied period. From the 3rd century BC to the end of Roman Age, in a warm climatic period, the vegetation was characterized by an evergreen oak forest with sclerophyllous shrubs of macchia, effectively typical of hot and dry climatic conditions; however, during a similar climatic phase in the Middle Age (10th-13th centuries AD), a mixed forest with evergreen and deciduous species covered the area, suggesting instead wetter climatic conditions.

The comparison between these archaeoenvironmental data with the archaeological records allowed a more complete interpretation of the changes in vegetation cover. Evergreen vegetation was related to intense human impact in the Roman phase and it was a response of the vegetation to a period of strong land use; instead, deciduous vegetation increased in the Middle Age characterized by a low presence of settlements and anthropic pressure.

 

Read the paper