Dynamiques sédimentaires holocènes et terrasses agricoles dans les montagnes du Tigray oriental (Éthiopie) : Évolutions, trajectoires et fonctionnement d’un paysage palimpseste depuis 8 500 ans

Abstract : The northern Tigray (Ethiopia) is characterized by vast plateaus with steeply sloping valleys on their edges. The bottoms of these valleys are now densely cultivated using terraces, water and soil conservation structures. In this mountainous context, archaeological remains from the Aksumite period (1st millennium BCE - 1st millennium CE) have been discovered on Wakarida site. Located on a spur, this small urban settlement raised the question of the relationship between environment, hydro-agricultural facilities and societies. Today, the surrounding valleys are filled by sedimentary accumulations several metres thick, cultivated in terraces. Are these structures the result of the centuries-old transmission of a landscape that could be called "fossil"? The result of the controlled sedimentation undertaken for a long time by the Aksumites and their descendants? The proximity of the structures and of the archaeological remains could suggest this, since the Aksumite culture has similarities with that of the South Arabians, known for their talent in the construction of hydraulic structures. To answer these questions, a systemic methodology was applied. It borrows techniques from geomorphology, geoarchaeology and sedimentology, landscape history and geohistory, and develops ethnoarchaeological and ethno-geomorphological approaches. First, the study of sedimentary accumulations in the valleys of the region makes it possible to highlight the main phases of filling and the various factors controlling detritism, whether biophysical processes (climate change, vegetation cover) or anthropogenic action (deforestation, agriculture). Sediments accumulate from the 7th millennium BCE onwards, under a more humid climate with more regular rainfall than today (African Humid Period). From the 4th millennium BCE onwards, the equilibria changed, leading to the alternation of low and high energy flows. Finally, from the 1st millennium BCE, the influence of human societies became more noticeable in deposits that testify to advanced deforestation from the 13th century AD. No agricultural structure remains were detected in the fillings, which do not result from controlled sedimentation. From the 17th century AD onwards, chronostratigraphic records are missing. Textual and iconographic archives are used to understand the evolution of plant cover and to specify the period of appearance of terraces. They shed light on the position of Wakarida, on the fringes of the Aksum kingdom, following Ethiopian kingdoms and exploration routes. This situation has allowed the persistence of farming techniques over time, some of which date back to the prehistoric period. The only notable exception is the terraces, which are absent from these testimonies. According to the archives, they did not appear in the Tigray until the 1960s. The combination of interviews and archives provides details at the scale of the studied site. The surroundings of Wakarida have recently been repopulated and current structures have been built since the 1990s, in line with agrarian reforms and socio-political events. The terraces of Wakarida reflect the close relationship between economic, social, political and biophysical processes. Their future is now threatened by the regressive erosion that affects the valleys and by the rural exodus that risks breaking the fragile balance between slope, development, cultures and societies. The current structures, which are of recent construction, are therefore based on old fillings that continue to evolve. Thus, the hydroagricultural landscapes of the Wakarida region are not fossil but palimpsest.
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Submitted on : Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 6:09:32 PM
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Ninon Blond. Dynamiques sédimentaires holocènes et terrasses agricoles dans les montagnes du Tigray oriental (Éthiopie) : Évolutions, trajectoires et fonctionnement d’un paysage palimpseste depuis 8 500 ans. Géographie. Université Lumière Lyon 2, France, 2019. Français. ⟨halshs-02407967⟩

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