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Agriculture, food and products from Antiquity to Middle Age in Northern Catalonia (Pyrénées-Orientales, France)

Abstract : For the last twenty years, large-scale public works (e.g., Agly’s dam and LGV Roussillon) and constructions of new major motorways have helped to improve archaeological research in northern Catalunya (i.e., Pyrénées-Orientales, France). Prior to this increase in development, the Historical periods were not well known. Archaeobotanical investigations on twenty-eight sites (including levels, ditches, pits, hearths, etc.) on the French Catalan plain and mountains have allowed us to present a review of the new results on crops, and a discussion on ancient and medieval farming practices (200 B.C. to 1500 A.D.). Carbonised remains from these excavations have provided carpological material (in varying degrees of abundance). From the analysis of the samples, we found 37 cultivated/gathered taxa: 8 cereals, 6 pulses, 2 technical/oil plants and 21 fruits, and approximately an additional 70 weeds/wild plants. Triticum aestivum/turgidum and Hordeum vulgare were the principal winter crops produced in local fields, while spring crops may be attested by Avena sativa, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica. The discovery of Secale cereale suggests that it was grown in the Catalan plain area from the very beginning of Early Middle Age period. The pulses, less common than cereals, are mainly represented by Vicia sativa, Pisum sativum, Vicia faba var. minor, and Lathyrus cicera/sativus. The most frequent fruits in our samples are Vitis vinifera and Olea europea, although a large diversity of gathered/cultivated species was used (Corylus avellana, Ficus carica, Juglans regia, Pinus pinea, Pistacia lentiscus, Prunus avium/cerasus, Prunus persica, Prunus domestica, etc). The status of wetlands in this Mediterranean area will also be discussed. Geomorphological studies and textual sources analysis have proved that, at the end of Middle Ages, the wandering of the rivers’ courses and the draining of ponds turned the plain’s landscape into a dry area. Nonetheless, the presence on Early medieval sites of Linum usitatissimum, Humulus lupulus and Cannabis sativa seeds, in relation with species from the Cyperaceae family (Eleocharis palustris, Schoenoplectus lacustris, etc) allows us to discuss the utilisation of local wetlands, no longer in existence in that form, for cultivation and processing. After a discussion about the evolution of productions of mountain and plain from Antiquity to Middle Ages, these first results from northern Catalunya will be compared with other sites from nearby areas (e.g., southern France, southern Catalunya).
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Submitted on : Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 10:10:03 PM
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Jérôme Ros, Marie-Pierre Ruas. Agriculture, food and products from Antiquity to Middle Age in Northern Catalonia (Pyrénées-Orientales, France). 16th Conference of the International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany, Jun 2013, Thessalonique, Greece. ⟨halshs-02583133⟩

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