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The palaeoenvironmental impact of prehistoric settlement and proto-historic urbanism: tracing the emergence of the Oppidum of Corent, Auvergne, France.

Ledger PM, Miras Y, Poux M, Milcent PY - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Although these features are clearly key indicators of human settlement, and characterise Neolithic and early to Middle Bronze Age impacts at Corent, they do not appear to represent defining features of a protohistoric urban environment.The Late Iron Age Gallic Oppidum of Corent is remarkable for the paucity of evidence for agriculture and strong representation of apophytes associated with disturbance.These results clearly indicate the value of local-scale palaeoecological studies and their potential for tracing the phases in the emergence of a proto-historic urban environment.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, BP 10448, Clermont-Ferrand, France; CNRS, USR 3550, MSH, Clermont-Ferrand, France; CNRS, UMR 6042, GEOLAB, Clermont-Ferrand, France; Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
Early human societies and their interactions with the natural world have been extensively explored in palaeoenvironmental studies across Central and Western Europe. Yet, despite an extensive body of scholarship, there is little consideration of the environmental impacts of proto-historic urbanisation. Typically palaeoenvironmental studies of Bronze and Iron Age societies discuss human impact in terms of woodland clearance, landscape openness and evidence for agriculture. Although these features are clearly key indicators of human settlement, and characterise Neolithic and early to Middle Bronze Age impacts at Corent, they do not appear to represent defining features of a protohistoric urban environment. The Late Iron Age Gallic Oppidum of Corent is remarkable for the paucity of evidence for agriculture and strong representation of apophytes associated with disturbance. Increased floristic diversity - a phenomenon also observed in more recent urban environments - was also noted. The same, although somewhat more pronounced, patterns are noted for the Late Bronze Age and hint at the possibility of a nascent urban area. High percentages of pollen from non-native trees such as Platanus, Castanea and Juglans in the late Bronze Age and Gallic period also suggest trade and cultural exchange, notably with the Mediterranean world. Indeed, these findings question the validity of applying Castanea and Juglans as absolute chronological markers of Romanisation. These results clearly indicate the value of local-scale palaeoecological studies and their potential for tracing the phases in the emergence of a proto-historic urban environment.

No MeSH data available.


Percentage pollen and spore diagram displaying selected taxa (based on TLP sum – Lactuceae).Also shown is the lithology, microscopic charcoal and total pollen concentration. + indicates <1% TLP.
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pone.0121517.g007: Percentage pollen and spore diagram displaying selected taxa (based on TLP sum – Lactuceae).Also shown is the lithology, microscopic charcoal and total pollen concentration. + indicates <1% TLP.

Mentions: Given the provenance of the core from the palaeo-basin of the Lac du Puy, evidence for historical management and a lithology which does not indicate ideal conditions for the preservation of pollen it is prudent to assess the taphonomic integrity of the pollen data. Bunting and Tipping [47] suggested eight tests to ascertain evidence for taphonomic problems, which have been applied to the palynological data on a zone by zone basis (Fig. 6). The clearest finding of this analysis is that each zone easily exceeds the suggested 6% TLP ‘resistant taxa’ TLP threshold. Primarily this is a result of high Lactuceae pollen percentages which are ≥15% TLP (Fig. 7) through each local pollen assemblage zone (LPAZ) of the core. The consistency of this pattern – even through zones which otherwise do not indicate taphonomic problems (Figs. 6, 7) – suggests that these elevated percentages do not necessarily indicate poor preservation of pollen. Rather it may be the case that Lactuceae pollen reflects the erosion and deposition of ‘old’ secondary pollen from soils in the surrounding catchment [48]. Furthermore, the majority of the pollen types in the resistant taxa category derive from species which are known to respond to human activity. The utility of the ‘resistant taxa’ measure, in the context of a human impact study, is therefore debatable and failure of this test is not considered to have serious implications for the interpretation of the assemblages that only fail this test. More concerning are the assemblages from the basal three zones (COR-1a, 1b and 2a). Mean pollen concentrations are lower than the 3000 grains cm-3 threshold recommended by Bunting and Tipping [47] while each TLP sum in COR-1a was below 300 grains. These results indicate post depositional pollen loss and that data from the basal three zones should be interpreted with caution. The same conclusion applies to LPAZ COR-4 where indeterminable pollen percentages frequently exceed the recommended 30% threshold (Fig. 6).


The palaeoenvironmental impact of prehistoric settlement and proto-historic urbanism: tracing the emergence of the Oppidum of Corent, Auvergne, France.

Ledger PM, Miras Y, Poux M, Milcent PY - PLoS ONE (2015)

Percentage pollen and spore diagram displaying selected taxa (based on TLP sum – Lactuceae).Also shown is the lithology, microscopic charcoal and total pollen concentration. + indicates <1% TLP.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4390215&req=5

pone.0121517.g007: Percentage pollen and spore diagram displaying selected taxa (based on TLP sum – Lactuceae).Also shown is the lithology, microscopic charcoal and total pollen concentration. + indicates <1% TLP.
Mentions: Given the provenance of the core from the palaeo-basin of the Lac du Puy, evidence for historical management and a lithology which does not indicate ideal conditions for the preservation of pollen it is prudent to assess the taphonomic integrity of the pollen data. Bunting and Tipping [47] suggested eight tests to ascertain evidence for taphonomic problems, which have been applied to the palynological data on a zone by zone basis (Fig. 6). The clearest finding of this analysis is that each zone easily exceeds the suggested 6% TLP ‘resistant taxa’ TLP threshold. Primarily this is a result of high Lactuceae pollen percentages which are ≥15% TLP (Fig. 7) through each local pollen assemblage zone (LPAZ) of the core. The consistency of this pattern – even through zones which otherwise do not indicate taphonomic problems (Figs. 6, 7) – suggests that these elevated percentages do not necessarily indicate poor preservation of pollen. Rather it may be the case that Lactuceae pollen reflects the erosion and deposition of ‘old’ secondary pollen from soils in the surrounding catchment [48]. Furthermore, the majority of the pollen types in the resistant taxa category derive from species which are known to respond to human activity. The utility of the ‘resistant taxa’ measure, in the context of a human impact study, is therefore debatable and failure of this test is not considered to have serious implications for the interpretation of the assemblages that only fail this test. More concerning are the assemblages from the basal three zones (COR-1a, 1b and 2a). Mean pollen concentrations are lower than the 3000 grains cm-3 threshold recommended by Bunting and Tipping [47] while each TLP sum in COR-1a was below 300 grains. These results indicate post depositional pollen loss and that data from the basal three zones should be interpreted with caution. The same conclusion applies to LPAZ COR-4 where indeterminable pollen percentages frequently exceed the recommended 30% threshold (Fig. 6).

Bottom Line: Although these features are clearly key indicators of human settlement, and characterise Neolithic and early to Middle Bronze Age impacts at Corent, they do not appear to represent defining features of a protohistoric urban environment.The Late Iron Age Gallic Oppidum of Corent is remarkable for the paucity of evidence for agriculture and strong representation of apophytes associated with disturbance.These results clearly indicate the value of local-scale palaeoecological studies and their potential for tracing the phases in the emergence of a proto-historic urban environment.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, BP 10448, Clermont-Ferrand, France; CNRS, USR 3550, MSH, Clermont-Ferrand, France; CNRS, UMR 6042, GEOLAB, Clermont-Ferrand, France; Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
Early human societies and their interactions with the natural world have been extensively explored in palaeoenvironmental studies across Central and Western Europe. Yet, despite an extensive body of scholarship, there is little consideration of the environmental impacts of proto-historic urbanisation. Typically palaeoenvironmental studies of Bronze and Iron Age societies discuss human impact in terms of woodland clearance, landscape openness and evidence for agriculture. Although these features are clearly key indicators of human settlement, and characterise Neolithic and early to Middle Bronze Age impacts at Corent, they do not appear to represent defining features of a protohistoric urban environment. The Late Iron Age Gallic Oppidum of Corent is remarkable for the paucity of evidence for agriculture and strong representation of apophytes associated with disturbance. Increased floristic diversity - a phenomenon also observed in more recent urban environments - was also noted. The same, although somewhat more pronounced, patterns are noted for the Late Bronze Age and hint at the possibility of a nascent urban area. High percentages of pollen from non-native trees such as Platanus, Castanea and Juglans in the late Bronze Age and Gallic period also suggest trade and cultural exchange, notably with the Mediterranean world. Indeed, these findings question the validity of applying Castanea and Juglans as absolute chronological markers of Romanisation. These results clearly indicate the value of local-scale palaeoecological studies and their potential for tracing the phases in the emergence of a proto-historic urban environment.

No MeSH data available.