Neolithic plant economies in the northern Alpine Foreland from 5500-3500 cal BC

Jacomet, Stefanie. (2007) Neolithic plant economies in the northern Alpine Foreland from 5500-3500 cal BC. In: The origins and spread of domestic plants in Southwest Asia and Europe. Walnut Creek, Calif., pp. 221-258.

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Alpenvorland - Schweiz - Frankreich - Deutschland - -Frühneolithikum - Mittelneolithikum - Spätneolithikum Part of the Discussion: All the settlements mirror a picture of a subsistence economy, based on cultivation and gathering (and of course, animal husbandry and hunting). Cereals are present in all places, they must have played the central role in calorie supply. In contrast to this, the role of other cultivated plants is relatively hard to judge, because preservation plays a decisive role when judging their representation. Flax seems to be fairly important from early Neolithic times onwards. Opium poppy is found in large amounts only at the waterlogged places, from 4300 BC cal onwards. But it is present since early Neolithic times, and must have played some role in the plant economy since then. Very unclear is the role of pulses. Although pea is found regularly, it is very seldom represented by many specimens. Lentil is rarely present until the end of the 5th millennium BC cal, then it disappears totally (see below). (...) In the late Neolithic, in lower Bavaria, most of the Neckar region, but also in some places in Upper Suabia einkorn and emmer continue to be dominant (Fig. 7). In the other areas, tetraploid naked wheat appears as main wheat species (Fig. 8). In most of the settlements from Upper Suabia westwards, this type of naked wheat is the by far most important wheat species until 3500 BC cal. Also 3 sites of the Neckar-region show tetraploid naked wheat as dominant cereal. However, there are a few exceptions from this general picture: they are situated at the Lakes in Western Switzerland and the French Jura. The state of research, above all weak in the most western part of the area, does not allow assigning a reason for this pattern. From where tetraploid naked wheat reached the Alpine foreland has become a bit clearer only very recently. Since over 20 years, there are theories that it must have come from the western Mediterranean, from the influence sphere of the Cardial/Impressa and the succeeding cultural groups (see Fig. 3; (Jacomet and Schlichtherle 1984); (Schlichtherle 1997b)b: 12–13; (Maier 1998): 211 ff.). However, until a few years ago there no rachis remains were found. New excavations show that also in the Mediterranean lake shore settlements from the Cardial are known (in Central Italy: La Marmotta, see Rottoli in this volume; in NW-Spain: La Draga: (Bosch i Lloret et al. 2000); Buxó et al. 2000). There, tetraploid naked wheat is present, as remains of ears, spikelets and rachis remains show (pers. comm. R. Buxo and M. Rottoli). So, it is much more likely than before, that Triticum turgidum/durum penetrated our area from southwest, together with a lot of other influences, visible in the archaeological artefacts (see introduction). (...) There are other signs of Mediterranean influence in settlements after 4000 BC cal (Fig. 9). Finds of plants with a Mediterranean origin like parsley, dill, celery or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) are basically restricted to the regions where tatraploid naked wheat is the dominant wheat form (see already (Jacomet, Brombacher, and Dick 1989). They appear for the first time around 4000 BC cal. The seeds are (mostly) found only in very small amounts, however, up till now at several places. So, seeds must have reached the region regularly or these species were grown – what is hard to judge. Apium is originally a plant of salty places near the sea coast. It is also possible that it reached our area with salt trade. Somewhat astonishing is also the role of barley. Barley is very rare in the Early Neolithic. Later, it is found in much larger amounts and very regularly, with the exception of some settlements in lower Bavaria. One gets the impression that barley – mainly naked, six rowed barley was found – at least partly shows the same patterns of spread as tetraploid naked wheat. (...) In 8 places in the whole area, from middle Neolithic times onwards, some flat Triticum grains with parallel flanks were identified as Triticum cf spelta. Only in two places, glume bases were considered to be (eventually) spelt. If at all present, spelt hast to be considered as very rare. In my eyes, there are no sure traces of that species before 3500 BC cal. (and also not after this, until the very end of the Neolithic period). And we are far away from being able to explain where spelt emerged (for new results see e.g. Blatter et al. 2002).
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Archäobotanik (Jacomet)
UniBasel Contributors:Jacomet, Stefanie
Item Type:Book Section, refereed
Book Section Subtype:Book Chapter
Publisher:Left Coast Press
ISBN:978-1-59874-988-5 ; 1-59874-988-9
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Book item
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:11 Oct 2017 08:34
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 14:15

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