, Volume 21, Issue 4-5, pp 353-372
Date: 26 Feb 2012

A marine/terrestrial integration for mid-late Holocene vegetation history and the development of the cultural landscape in the Po valley as a result of human impact and climate change

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

Integration of pollen data from both marine and terrestrial cores contributes to the understanding of the timing of the climatic and human forces that shaped the cultural landscapes in the Italian peninsula. This paper focuses on the relation between natural and human landscapes, and the development of the cultural landscape from the Bronze Age to the medieval period and modern times. Two records were studied within independent projects, first the marine core RF93-30, from the central Adriatic, with a sediment source area including the Po valley and which spans the last 7,000 years, and secondly, material from the site of Terramara di Montale, a Bronze Age settlement on the Po plain, which was occupied from approximately 3550–3200 cal. b.p. The original chronology of the marine core was developed by using the magnetic inclination of the secular variation record and two 14C dates carried out on benthic and planktic foraminifera at depths of 527 and 599 cm. Its pollen record shows a gradual irreversible trend towards increasing aridity since 5700 cal. b.p. and, just after around 5100 cal. b.p., a Picea decline and a Quercus ilex type increase indicate less cool conditions. Human impact introduces rapid changes, such as the decrease of Abies alba, thinned by the reduction of precipitation and further cleared before or during the Early Bronze Age, followed by the fall of oaks. The latter started after around 3900 cal. b.p., and became evident at around 3600 cal. b.p. The gradual increase in signs of open landscape and woodland clearance correspond to the onset of Middle Bronze Age settlements in the Po valley, and to the development of the cultural landscape in the region. The impact of the terramare people includes woodland management by coppicing, and division of the territory into a patchwork of pastures and fields. Dry environments are indicated mainly by Cichorioideae, resulting from the continued human pressure, and these spread since the Recent Bronze Age. Of the possible causes for the decline of the terramare, we suggest that climate would have been less important in the decline than in the onset phases. The later cultural landscapes are mainly indicated by the trends of the Olea, Juglans and Castanea (OJC) records, besides those of cereals. At around 700 cal. b.p., the “chestnut landscape” spread while modern times are shown by the finds of Zea mays.

Communicated by W. Kirleis.