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Archaeobotanical research at the medieval fortified site of Îgîlîz (Anti-Atlas, Morocco) with particular reference to the exploitation of the argan tree

  • Marie-Pierre RuasEmail author
  • Margareta Tengberg
  • Ahmed S. Ettahiri
  • Abdallah Fili
  • Jean-Pierre Van Staëvel
Original Article

Abstract

The analysis of botanical macro-remains (seeds, fruits and wood) from the fortress site of Îgîlîz, situated in the Anti-Atlas mountain range of southern Morocco, provides a first glimpse of the plant economy of a medieval rural community in this part of North Africa. Considered as the original stronghold of the religious community led by Ibn Tûmart, the founder of the Almohad dynasty, the site was occupied from the 10th to the 13th century a.d. The crop assemblage identified from ashy contexts in a central grouping of buildings (the qasba) comprises barley (Hordeum vulgare), sorghum (Sorghum sp., earliest occurrence known so far from Morocco), wheat (Triticum sp.) and a pulse (Lathyrus sativus/cicera). Several arboreal fruit species are also identified: fig (Ficus carica), almond (Prunus dulcis), date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), grapevine (Vitis vinifera) and argan (Argania spinosa). The latter, predominant in the archaeobotanical record in the form of both fruit and wood remains, is of particular interest as it is the first time that this species, endemic to south-western Morocco and of prime economic interest regionally, has been identified from an archaeological context. In the past, as today, the argan tree seems to have played a major role in village economies as a source of wood for fuel and construction, fodder for livestock and food in the form of an edible oil, extracted from the oleaginous seeds. This article focuses on present and past uses of Argania spinosa as well as on the ecology and morpho-anatomy of this emblematic species.

Keywords

Argania spinosa Almohad Middle ages Morocco Rural fortress 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to M. Lemoine, CNRS, for preparing the cross-section of the hard seed coats of argan fruit. This international cooperation research program is supported by the Foreign and European Office (France), the Casa de Velázquez (Madrid), the INSAP (Rabat), the University Choaib Dokkali (El Jadida) and the French research teams UMR 8167 and UMR 5648. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers for their corrections and helpful suggestions.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie-Pierre Ruas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Margareta Tengberg
    • 1
  • Ahmed S. Ettahiri
    • 2
  • Abdallah Fili
    • 3
  • Jean-Pierre Van Staëvel
    • 4
  1. 1.Département USM 303 case Postale 56, Muséum National d’Histoire NaturelleUMR 7209, AASPE, CNRS-Muséum, Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique, Sociétés, Pratiques, EnvironnementsParisFrance
  2. 2.Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine, Département d’archéologie islamiqueMadinat Al-Irfane, Hay ar-Riyad, Angle rues 5 et 7, Rabat-InstitutsRabatMorocco
  3. 3.Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines de l’Université Chouaib DoukkaliUniversité Al Jadida, 2, avenue Med Ben Larbi AlaouiEl JadidaMorocco
  4. 4.UMR 8167, Université de Paris-SorbonneUFR d’Histoire de l’Art et d’ArchéologieParisFrance

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