Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 19–33 | Cite as

Wild fruit use among early farmers in the Neolithic (5400–2300 cal bc) in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula: an intensive practice?

  • Ferran Antolín
  • Stefanie Jacomet
Original Article


The archaeobotanical record of 24 sites from the Neolithic period (5400–2300 cal bc) in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula is evaluated. Remarkable amounts of data have recently been obtained for the early and middle Neolithic phases. Most of the studied sites were dry and they only yielded charred plant material. Among dry sites, several types of context were evaluated: dwelling areas, hearths, roasting pits and byres. Material was also analysed from a waterlogged cultural layer of one early Neolithic lakeshore site, La Draga. Quercus sp. (acorns), Corylus avellana L. (hazelnuts), Pistacia lentiscus L. (mastic fruits) and Vitis vinifera L. var. sylvestris (wild grapes) were among the most frequently encountered fruits and seeds. Their presence in the archaeobotanical record clearly maps their past ecological distribution in the region. There are differences observed between the charred dry-land material and the waterlogged uncharred material. Wild fruits were mostly present in an uncharred state in La Draga. Therefore, their consumption could go unnoticed in dry sites when fruits were eaten raw or without roasting. Larger amounts of charred remains of certain wild fruits like acorns and hazelnuts found in mountain areas are highlighted as potential evidence of the regular practice of roasting, potentially indicating regional traditions. All in all, our results support an intensive wild plant use at least during the first 1,300 years of the Neolithic period. Evidence of wild plant food consumption becomes scanty towards the second phase of the middle and the late Neolithic (4th and 3rd millennium cal bc). This, however, might also be due to taphonomic reasons.


Archaeobotany Catalonia Andorra Wild edible plants Taphonomy Gathering 



We would like to thank all the archaeologists who supplied samples for archaeobotanical studies. FA wishes to thank R. Piqué (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and R. Buxó for guidance during the elaboration of his doctorate. Thanks to Ö. Akeret (IPAS) for helping with difficult identifications. We acknowledge S. M. Valamoti and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on an earlier version of this paper and J. Greig as copy editor.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Integrative Prehistory and Archaeological Science (IPNA/IPAS)Basel UniversityBaselSwitzerland

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