Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 35–46 | Cite as

Harvesting the ‘wild’? Exploring the context of fruit and nut exploitation at Neolithic Dikili Tash, with special reference to wine

  • Soultana Maria Valamoti
Original Article


The relationship between farming communities in south-eastern Europe and wild plant resources, fruit and nut trees in particular, is explored in this paper, based on charred plant remains from House 1 at late Neolithic Dikili Tash in eastern Macedonia, northern Greece, retrieved between 2010 and 2012. Within the rubble of a burnt destruction level dated to the second half of the 5th millennium cal BC, a wide range of cultivated crops like cereals, pulses and flax were stored together with a variety of fruit and nuts, such as acorns, wild pears, grapes, including grape pips and grape pressings and possibly figs, too. These finds provide a rare opportunity to investigate the use of fruit as well as the origins and context of wine making and consumption in the Neolithic of south-eastern Europe. Human interference with natural vegetation in relation to use of wild trees is discussed in light of the archaeobotanical, palynological and charcoal evidence from the wider area of the site. It is suggested that the remains from Dikili Tash may be pointing towards some early form of arboriculture in the region. The interplay of wild and domesticated plant resources encountered at the site is discussed within the framework of established oppositions between ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ in archaeological discourse. It is suggested that fruit and nut use at Dikili Tash might correspond to old traditions dating back to the hunter-gatherers of south-eastern Europe while wine, for which there is evidence at the site, might have acted as a mediator between human communities, cultivated landscapes and wild vegetation, inducing altered states of consciousness and cultivated/wild boundary transitions.


Wild plant foods Vitis vinifera L. Neolithic viticulture Wine-making Eastern Macedonia region 



The Dikili Tash excavation program is run under the auspices of the École française d’Athènes (EFA) and the Athens Archaeological Society. I am deeply grateful to the directors of the excavation, Pascal Darcque, Chaido Koukouli-Chrysanthaki, Dimitra Malamidou and Zoï Tsirtsoni for entrusting me with the study of the Dikili Tash material and for generously providing every possible help, in the field and during study and preparation of this paper. Nicolas Garnier kindly provided unpublished information on his residue analysis of the Dikili Tash pottery fragments. Stephanie Thiébault kindly provided unpublished information on the presence of Vitis wood at Dikili Tash. Laurent Lespez generously shared unpublished information on current palynological investigations in the vicinity of Dikili Tash. Special thanks go to a large number of students of the Department of Archaeology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who provided their help in the field and in the laboratory between 2010 and 2012, in particular our postgraduate students Angeliki Karathanou, Martha Kokkidou, Chryssa Petridou, Eleni Telioridou and Aimilia Kokonaki. Chryssa Petridou provided invaluable help in the study of the plant remains presented here. Natalia Alonso, Ferran Antolín-Tutusaus, René Cappers, Lucy Kubiak Martens and Hans-Peter Stika provided help towards Pyrus amygdaliformis identification. Tassos Bekiaris and Nikos Katsikaridis helped with Fig. 8a, b. Hüseyin Çınar Öztürk and Burcin Erdoğu facilitated comprehension of the Turkish literature. I am also grateful to Stephanie Jacomet and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. I wish to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the archaeobotanical work at Dikili Tash, largely provided by the National Geographic Society with further financial help from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) and the École française d’Athènes.

Supplementary material

334_2014_487_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (95 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 95 kb)


  1. Anderson Kat M (2006) Tending the wild: Native American knowledge and the management of California’s natural resources. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  2. Antolín Tutusaus F (2013) Of cereals, poppy, acorns and hazelnuts. Plant economy among early farmers (5400–2300 cal. bc) in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula. An archaeobotanical approach. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,
  3. Arıtuluk ZC, Ezer N (2012) Halk Arasında Diyabete Karşı Kullanılan Bitkiler (Turkiye)-II (Use of anti-diabetic plants in Turkish folk medicine-II, in Turkish). Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eczacılık Fakültesi Dergisi 32, Ankara, pp 179–208Google Scholar
  4. Barnard H, Dooley AN, Areshian G, Gasparyan B, Faull KF (2011) Chemical evidence for wine production around 4000 BCE in the Late Chalcolithic Near Eastern highlands. J Archaeol Sci 38:977–984CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borojevic K (2009) Water chestnuts (Trapa natans L.) as controversial plants: botanical, ethno-historical and archaeological evidence. In: Fairbairn A, Weiss E (eds) From Foragers to farmers. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 86–97Google Scholar
  6. Bottema S, Woldring H (1990) Anthropogenic indicators in the pollen record of the Eastern Mediterranean. In: Bottema S, Entjes-Nieborg G, Van Zeist W (eds) Man’s role in the shaping of the eastern Mediterranean landscape. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 231–264Google Scholar
  7. Butler A, Tesfay Z, D’Andrea C, Lyons D (1999) The ethnobotany of Lathyrus sativus L. in the highlands of Ethiopia. In: Van der Veen M (ed) The exploitation of plant resources in ancient Africa. Kluwer/Plenum, New York, pp 123–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chronique de fouilles en ligne (2012)
  9. Cunningham P (2010) Cache or carry: food storage in prehistoric Europe. In: Millson D (ed) Replication and interpretation: the use of experimental archaeology in the study of the past. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 7–28Google Scholar
  10. Darcque P, Koukouli-Chryssanthaki H, Malamidou D, Treuil R, Tsirtsoni Z (2007) Recent researches at the Neolithic settlement of Dikili Tash, Eastern Macedonia, Greece: an overview. In: Todorova H, Stefanovich M, Ivanov G (eds) The Struma/Strymon river valley in prehistory. Proceedings of the International Symposium ‘Strymon Praehistoricus’, Kjustendil-Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria) and Serres-Amphipolis (Greece), 2004. Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Düsseldorf, pp 247–256Google Scholar
  11. Dennell RW (1976) The economic importance of plant resources represented on archaeological sites. J Archaeol Sci 3:229–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emre-Bulut G, Tuzlacı E (2008) Bozcaada’nın halk ilac olarak kullanılan bitkileri (Uses of medicines on Bozcaada, in Turkish). In: Akdemir A, Demircan O, Yılmaz S, Takaoglu T, Erginal E (eds) Bozcaada Değerleri Sempozyumu 2008. Aynalı Pazar, ÇanakkaleGoogle Scholar
  13. Ertuğ F (2009) Wild plant foods: routine dietary supplements or famine foods? In: Fairbairn A, Weiss E (eds) From foragers to farmers. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 64–70Google Scholar
  14. Fairbairn A, Martinoli D, Butler A, Hillman G (2007) Wild plant seed storage at Neolithic Çatalhöyük East, Turkey. Veget Hist Archaeobot 16:467–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forbes H (1996) The uses of the uncultivated landscape in modern Greece: a pointer to the value of the wilderness in antiquity? In: Salmon J, Shipley G (eds) Human landscapes in classical antiquity: environment and culture. (Leicester–Nottingham studies in ancient society 6). Routledge, London, pp 68–97Google Scholar
  16. French DH (1971) An experiment in water-sieving. Anatol Stud 21:59–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glais A, Lespez L, Lopez-Saez JA (2013) The environment of tell of Dikili Tash: anthropogenic and climatic changes. In: 8th international conference on geomorphology (IAG) 2013, abstracts, p 423Google Scholar
  18. Greig JRA, Turner J (1974) Some pollen diagrams from Greece and their archaeological significance. J Archaeol Sci 1:177–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hadorn P (1994) Saint-Blaise/Bains des Dames 1: Palynologie d’un site néolithique et histoire de la végétation des derniers 16000 ans. Musée Cantonal d’Archéologie, NeuchâtelGoogle Scholar
  20. Halstead P (1994) The north-south divide: regional paths to complexity in prehistoric Greece. In: Mathers C, Stoddart S (eds) Development and decline in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. (Sheffield Archaeological Monographs 8), J.R.Collis Publications Sheffield, pp 195–219Google Scholar
  21. Halstead P (2000) Land use in postglacial Greece: cultural causes and environmental effects. In: Halstead P, Frederick C (eds) Landscape and land use in postglacial Greece. (Sheffield Studies in Aegean Archaeology 3). Oxbow, Oxford, pp 110–128Google Scholar
  22. Harris DR (1996) Introduction: themes and concepts in the study of early agriculture. In: Harris DR (ed) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. University College Press, London, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  23. Hodder I (1990) The domestication of Europe: structure and contingency in Neolithic societies. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Hosoya LA (2011) Staple or famine food? Ethnographic and archaeological approaches to nut processing in East Asian prehistory. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 3:7–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ingold T (1996) Growing plants and raising animals: an anthropological perspective on domestication. In: Harris DR (ed) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. University College Press, London, pp 12–24Google Scholar
  26. Jacomet S (2006) Plant economy of the northern alpine lake dwelling area: 3500–2400 bc cal. In: Karg S, Baumeister R, Schlichtherle H, Robinson DE (eds) Economic and environmental changes during the 4th and 3rd millennia bc. Environ Archaeol 11: 64–83Google Scholar
  27. Jacomet S (2009) Plant economies and village life in Neolithic lake dwellings at the time of the Alpine Iceman. Veget Hist Archaeobot 18:47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jacomet S (2013) Archaeobotany: analyses of plant remains from waterlogged archaeological sites. In: Menotti F, O’Sullivan A (eds) The Oxford handbook of wetland archaeology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 497–514Google Scholar
  29. Jones G (1987) Agricultural practice in Greek prehistory. Ann Br School Athens 82:115–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O (2006) Early domesticated fig in the Jordan valley. Science 312:1,372–1,374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lespez L, Tsirtsoni Z, Darcque P, Koukouli-Chryssanthaki H, Malamidou D, Treuil R, Kourtessi-Philippakis G, Davidson R, Oberlin C (2013) The lowest levels at Dikili Tash, Northern Greece: a missing link in the Early Neolithic of Europe. Antiquity 87:30–45Google Scholar
  32. Levi-Strauss C (1962) La Pensée Sauvage. Paris, Plon (Greek Translation 1977, Papazisis Publications, Athens)Google Scholar
  33. Mangafa M, Kotsakis K (1996) A new method for the identification of wild and cultivated charred grape seeds. J Archaeol Sci 23:409–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maniatis Y, Tsirtsoni Z, Oberlin C, Darcque P, Koukouli-Chryssanthaki H, Malamidou D, Siros T, Miteletsis M, Papadopoulos S, Kromer B (2014) New 14C evidence for the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age transition in Southeast Europe. In Tykot RH (ed), Proceedings of the 38th International Symposium on Archaeometry, May 10th–14th 2010, Tampa, Florida, Open Journal of Archaeometry 2: 5,262Google Scholar
  35. Marinova E, Valamoti SM (2014) Crop diversity and choice in prehistoric southeastern Europe: cultural and environmental factors shaping the archaeobotanical record of northern Greece and Bulgaria. In: Chevalier A, Marinova E, Peña-Chocarro L (eds) Plants and people: choices and diversity through time. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 46–54 and 92–102Google Scholar
  36. Marinova EM, Filipović D, Obradović D, Allué E (2013) Wild plant resources and land use in the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic South-East Europe: archaeobotanical evidence from the Danube catchment of Bulgaria and Serbia. Offa 69(70):467–478Google Scholar
  37. Mason S (1995) Acornutopia? Determining the role of acorns in past human subsistence. In: Wilkins J, Harvey D, Dobson M (eds) Food in antiquity. University of Exeter Press, Exeter, pp 12–23Google Scholar
  38. Mason S, Nesbitt M (2009) Acorns as food in Southeast Turkey: implications for prehistoric subsistence in Southwest Asia. In: Fairbairn A, Weiss E (eds) From foragers to farmers: papers in honour of Gordon Hillman. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 71–85Google Scholar
  39. McGovern P, Glusker DL, Exner LJ, Voight MM (1996) Neolithic resinated wine. Nature 381:480–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McNeely JA (2004) Nature versus nurture: managing relationships between forests, agroforestry and wild biodiversity. Agrofor Syst 61–62:155–165Google Scholar
  41. Miller NF (2008) Sweeter than wine? The use of the grape in early western Asia. Antiquity 82:937–946Google Scholar
  42. Pagnoux C, Bouby L, Ivorra S, Petit Ch, Valamoti S-M, Pastor T, Picq S, Terral JF (2014) Inferring the agrobiodiversity of Vitis vinifera L. (grapevine) in ancient Greece by comparative shape analysis of archaeological and modern seeds. Veget Hist Archaeobot. doi 10.1007/s00334-014-0482-y
  43. Perlès C (2001) The early Neolithic of Greece. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Psilakis N, Psilaki M (2001) Το Ψωμί των Ελλήνων (The bread of the Greeks, in Greek). Karmanor Publications, HerakleionGoogle Scholar
  45. Rival L (1998) Domestication as a historical and symbolic process: wild gardens and cultivated forests in the Equatorial Amazon. In: Balée WL (ed) Advances in historical ecology. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 232–250Google Scholar
  46. Rivera Nunez D, Walker MJ (1989) A review of palaeobotanical findings of early Vitis in the Mediterranean and of the origins of cultivated grape-vines, with special reference to new pointers to prehistoric exploitation in the western Mediterranean. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 61:205–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schlesier H (2011) A different god? Dionysos and ancient polytheism. Walter de Gruyter, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sigaut F (1988) A method for identifying grain storage techniques and its application for European agricultural history. Tools Tillage 7:3–32Google Scholar
  49. Stummer A (1911) Zur Urgeschichte der Rebe und des Weinbaus. Mitt Anthropol Ges Wien 41:283–296Google Scholar
  50. Terral JF, Tabard E, Bouby L, Ivorra S, Pastor T, Figueiral I, Picq S, Chevance JB, Jung C, Fabre L, Tardy C, Compan M, Bacilieri R, Lacombe T, This P (2010) Evolution and history of grapevine (Vitis vinifera) under domestication: new morphometric perspectives to understand seed domestication syndrome and reveal origins of ancient European cultivars. Ann Bot 105:443–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tolar T, Jacomet S, Velušček A, Čufar K (2011) Plant economy at a late Neolithic lake dwelling site in Slovenia at the time of the Alpine Iceman. Veget Hist Archaeobot 20:207–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tutin TG et al (1964–1980) Flora Europaea vols 1–5. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  53. Valamoti SM (1998) Η εκμετάλλευση της αμπέλου στο χώρο της Μακεδονίας και της Θράκης κατά τη Νεολιθική και την Πρώιμη Εποχή του Χαλκού (The exploitation of the vine in Neolithic and early Bronze Age Macedonia and Thrace, in Greek). Αμπελοοινική Ιστορία στο χώρο της Μακεδονίας και της Θράκης. Ε.Τ.Β.Α. Foundation, Athens, pp 137–149Google Scholar
  54. Valamoti S (2004) Plants and people in Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age northern Greece. An archaeobotanical investigation. (BAR International Series 1258). Archaeopress, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  55. Valamoti SM (2009) Plant food ingredients and ‘recipes’ from prehistoric Greece: the archaeobotanical evidence. In: Morel JP, Mercuri AM (eds) Plants and culture: Seeds of the cultural heritage of Europe. Centro Europeo per i Beni Culturali Ravello, Edipuglia, Bari, pp 25–38Google Scholar
  56. Valamoti SM (2011) Σπόροι για τους νεκρούς; Αρχαιοβοτανικά δεδομένα από τη Μαυροπηγή Κοζάνης, θέση Φυλλοτσαΐρι (Seed for the dead? Archaeobotanical remains from Mavropigi-Fyllotsairi in Kozani, in Greek). Proceedings of the 1st Archaeological Conference on Archaeological Investigations in Upper Macedonia. Kozani, Archaeological Museum of Aiani, pp 245–256Google Scholar
  57. Valamoti SM, Kotsakis K (2007) Transitions to agriculture in the Aegean: the archaeobotanical evidence. In: Colledge S, Conolly J (eds) The origin and spread of domestic plants in SW Asia and Europe. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, University College London Institute of Archaeology Publications, London, pp 75–92Google Scholar
  58. Valamoti SM, Mangafa M, Koukouli-Chrysanthaki H, Malamidou D (2007) Grape-pressings from northern Greece: the earliest wine in the Aegean? Antiquity 81:54–61Google Scholar
  59. Valamoti SM, Moniaki K, Karathanou A (2011) An investigation of processing and consumption of pulses among prehistoric societies: archaeobotanical, experimental and ethnographic evidence from Greece. Veget Hist Archaeobot 20:381–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vidal-Naquet P (1983) Le Chasseur Noir (Greek translation). Livanis-Nea Synora Publications, AthensGoogle Scholar
  61. Willerding U (1971) Methodische Probleme bei der Untersuchung und Auswertung von Pflanzenfunden in vor- und frühgeschichtlichen Siedlungen. Nachr Nieders Urgesch 40:180–198Google Scholar
  62. Zapata L (2000) La recolección de plantas silvestres en la subsistencia mesolítica y neolítica. Datos Arqueobotánicos del País Vasco. Complutum 11:157–169Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, School of History and ArchaeologyAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessaloníkiGreece

Personalised recommendations