Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 63–73 | Cite as

Plant economy and territory exploitation in the Alps during the Neolithic (5000–4200 cal bc): first results of archaeobotanical studies in the Valais (Switzerland)

Original Article

Abstract

This paper presents the archaeobotanical study of several Neolithic settlements located in the Valais, the upper part of the Rhone Valley, in Switzerland. The archaeological sites are dated between 5000 and 4200 cal bc, which corresponds to the Early and the Middle Neolithic. Most of the sites are situated around 500–600 m, overhanging the alluvial plain of the Rhone. First results of the macroremains analysis show that cereals, comprising mainly naked wheat (Triticum aestivum s.l./durum/turgidum) and barley (Hordeum distichum/vulgare), are predominant. In addition, pea (Pisum sativum) and opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) are recorded. Gathered plants are sparse, and this from the first establishment of farmers around 5000 cal bc. If we compare the obtained results with data from the Northern French Alps, not far from the Valais, we get a completely different picture of the Neolithic plant economy. In the northern French Alps the communities exploited all vegetation levels from the collinean to the subalpine belt, gathered plants playing an important role alongside the cultivated species. Our first results are giving a new insight into the first agro-pastoral communities in the Swiss Alps; they are allowing us to understand how plant resources were exploited in a mountainous context and to outline the catchment area of the settlements.

Keywords

Swiss Alps Valais Neolithic Plant macroremains Diet Exploitation of territory 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Prehistoric Archaeology and Anthropology, Institut F. A. Forel, Sciences de la Terre et de l’EnvironnementUniversité de GenèveGenève 4Switzerland
  2. 2.EDYTEM, Université de Savoie, CNRS Pôle MontagneLe Bourget Du LacFrance

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