Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 463–476 | Cite as

Olive tree varieties cultivated for the great Baetican oil trade between the 1st and the 4th centuries ad: morphometric analysis of olive stones from Las Delicias (Ecija, Province of Seville, Spain)

  • Oriane Bourgeon
  • Clémence PagnouxEmail author
  • Stéphane Mauné
  • Enrique García Vargas
  • Sarah Ivorra
  • Vincent Bonhomme
  • Mohammed Ater
  • Abdelmajid Moukhli
  • Jean-Frédéric Terral
Original Article


During the excavations of a Roman amphora workshop and oil mill of the 1st–4th century ad in Las Delicias, Genil valley, Ecija, Spain, large quantities of charred olive stones were recovered. The assemblages discovered in the pottery kilns demonstrate the use as fuel of olive residues, which were obtained from the extraction of the oil in the nearby mill. The abundance of material offered the opportunity to study the infra-specific diversity of the olives growing in the province of Baetica, which is known to have been an important oil-producing region during the Roman Empire. In total, 335 intact charred archaeological olive stones were analysed using geometric morphometry (outline analysis) and compared with several current morphotypes. These have been identified within a set of dimensional references of the stones established from the morphometric study of current varieties and wild populations, including genuinely wild and feral forms of olives, from various areas around the Mediterranean. The morphotype mainly found in wild populations was widely represented among the olive stones from Las Delicias. A large proportion of the archaeological stones were however close to various domesticated forms, which reflect the history of the region and of its varied cultural Mediterranean influences, Punic, Greek and Roman. Moreover, intermediate forms between two distinct morphotypes were identified. They suggest that hybrid olive trees derived from crosses among domesticated varieties and also between domesticated and wild forms, were grown in Las Delicias. In the Genil valley, Roman olive cultivation was based on a set of local olives which included wild and domesticated varieties from various origins, and whose diversity arose from breeding for improvement of varieties.


Archaeological olive stones Roman period Morphometrics Baetican olive cultivation Varietal diversity 



This study is part of the following research programs: OLEASTRO (OLEiculture et AmphoreS en Turdétanie Romaine) of the scientific axis “Economy and environment” of the LabEx Archimede, PAEBR (Production Artisanale, Économie et Environnement en Bétique Romaine) directed by S. Mauné, TOUBKAL 15/04 EcoGenOlea (Ecologie et génétique des oléastraies du Maroc: enjeux pour la conservation et la valorisation de la biodiversité marocaine) directed by J.-F. Terral and M. Ater. We thank A. Nègre for her collaboration, the collection of the Melgueil experimental domain (INRA, Mauguio, France) and the Tessaout worldwide collection of the olive tree (INRA Marrakech, Morocco), which has provided us with modern reference material. We also would like to thank James Greig and two anonymous reviewers who helped to improve our manuscript. This work was also supported by a doctoral fellowship from the French Ministry of Research granted to C. Pagnoux. This article is the ISEM contribution no. ISEM 2017-152.

Supplementary material

334_2017_648_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oriane Bourgeon
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Clémence Pagnoux
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  • Stéphane Mauné
    • 1
    • 2
  • Enrique García Vargas
    • 6
  • Sarah Ivorra
    • 5
    • 7
  • Vincent Bonhomme
    • 5
  • Mohammed Ater
    • 7
    • 8
  • Abdelmajid Moukhli
    • 9
  • Jean-Frédéric Terral
    • 5
    • 7
  1. 1.Archéologie des Sociétés Méditerranéennes, UMR 5140 CNRS/Université Paul Valéry/MCC, équipe Techniques, Productions, Commerce et ConsommationsMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.LabEx Archimede-ANR-11-LAB-0032-01Université Paul ValéryMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Casa de VelázquezCiudad UniversitariaMadridSpain
  4. 4.Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, Minist. Culture et Com., LAMPEA UMR 7269Aix-en-ProvenceFrance
  5. 5.Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution-Montpellier, UMR 5554 CNRS/Université de Montpellier/IRD/EPHE, Equipe Dynamique de la Biodiversité, Anthropo-écologieMontpellier Cedex 5France
  6. 6.Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Facultad de Geografíae HistoriaUniversidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  7. 7.International Associated Laboratory, CNRS-LIA EVOlea (France-Morocco)MontpellierFrance
  8. 8.Laboratoire de Botanique Appliquée, Equipe Bio-Agrodiversité, Département de Biologie, Faculté des SciencesUniversité Abdelmalek EssaâdiTétouanMorocco
  9. 9.INRA-Maroc, CRRA de MarrakechMarrakechMorocco

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