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The long history of Cannabis and its cultivation by the Romans in central Italy, shown by pollen records from Lago Albano and Lago di Nemi

Abstract.

The cores from the Albano and Nemi lakes, near Rome, were studied within the European Union funded PALICLAS project and provided high resolution records of the Late-glacial and Holocene. Pollen evidence of increasing human influence on vegetation was recorded in the Holocene parts of both diagrams, and the Cannabis (hemp) curve was one of the major signs. In this paper we present unambiguous pollen evidence from the Cannabaceae records for the cultivation of hemp in central Italy by the Romans. The oldest records of Cannabis and Humulus (hop) date from to the Late-glacial. Hop pollen values rise during the mid Holocene, while hemp pollen becomes more abundant from ca. 3000 cal B.P. onwards. The highest earliest hemp peak (21%) is dated to the 1st century A.D. This ‘Cannabis phase’, with the abrupt rise of hemp pollen soon after the rise of cultivated trees (Castanea, Juglans and Olea) is associated with the increase in cereals and ruderal plants. This unambiguous proof of cultivation by Romans around 2000 B.P. occurs as well as a long lasting pre-Roman presence of hemp in the area, which is natural and possibly also anthropogenic. Subsequent clear episodes of cultivation in the medieval period were found.

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Received February 4, 2002 / Accepted September 13, 2002

Correspondence to: Anna Maria Mercuri, e-mail: mercuri.annamaria@unimo.it

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Mercuri, A., Accorsi, C. & Bandini Mazzanti, M. The long history of Cannabis and its cultivation by the Romans in central Italy, shown by pollen records from Lago Albano and Lago di Nemi. Veget Hist Archaeobot 11, 263–276 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s003340200039

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s003340200039

  • Key words: Cannabis – Humulus – Pollen analysis – Cultivation – Italian crater lakes – Late-glacial/Holocene – Roman period