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An 8300-yr record of environmental and cultural changes in the Sant’Eufemia Plain (Calabria, Italy)

Elda Russo Ermollia, Maria Rosaria Ruelloa, Luigi Cicalab, Halinka Di Lorenzoa, Flavia Molissoc, Marco Pacciarellib

a Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e delle Risorse, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Largo San Marcellino 10, 80138 Napoli, Italy
b Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università di Napoli Federico II, via Nuova Marina 33, 80133 Napoli, Italy
c Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero, CNR, Calata Porta di Massa, 80133 Napoli, Italy
Quaternary International (2018) 1-18
Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2018.01.033
The landscape evolution of the Sant’Eufemia Plain (Calabria, Italy) in the last 8300 years was reconstructed through integration of pollen data and archaeological evidence within a well-defined paleoenvironmental and chronostratigraphical framework. Pollen analysis of a 24-m core showed that a dense floodplain forest characterized the landscape from ca. 8300 up to ca. 2300 yr cal BP, when human impact becomes evident through intense deforestation, cultivation and fires. Due to the high density of the forest canopy in the plain, few signs of human presence are recorded by pollen in prehistoric and protohistoric periods despite the occurrence of settlements from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. In concurrence with the reduction of wet environments in the plain and the surrounding foothills, major urban centers and villas developed during the Graeco-Roman period, entailing considerable environmental impact. Clear signs of deforestation, recorded through a general reduction of tree taxa, were connected to timber production and trade during the Roman period, as also attested by historical sources. Intensive olive cultivation started in the Early Medieval period, in agreement with other data from central and southern Italy, suggesting that olive oil consumption during the Roman period was not connected to large-scale local production. The Holocene history of this landscape shows that the location of settlements from the Neolithic onward was strongly influenced by the environment, which led people to select more stable, well-drained areas, such as relicts of inactive depositional landforms within or around the plain.

Key-words: Pollen, Microcharcoal, Deforestation, Neolithic, Graeco-Roman period, Olive