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Final Report Summary - HUMANSCAPES (The origins of intensive pastoralism and the creation of cultural landscapes in North-Eastern Spain)

HumanScapes focusses on the role of intensive pastoralism in the creation of mountain cultural landscapes, which are defined as areas which have been largely shaped by past human activities. Pastoralism has been a key player in the human modification of mountain landscapes in the past. Extensive burnings of forest as early as the Neolithic have been documented in relation to the creation of pastures for pastoral use and the continuous grazing of mountain areas had long-term effects such as intense erosion causing everlasting landscape changes. This project aims to analyse the origins of intensive pastoral practices including transhumant pastoralism in NE Spain in order to provide insights into the construction of anthropogenic landscapes.
The Garraf Massif (fig. 1) provides an excellent study area to test hypotheses on the development of the first intensive pastoral use and animal movement in NE Spain. Although today its degraded landscape can barely sustain a small population of sheep and goats, the presence of multiple very large enclosures with very sparse occupational traces that have been provisionally dated around the 7th century BC suggests that it was not so in the past. This is a particularly interesting date as it marks the onset of ‘complex’ societies in the Iberian peninsula with the beginning of contacts with eastern Mediterranean cultures, the development of territoriality and the concentration of population in central sites eventually heading proto-states. The Garraf is located between two of these central sites where important accumulations of animal bones and provision for agricultural surplus are documented. Also the Garraf is located next to the coastal wetlands where rich seasonal grassland would have been available during the summer to complement the winter pastures on the Garraf.
A multidisciplinary approach combining landscape archaeology, remote sensing, survey, excavation, palaeoenvironmental analyses (including Pollen, NPP, and microcharcoal), zooarchaeological analysis, isotopic analysis (both strontium and oxygen), and ethnographical study has been employed to investigate past pastoral dynamics in the study area and provide hypotheses on the movement of flocks and their impact on the environment.
Development of the project
1. The remote sensing-based detection of archaeological features aimed at the location of previously unknown enclosures by means of photointerpretation and digital terrain modelling. It employed multiple aerial photographic series covering the years from 1945 to 2010. Also a LiDAR survey (following a process of vegetation filtering and interpolation) of the study area was employed to find structures covered by vegetation and to map them at a very high scale (fig. 2).
2. Archaeological survey of newly detected and previously known archaeological features was conducted during the course of three field visits conducted in February and May 2015 and in March 2016. As a result of these the total number of large-scale enclosures in the Garraf has been increased to seven.
3. Excavation of archaeological structures and environmental records was conducted during two fieldwork campaigns in May 2015 and March 2016. These were designed to accomplish three main objectives: (1) date the enclosures found in the Garraf, (2) characterise their typology and (3) obtain bio-archaeological material for laboratory based analyses (mainly zooarchaeological and isotopic). Four trenches were opened in total in three of the currently undated and most promising structures: Puig de la Mola, Marge del Moro (where two trenches were excavated) and Puig dels Avençons (fig. 3). A last enclosure, La Timba de Santa Bàrbara is being excavated by Catalan colleagues with whom we are closely collaborating.
No animal bones were found that could help test hypotheses for the use of the enclosures. Nor was any charcoal or organic material adequate for radiocarbon dating recovered during the excavations. Sediment was taken from the occupation layers and had to be treated to extract microcharcoal that was dated using micro-sample AMS radiocarbon dating. The four radiocarbon dates obtained using this method were all reliable and provided an important chronological frame for the development of intensive pastoralism in the Garraf.
The lack of bioarchaeological remains inside the enclosures prevented zooarchaeological and isotopic analysis of excavated remains as planned in the initial project proposal. In order to address this issue it was decided to try a different approach designed to obtain comparable results to those that should have provided by archaeological excavation but using different proxies:
1. Palaeoenvironmental analyses directed at studying the chronology, intensity and mechanisms and consequences of early pastoral activities in the Garraf. Three different sequences have been obtained: (1) a 6 metre deep continuous sedimentological sequence recovered with a Russian corer from the Garraf coast. This register will be able to study changes in vegetation such as deforestation activities and development of grasslands in the massif. (2) A second register is a natural sequence excavated in a doline, from which a continuous record has been obtained through manual excavation (figure 2). This sequence, located between the three excavated enclosures, will allow investigation of local fire dynamics and local animal presence by the study of microcharcoal and coprophilous fungal spores. (3) Finally, a set of samples was obtained from a fumier at Can Sadurní Cave, located between Puig de la Mola and Marge del Moro enclosures. This cave had a continuous occupation from the Early Neolithic up to the Roman period. The recovered samples preserve pollen and can give a good impression of local vegetation dynamics that can be compared with the regional data provided by the coastal sequence. The radiocarbon dating-based chronological model of the doline and coastal sequences is completed. From these only the microcharcoal analysis of the doline sequence has been completed, providing a nuanced picture of the use of fire as a landscape management tool since the Late Neolithic (fig. 4). The rest of the palaeoenvironmental analyses are in progress and the results will be obtained during 2017.
2. Zooarchaeological analyses aimed at investigating animal mobility. Ovicaprine mandibles from two important Iron Age to Roman sites (Montjuïc Iron Age settlement and Turó de la Font de la Canya) around the Garraf Massif have been obtained. Oxygen and Strontium stable isotope analysis will aim at identifying seasonal mobility patterns in the regional livestock of the period of interest. All samples for isotope analysis have been sent to specialised laboratories and are under study. The results will be available during 2016.
3. Ethnoarchaeological interviews were also conducted during March 2016. These are providing models for the interpretation of past pastoral practices inside the study area.
Preliminary results
Human activity, particularly burning to promote grassland, played a major role in shaping the Garraf landscape at least during the Late Neolithic (LN) and pre-Roman and Roman Iron Age. Hill-top enclosures of LN, Early Iron Age (EIA) and Roman date are largely devoid of cultural material, suggesting use as animal pens rather than long-term human settlements. EIA are significantly larger than LN enclosures, suggesting use of the massif by increasing numbers of livestock over time. The location of the EIA enclosures at the intersections of later municipal boundaries, and away from natural longer-distance routes, suggests their use by herds from local lowland communities. During the late Roman period, a yet larger enclosure, located near the only easy route across the Garraf (linking Barcino and Tarraco), may reflect longer-distance movements by larger numbers of livestock. This is compatible with palynological evidence for increased grazing of nearby coastal wetlands and with the opportunities afforded by urban markets, by safer overland passage resulting from Roman rule, and by villa-based estates perhaps offering large blocks of fallow (winter) and stubble (summer) pasture. Evidence is thus emerging for increasingly large-scale and mobile pastoral use of the Garraf, but not yet of the long-distance seasonal transhumance over a wide altitudinal range of subsequent centuries.

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Record Number: 187521 / Last updated on: 2016-08-11