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In this paper we propose a methodological systematisation for the qualitative and quantitative characters and numerical description of carbonised cereal remains (basically caryopses) found at archaeological sites. The aim of this methodology is to study such remains after evaluating the significance of taphonomic processes, such as the degree of fragmentation, cause of fragmentation, overrepresentation of certain taxa, processes of erosion, transport and deposition, and combustion intensity. Attention is also paid to the fragmentation of the caryopses prior to charring, and a new method is presented for the calculation of the minimum numbers of individuals (MNI) of cereal caryopses. This methodology requires a seed-by-seed description in order to obtain fully quantified data of taphonomic importance, which is therefore time consuming, but at the same time achieves precise information of great value for the evaluation of the assemblage. Our case study has been the remains found in Layer 18 at the archaeological cave site of Can Sadurní (Begues, Barcelona province, Spain), one of the most important early Neolithic cereal assemblages on the Iberian Peninsula. © 2010 Springer-Verlag. Source


Colominas L.,Autonomous University of Barcelona | Colominas L.,University of Cambridge | Pons E.,Museu DArqueologia de Catalonia | Sana M.,Autonomous University of Barcelona
Environmental Archaeology | Year: 2013

Animals have played an important role in certain ceremonies or rites in the past. During such activities, animals may have been alive, dead or been used as raw material. The disposal of detritus from these practices can lead to the formation of faunal assemblages with a particular taxonomic and anatomic composition. At the Iron Age 'Mas Castellar de Pontós' site (Girona, Spain), associations of archaeological materials excavated from Pit feature FS362 were suggestive of deposits arising from collective ceremonial consumption. Analysis of the 1309 mammal remains recovered from this feature is used to determine the nature and dynamics of the ceremony. At the same time, the relationship of these faunal remains with the other archaeological materials recovered in the pit will allow light to be shed on the significance and importance of these ceremonies in the framework of the social and political relations that governed the life of the inhabitants of this settlement. © Association for Environmental Archaeology 2013. Source


Araus J.L.,University of Barcelona | Ferrio J.P.,University of Lleida | Voltas J.,University of Lleida | Aguilera M.,University of Lleida | Buxo R.,Museu DArqueologia de Catalonia
Nature Communications | Year: 2014

The appearance of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent propelled the development of Western civilization. Here we investigate the evolution of agronomic conditions in this region by reconstructing cereal kernel weight and using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures of kernels and charcoal from a set of 11 Upper Mesopotamia archaeological sites, with chronologies spanning from the onset of agriculture to the turn of the era. We show that water availability for crops, inferred from carbon isotope discrimination (δ 13 C), was two-to fourfold higher in the past than at present, with a maximum between 10,000 and 8,000 ‰cal BP. Nitrogen isotope composition (δ 15 N) decreased over time, which suggests cultivation occurring under gradually less-fertile soil conditions. Domesticated cereals showed a progressive increase in kernel weight over several millennia following domestication. Our results provide a first comprehensive view of agricultural evolution in the Near East inferred directly from archaeobotanical remains. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Source


Ferrio J.P.,University of Lleida | Arab G.,Natural Resource Management Program | Buxo R.,Museu DArqueologia de Catalonia | Guerrero E.,Autonomous University of Barcelona | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2012

Modern Syria, and in particular the Middle Euphrates valley, has been occupied and overexploited since the beginnings of agriculture. Thus, the study of the economic and environmental characteristics of ancient settlements may offer new perspectives on the long-term effects of continuous agriculture in a fragile agroecosystem. In this work, we present a methodological framework that uses archaeological information to understand long-term effects of the extensification of agriculture in present-time arid areas. Specifically, we have compared the main economic features of a Neolithic site of the middle Euphrates, Tell Halula (ca. 10th millennium BP), with present-day data from the surrounding region. Population, crop distribution, cereal yields and arable land requirements during the first millennia after the emergence of agriculture were estimated from archaeological data and compared with a compilation of present-time official statistics and data derived from a field survey. We observed a trend towards a cereal-based farming during the Neolithic, associated to a decrease in the diversity of wild florae. This was accompanied by a growth in population during the earliest phases of the settlement (8200-7000 cal BCE), followed by a decline in population in the late phases (7000-5400 cal BCE), probably as a consequence of exceeding the capacity of the agroecosystem. A comparable situation to that found in early phases of Tell Halula was observed in modern communities, showing similar growth rates and a strong focus on cereal crops. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Antolin F.,University of Basel | Buxo R.,Museu DArqueologia de Catalonia | Jacomet S.,University of Basel | Navarrete V.,Autonomous University of Barcelona | Sana M.,Autonomous University of Barcelona
Environmental Archaeology | Year: 2014

A combined analysis of the faunal and charred plant macroremains from the early Neolithic lakeshore site of La Draga (Banyoles, Spain) is presented. The aim was to characterise the farming strategies practiced by the first Neolithic communities in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula in terms of their degree of intensity. The joint discussion of the data allowed the observation that permanent plots could have been kept, that a high harvest would have been practiced and that a low-scale processing of the crop could have taken place within the domestic space, where the grain would be stored. This type of crop husbandry would permit the livestock to access the fields and graze the stubble, which would result in the manuring of the plots. Herds were kept close to the dwellings and different management and consumption practices were observed between the larger and the smaller animals. Smaller animals were probably produced and consumed at a household scale while larger animals would require a cooperative management and consumption. It is concluded that the available evidence points towards an intensive mixed farming model. © Association for Environmental Archaeology 2014. Source

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