PLoS ONE (Jan 2020)

Early Neolithic (ca. 5850-4500 cal BC) agricultural diffusion in the Western Mediterranean: An update of archaeobotanical data in SW France.

  • Laurent Bouby,
  • Philippe Marinval,
  • Frédérique Durand,
  • Isabel Figueiral,
  • François Briois,
  • Michel Martzluff,
  • Thomas Perrin,
  • Nicolas Valdeyron,
  • Jean Vaquer,
  • Jean Guilaine,
  • Claire Manen

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15, no. 4
p. e0230731


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Farming economy was first introduced to the coastal areas of Southern France by Impressa groups (ca. 5850-5650 cal BC), originating from Italy, and subsequently spread to the hinterland by Cardial/Epicardial communities (ca. 5400-4500 cal BC). Fruit and seed remains preserved in archaeological sites provide direct evidence of the botanical resources cultivated and collected by these ancient social groups. But the transition from hunter-gathering to agricultural subsistence strategies is still poorly known in the area, due to insufficient and sometimes outdated archaeobotanical studies. Here we present new results and a critical review of all the available archaeobotanical data, in order to characterize food plant resources, cultivation practices and their variations in time and space. The archaeological dataset is composed of 19 sites (20 site/phases) mostly located in the Mediterranean lowlands. Our results demonstrate that farming economy of the Impressa groups was focused on the cultivation of hulled wheats, with only slight differences compared to their South Italian origins. The contribution of naked cereals increased in the Cardial/Epicardial agriculture, in agreement with the situation in other areas of the Western Mediterranean. The subsistence economy of hinterland sites seems to include a wider contribution of wild fruits and more limited contribution of crops. However, the poor evidence of cultivation activities in the hinterland is likely due first to the difficulties to find and excavate the sites and perform large-scale archaeobotanical sampling. It is likely that agriculture played a significant but variable role between sites and territories.