EAA Barcelona (September, 5-8, 2018)

Talk: Indigenous Moundscapes in the Caribbean: Regional considerations towards a new synthesis

  • Eduardo Herrera-Malatesta
  • Dr. Jorge Ulloa Hung
  • Dr. Till Sonnemann
  • Prof. Dr. Menno Hoogland
  • Prof. Dr. Corinne Hofman

Recent surveys on coastal and mountainous environments in the northwestern Dominican Republic managed to identify over 200 archaeological sites. While some of these were registered by the clustering of material evidence scatter on the surface, others display an arrangement of artificial mounds. Previous archaeological research interpreted these mounds as part of a specialized agricultural system that allowed generating a surplus to sustain large populations within hierarchical political polities. However, solid regional archaeological data or contextual large-scale excavations never sustained these hypotheses. Current research within the context of the NEXUS 1492 project is challenging these initial interpretations. By photogrammetrically recording a sample of sites with mounds, it was possible to create an overview of their size, distribution, as well as arrangement of mounds and flattened areas. In addition, large-scale excavations made it possible to better understanding the function of some of these mounds as part of the settlements. The moundscape reconstructed so far indicates that this evidence was the result of the interaction of people with the immediate environment in a wide range of activities and tasks. A result from earth movement within the settlement, the mounds had been used for agricultural activities, as garbage dump, and had even served as burial ground.
Based on the newest research of NEXUS 1492 in the area, a new synthesis of the distribution and relation with different environmental variables can be created by means of GIS and spatial statistics. This paper will firstly discuss previous ideas on the functionality of mounds in the area. Secondly, a new spatial statistical analysis will be presented, to provide new insights on their distribution and relations on a regional scale. Particularly, the analysis focuses on evaluating the distributional patterns of these mounds and the relation between their location and different environmental variables, material culture and temporality.

Talk: Top-down – bottom-up: Bronze and Iron Age settlement patterns and landscape dynamics in the Northern Franconian Jura (Bavaria, Germany)

  • Katja Kothieringer
  • Timo Seregély
  • Karsten Lambers

In this paper, we present first results of an interdisciplinary, multi-year research project on Bronze and Iron Age (approx. 2100 – 30 BC) settlement patterns and landscape development in the Northern Franconian Jura, Bavaria, Germany. Despite the presence of Metal Age hillforts, ritual sites and burial mounds, this part of the German Central Uplands has been largely considered void of rural occupation mainly due to its unfavorable topography and climate, as the valleys are narrow, and the plateaus exhibit a shorter vegetation period and lower soil quality than the surrounding lowlands. However, mounting evidence from archaeological findings and geoarchives has led us to investigate human activity and its impact on the landscape during the Metal Ages both at valley and plateau sites in our study area.
Especially on the plateaus, both preservation and detection of Bronze and Iron Age archaeological findings are hampered by severe soil erosion due to medieval and modern land-use activities. Nevertheless, a combination of archaeological and geoarchaeological, on-site and off-site, field and lab as well as GIS investigations has revealed evidence of a human-induced opening of the landscape and subsequent soil erosion from the Middle Bronze Age onwards. The original vegetation mainly comprised oak-dominated mixed forests that were cleared by fire to open land for rural occupation. Whether this opening was due to long-term land-use around permanent settlements or rather to seasonal activities around temporary camp sites, still needs to be further investigated. In terms of settlement preferences, we find an increase of settlements on the plateaus as compared to the valleys from the end of the Late Bronze Age, and later on an increase of settlements in the valleys in the Early Latène period. Possible relations of these shifts to socio-economic and climatic factors will be discussed at the conference.

Talk: Prehistoric pastoralism in high mountainous regions of the Montafon and the Silvretta Alps (Austria/Switzerland)

  • Katja Kothieringer
  • Astrid Röpke
  • Thomas Reitmaier
  • Rüdiger Krause

The beginnings of intensified pastoral activities in the high mountainous landscape of the Alps have recently become a frequently discussed topic throughout various disciplines. In this paper, we present first results of an interdisciplinary, archaeological and geoarchaeological study on prehistoric pastoralism in subalpine and alpine soils in two adjacent study areas, the Montafon (Austria) and the Silvretta Alps (Austria/Switzerland). Building on own previous research in these areas, we assume intensified livestock grazing during the Bronze Age. In order to compare former grazing intensities at different altitudes, we measured total phosphate concentrations in soils along toposequences in the subalpine (~ 1300 - 2300 m a.s.l.) and alpine (above 2300 m a.s.l.) zone. Most soils that were selected for phosphate analysis were radiocarbon dated by charcoal fragments or charcoal layers. Additionally, we measured pedogenic iron and organic carbon to assess the stability of phosphate during soil formation processes.
So far, our results indicate that the uppermost topsoil is clearly influenced by recent livestock grazing. As a reference, abandoned or less-used pasture-areas show lower phosphate values. In the subalpine region of Urschai valley (Silvretta), slightly increased phosphate concentrations in a Mesolithic soil profile probably reflect past, subtle grazing of wild animals. Maximum phosphate values were evidenced in a Bronze to Iron Age enclosure in Fimba valley (Silvretta). At Bartolomäberg (Montafon), phosphate concentrations measured in different colluvial layers indicate enhanced grazing intensities during the Bronze Age. It becomes apparent that former pasture areas can be distinguished in an intensely-used, higher subalpine region (above 2000 m a.s.l.) and a less-used, lower subalpine region. Our previous results will be complemented by micromorphological investigations.