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Changing Plant-based Subsistence Practices among Early and Middle Holocene Communities in Eastern Maghreb

AuthorsPortillo, Marta; Morales, Jacob; Carrión Marco, Yolanda ; Aouadi-Abdeljaouad, N.; Lucarini, Giulio; Belhouchet, Lotfi; Coppa, Alfredo; Peña-Chocarro, Leonor
KeywordsEarly-middle Holocene
Northern Africa
Wild plants
Issue Date2020
Association for Environmental Archaeology
AbstractThe eastern Maghreb is a key area for understanding environmental and cultural dynamics during the early and middle Holocene. Capsian populations from around 10000–7500 cal BP were among the last foragers in the region. Capsian sites are known as escargotières (land shell middens), and locally called rammadiyat (meaning ashy mound). As taphonomic conditions in Capsian open-air sites generally favour the preservation of resistant materials such as shells and bones rather than fragile plant remains, this study integrates macro-botanical and microfossil evidence from phytoliths, calcitic wood ash pseudomorphs and dung spherulites, since each is influenced by different formation and post-depositional processes. Archaeobotanical results from recent excavations in four Tunisian sites located across the lowland steppe, the Dorsale Mountains and the eastern coast display a wide range of wild plant resources, such as pine, oak, wild legumes, and grasses, in particular Alfa grass. These findings suggest that these plants could have played an important role in Capsian diet, whereas the presence of Alfa grass suggests the use of fibre sources for basketry, matting, building and fuel. Integrated macro-botanical and microfossil records contribute to a better understanding of changing subsistence practices on the threshold of early food-producing systems in north-west Africa.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1080/14614103.2020.1829298
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