Vegetation dynamics and land-use change at the Neolithic lakeshore settlement site of Ploča Mičov Grad, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

Brechbühl, Sarah; van Vugt, Lieveke; Gobet, Erika; Morales-Molino, César; Volery, Joseph; Lotter, André F.; Ballmer, Ariane; Brügger, Sandra Olivia; Szidat, Sönke; Hafner, Albert; Tinner, Willy (2024). Vegetation dynamics and land-use change at the Neolithic lakeshore settlement site of Ploča Mičov Grad, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 33(2), pp. 247-267. Springer 10.1007/s00334-023-00931-3

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Detailed knowledge about the interactions between vegetation, climate and land use during the Mesolithic and Neolithic, at the transition from foraging to farming, is still scarce in the Balkans. Here we present a palaeoecological study combining pollen, spores and charcoal found in sedimentary cores from Lake Ohrid, Ploča Mičov Grad, North Macedonia, with a particular focus on the vegetation dynamics during the Late Glacial-Holocene and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transitions. Our record begins at ca. 13,500 cal BP (11,550 cal BC) when partially open vegetation, consisting mainly of Pinus, Abies and deciduous Quercus tree stands grew on the hilly flanks of the bay of Ploča. From 12,650 cal BP (cal 10,700 BC), herbs dominated the record until the onset of the Holocene (ca. 11,700 cal BP; 9750 cal BC), when increasing temperatures led to the establishment of pine-deciduous oak forests including Alnus, Fraxinus ornus, Tilia, Ulmus and Abies. These forests persisted until 7,500 cal BP (cal 5550 BC), when deforestation started due to Neolithic land use. This first phase of Neolithic activities in the Ploča Mičov Grad area precedes the earliest archaeological structures so far recorded by almost 1,000 years. Our data suggest two phases of human land use between 7,500 and 6,300 cal BP (5550–4350 cal BC), when high values of Cerealia type pollen and other cultural indicators indicate intense arable and pastoral farming activities. Once human activities decreased, forests were able to re-establish quickly (within 100–250 years), although the composition changed with disturbance-adapted Ostrya type (mostly Ostrya carpinifolia) and Fagus becoming more important. We conclude that forests were resilient to early human disturbance, despite intensive land use and logging activities gradually leading to forest composition changes. Many of these composition changes can still be seen today, suggesting the legacy of Neolithic farmers is still present in today’s landscape.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Brechbühl, Sarah Christina, van Vugt, Lieveke, Gobet, Erika, Morales del Molino, Cesar, Volery, Joseph, Lotter, André Franz, Ballmer, Ariane Thu, Brügger, Sandra Olivia, Szidat, Sönke, Hafner, Albert, Tinner, Willy


500 Science > 540 Chemistry
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

21 Aug 2023 15:15

Last Modified:

23 Feb 2024 00:12

Publisher DOI:


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Uncontrolled Keywords:

Pollen: Palaeoecology: Vegetation history; Southern Balkans: Holocene; Land use




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