Mesolithic agriculture in Switzerland? A critical review of the evidence

Tinner, Willy; Nielsen, Ebbe Holm; Lotter, André F. (2007). Mesolithic agriculture in Switzerland? A critical review of the evidence. Quaternary Science Reviews, 26(9-10), pp. 1416-1431. Oxford: Pergamon 10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.02.012

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Accumulating palaeobotanical evidence points to agricultural activity in Central Europe well before the onset of the Neolithic, commonly dated at ca 5500–5200 cal BC. We reinvestigated an existing pollen profile from Soppensee with refined taxonomical resolution by further subdividing the Cerealia pollen type into Triticum t. and Avena t. because the sediments at this site currently provide the highest temporal resolution and precision for the period of interest among all sites in Switzerland. Our new results are in agreement with previous high-resolution investigations from Switzerland showing scattered but consistent presence of pollen of Cerealia, Plantago lanceolata, and other cultural plants or weeds during the late Mesolithic period (6700–5500 cal BC). Chronologically, this palynological evidence for sporadic agricultural activities coincides with a major break in material culture at ca 6700 cal BC (i.e. the transition from early to late Mesolithic). Here, we review possible arguments against palaeobotanical evidences of Mesolithic agriculture (e.g. chronological uncertainties, misidentification, contamination, long-distance transport) and conclude that none of these can explain the consistent pollen pattern observed at several sites. The palynological evidence can, of course, not prove the existence of pre-ceramic agriculture in Central Europe. However, it is so coherent that this topic should be addressed by systematic archaeobotanical analyses in future archaeological studies. If our interpretation should turn out to be true, our conclusions would have fundamental implications for the Neolithic history of Europe. Currently, it is intensely debated whether Central European agriculture developed locally under the influence of incoming ideas from areas where Neolithic farming had already developed earlier (e.g. southeastern Europe) or whether it was introduced by immigrating farmers. On the basis of our results, we suggest that agriculture developed locally throughout the late Mesolithic and Neolithic. Mesolithic trading networks connecting Southern and Central Europe also support the hypothesis of a slow and gradual change towards sessile agriculture, probably as a result of incoming ideas and regional cultural transformation.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Tinner, Willy; Nielsen, Ebbe Holm and Lotter, André F.

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0277-3791

Publisher:

Pergamon

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:58

Last Modified:

18 Nov 2020 12:00

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.02.012

Web of Science ID:

000248268800016

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.24745

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/24745 (FactScience: 52887)

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