Mediterranean polyculture revisited: a re-examination of prehistoric cereals, grape and olive

Tomorrow, 16th November 2021, GIAP-ICAC researcher Alexandra Livarda will present her latest multidisciplinary research at the workshop “Society and Environment in Bronze Age Crete. Recent Geoarchaeological Researches”. Organised by ArScAn / École française d’Athènes / L.G.P (UMR 8591).

Session 2: Plant resources and landscapes

(10.40h CET) Mediterranean polyculture revisited: a re-examination of prehistoric cereals, grape and olive at the area of Palaikastro in the east of Crete

Alexandra Livarda1, Hector A. Orengo1, Cañellas-Boltà, N.2, Riera Mora, S.3, Picornel-Gelabert, Ll.4 and Tzevelekidi, V.5

1 Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology (ICAC), Tarragona, Spain
2 Laboratory of Palaeoecology, Geoscience Barcelona (Geo3Bcn CSIC), Spain
3 Department of History and Archaeology, Seminar of Prehistoric Studies and Research, University of Barcelona, Spain
4 Department of Historical Sciences and Theory of Art, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
5 Independent Researcher

Since the seminal ‘Emergence of Civilisation’ by Colin Renfrew in 1972 there has been an on-going debate on the role of the so-called ‘Mediterranean triad’, referring to wheat, grape and olive, and whether specialisation on the latter two plants was the reason or an aftermath of the development of the palatial, hierarchical societies of southern Aegean. Our research within the framework of the latest excavation research programme (PALAP) at Palaikastro, east Crete, contributes to this debate and adds significant new data that provide new readings of the history of this part of the Aegean. Our approach is multi-proxy and multidisciplinary and we combine archaeobotanical and animal bone studies, and charcoal analysis of our excavation finds, with landscape survey and palaeoenvironmental analyses (including pollen, NPP and microcharcoal). By having integrated these different lines of evidence in the design stage of our project towards answering specific research questions on resource management in the Bronze Age town at Palaikastro and its territory, we achieved a holistic understanding of the development of economic activities and their scale in the area. Our research shows that east Crete was one of the earliest regions in the Aegean specialised in olive management within the framework of a largely pastoral landscape, shifting the origins of this activity to (at least) the Final Neolithic period. Other activities, such as cereal growing, were taking place on a subsistence level whereas grape cultivation seems to be another activity rooted in the history of the area with its beginnings placed in the Early Minoan period.


The workshop is focused on the latest developments in gearchaeological research in the Mediterranean. As presented by the organisers:

“The development of geoarchaeological research in the Mediterranean over the past fifteen years has shown the benefit of combining paleoenvironmental and archaeological investigations to restore landscape dynamics and interactions between ancient societies and their environment over the long term. Programs focused on these issues have recently been developed in Crete in different settings, mainly in relation to archaeological investigations, but also in other less anthropized areas. They allow to restore the landscapes of the past, the associated production systems but also to detect the impact on the environment of climate change and certain extreme events such as earthquakes or tsunamis, and to raise the question of their impact on societies.

The aim of this workshop is to review the advances, methods and challenges of this research, which is still dispersed, in order to enrich our knowledge on the Climate / Environment / Society interactions in Crete from the Neolithic to the modern period.

We will favour papers that allow to compare the views of archaeologists, geo or bio-archeology or paleoenvironments specialists, in order to stimulate truly interdisciplinary reflection. They will help to identify the questions that remain unanswered and the scientific avenues on the means and methods to be implemented.”

Check the full programme here.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *