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The transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages in present-day Switzerland: The archaeobiological point of view

Akeret, Örni, Deschler-Erb, Sabine, Kühn, Marlu
Quaternary international 2019 v.499 pp. 80-91
anthropogenic activities, antlers, archaeobotany, cattle, foods, fruit growing, fruit trees, introduced plants, pollen, poultry, rye, trade, Switzerland
This article summarises the results of archaeobiological research into the period from the mid-3rd to the 8th centuries AD in the area of present-day Switzerland. Compared to the preceding and subsequent periods, the state of research is rather poor, particularly in the cases of archaeobotanical research on the period of Late Antiquity and archaeozoological research on the early Middle Ages. The majority of the sites investigated so far are situated in the northern part of the country. A marked decline in human impact can be observed at the transition from Roman times to the early Middle Ages, particularly in pollen diagrams. A change from surplus production to a subsistence economy can be seen from changes in the relative importance of different species of domestic animals and in the size of cattle. The cereal spectrum becomes increasingly diverse. A movement from long-distance to regional trade is illustrated by the absence of imported foods, such as exotic plants, from the 3rd century onwards. At the same time, the production of goods from antlers is intensified and the cultivation of rye begins; both are probably influences from northern (Germanic) regions. Some of the Roman innovations, like the cultivation of fruit trees and the keeping of poultry, persist throughout these times of change.