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The Late Antique plant landscape in Sicily: Pollen from the agro-pastoral villa del Casale - Philosophiana system

Mercuri, Anna Maria, Montecchi, Maria Chiara, Florenzano, Assunta, Rattighieri, Eleonora, Torri, Paola, Dallai, Daniele, Vaccaro, Emanuele
Quaternary international 2019 v.499 pp. 24-34
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, agropastoralism, fruit trees, land use, landscape management, landscapes, mosses and liverworts, palynology, pollen, pollen rain, stratigraphy, vegetation, Sicily
Palynological research carried out on two renowned archaeological sites located in central Sicily allows the reconstruction of agrarian landscapes in Late Antiquity. The palynological investigations may improve the resolution of vegetational-environmental events recorded from extra-local palynological sequences by giving information on local plant landscape and human influence in the region. The stratigraphy uncovered from these archaeological sites features very high resolution. Villa del Casale of Piazza Armerina, a monumental villa included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the near ‘agro-town’ Philosophiana are key sites to look for the effects of countryside exploitation in the Roman world. They were extraordinary rural complexes from the Roman to Medieval periods. Their long chronology offers the opportunity to investigate land use and economy transformations that occurred in the area at the transition from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The palynological research has been carried out on 40 samples, including archaeological samples dated from the end of 3rd to 7th century AD, and one moss polster collecting present pollen rain. Ornamental and shade plants were concentrated in the luxury villa, while fruit trees and agrarian activities were more evident in the next farmhouse. Late Antiquity is proved to be a critical period of both transition between different cultures and landscape transformations that have lead the past vegetation to the modern landscape of this island. Nevertheless, pollen suggests a continuity of the agrarian landscape during this period. Although changes had occurred, subsequent cultures were progressively incorporated in the agrarian-pastoral landscape management.