Holocene environmental variability, the rise, and fall of an Elymian Polity (Western Sicily)

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Chad, Heinzel۱; Kolb, Michael۲; Hjelle, Kari۳
Holding Date 08 October 2008

The chronology and patterns of Holocene landform developments including alluvial fans, fluvial drainages, and soil (palaeosol) formation within the Chuddia River Valley (western Sicily) have been investigated. The geomorphic record identifies a transitional environment from the onset of Neolithic agrarian activities during a relatively wet period (mid-Holocene) to increasingly arid conditions through the cultural development of western Sicily. Major periods of landscape change (erosion/sedimentation) surrounding Monte Polizzo occurred during the Late Iron Age (7th to 6th centuries BCE) and the Migration Period (4th to 6th centuries AD). This paper presents a geomorphic and palaeobotanical record that may provide insight into the interrelationships between an Elymian culture (an indigenous Sicilian polity 8th to 4th centuries BCE) and their surrounding environment. These data imply a direct correlation between erosion, deposition, and the growth/decline of the Elymian presence at Monte Polizzo. Pollen analyses from Chuddia River, dating back to 3500-4000 BP, reveals Olea, cereals, legumes and several indicators of human activity. This supports the archaeological data showing settlement in the area of Monte Polizzo during the Early Bronze Age. Juglans was not recorded in the pollen record from Chuddia River sediments, which may indicate that walnut was not growing in the vicinity of the site. The high values of Isoetes (terrestrial perennials that grow on sandy habitats which are winter flooded) within the valleys basal fluvial stratigraphic units indicates the presence of water at least during parts of the year. Also the alga Botryococcus indicates the presence of water. The valley today is an open agricultural landscape of meadows and fields, a situation that likely dates back to the Bronze Age (approx. 2000 BC). These investigations continue to improve the understanding of landscape developments and enhance the archaeological interpretations for western Sicily.