Reconstructing the impact of human activities in a NW Iberian Roman mining landscape for the last 2500 years

Lourdes Lopez-Merino (Corresponding Author), Antonio Martínez Cortizas, Guillermo S. Reher, Jose A. López-Sáez, Tim M. Mighall, Richard Bindler

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Abstract

Little is known about the impact of human activities during Roman times on NW Iberian mining landscapes beyond the geomorphological transformations brought about by the use of hydraulic power for gold extraction. We present the high-resolution pollen record of La Molina mire, located in an area intensely used for gold mining (Asturias, NW Spain), combined with other proxy data from the same peat core to identify different human activities, evaluate the strategies followed for the management of the resources and describe the landscape response to human disturbances. We reconstructed the timing and synchronicity of landscape changes of varying intensity and form occurred before, during and after Roman times. An open landscape was prevalent during the local Late Iron Age, a period of relatively environmental stability. During the Early Roman Empire more significant vegetation shifts took place, reflected by changes in both forest (Corylus and Quercus) and heathland cover, as mining/metallurgy peaked and grazing and cultivation increased. In the Late Roman Empire, the influence of mining/metallurgy on landscape change started to disappear. This decoupling was further consolidated in the Germanic period (i.e., Visigothic and Sueve domination of the region), with a sharp decrease in mining/metallurgy but continued grazing. Although human impact was intense in some periods, mostly during the Early Roman Empire, forest regeneration occurred afterwards: clearances were local and short-lived. However, the Roman mining landscape turned into an agrarian one at the onset of the Middle Ages, characterized by a profound deforestation at a regional level due to a myriad of human activities that resulted in an irreversible openness of the landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-218
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume50
Early online date23 Jul 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

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Roman Empire
gold
middle ages
domination
Spain
Metallurgy
management
resources
Grazing
Landscape Change
Early Roman Empire
Roman Times
time

Keywords

  • pollen analysis
  • forest clearance
  • mining/metallurgy
  • human impact
  • forest resilience

Cite this

Reconstructing the impact of human activities in a NW Iberian Roman mining landscape for the last 2500 years. / Lopez-Merino, Lourdes (Corresponding Author); Martínez Cortizas, Antonio; Reher, Guillermo S.; López-Sáez, Jose A.; Mighall, Tim M.; Bindler, Richard.

In: Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 50, 10.2014, p. 208-218.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lopez-Merino, Lourdes ; Martínez Cortizas, Antonio ; Reher, Guillermo S. ; López-Sáez, Jose A. ; Mighall, Tim M. ; Bindler, Richard. / Reconstructing the impact of human activities in a NW Iberian Roman mining landscape for the last 2500 years. In: Journal of Archaeological Science. 2014 ; Vol. 50. pp. 208-218.
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