Exploitation of natural vegetal resources in chalcolithic areni-1 cave (Armenia)/ R. Hovsepyan
Exploitation of natural vegetal resources in chalcolithic areni-1 cave settlement (Armenia). Roman HOVSEPYAN ovsepyan, Roman. In "La construction des territoires montagnards : exploitation des ressources et mobilité des pratiques", 2e International Workshop on archaeology of european mountain landscape, organisé par les laboratoires GEODE, FRAMESPA, GEOLAB et Chrono-Environnement. Université Toulouse 2-Le Mirail, 8-11 octobre 2009. [seconde journée]
Recently discovered Areni-1 archaeological site is situated in karstic cave at Arpa River canyon, Armenia, on altitude 1000m above sea level. The climate of the cave region is very dry and the vegetation is represented with dry steppes and xerophile rare forests. The cave also is characterized by very dry conditions, which result excellent preservation of organic material inside the cave. As almost nothing was destroyed in the cave during Holocene, the assemblage of recovered vegetal remains and taxa is very diverse: more than 40 Seed Plants already were identified amongst uncountable vegetal remains (desiccated and charred). The most of recovered plant remains are originated from Chalcolithic contexts (dated with end of V-beginning of IV millennia calibrated BC).
Chalcolithic period of Caucasus is characterized with developed agriculture, which main direction was cultivation of free-threshing cereals. Situation of Areni-1 differs from general. Field-crops cultivated in Areni-1 ar almost the same as in other Chalcolithic sites : naked bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), emmer (T. dicoccum), hulled and naked barleys (Hordeum vulgare), as well as lentil (Lens culinaris) and grass pea (Lathyrus sp.), but they are very few in comparison with recorded trees and shrubs. The weeds, recovered in Areni-1, also are common for Chalcolithicperiod of the region: species of Buglossoides, Lithospermum, Vaccaria, Ranunculus, Galium, Polygonum, Camelina, Alyssum, Thlaspi, Scrophularia, Althaea, etc.Against of situation with field-crops, edible arboreal speciesare numerous in the site. Large quantities of Chalcolithic desiccated fruits, nutstones and seeds of hackberry (Celtis sp.), plums (Prunus spp.), cherries (Cerasus sp., C. incana, C. cf. mahaleb), almonds (Amygdalus spp.), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), roses (Rosa spp.), blackberry (Rubus sp.), pear (Pyrus sp.), oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), walnut (Juglans regia), juniper (Juniperus sp.,seeds), caper (Capparis spinosa), grape (Vitis vinifera) are recovered in Areni-1 cave. Majority of above mentioned woody and shrubby plants are common elements of rare xerophile forests of Daralagez floristic region, where the cave is situated, and have large biological diversity there. Only exceptions could be the walnut and the grape, wild exemplars of which now growing in discussed region are considered as wilded cultigens. Modern Areni is known as region with high developed horticulture (grape, apricot, peach, plums, cherries, apple, pear, etc.).
It is known that prehistoric communities’ existence highly depended from natural resources. In late prehistoric (Pottery Neolith–Eneolith) period of South-Eastern European communities this dependence from natural resources was intermediated with exploitation of territories mostly via agriculture, which accompanied with some gathering and sometimes also with some viticulture and horticulture, as well as animal husbandry accompanied with hunting. In case of Areni-1 Chalcolithic settlement situation is another; the main direction to get vegetal meal is gathering (cultivation?) of available trees’ and shrubs’ fruits and seeds instead of field agriculture, which has been pushed to secondary plan. This can be explained with presence of only very limited space, narrow river bank zone (flat bottom of the canyon), where irrigation and consequently field agriculture was possible in Chalcolithic period.
The case of Chalcolithic Areni-1 site is good example, where the community’s plant economy has been modified according to specific abiotic (relief, climate) and biotic factors (vegetation) of the environment.