Holocene vegetation change and long term land-use history in a medium French mountain: a multi-disciplinary research program in the Cantal (Massif Central, France)

Abstract : A multidisciplinar palaeoecological investigation (pollen, non-pollen palynomorph, micro-charcoal, major elements geochemistry, and radiocarbon data) has been carried out in two peat-bogs located in the southern Cantal (French Massif Central) in order to reconstruct the vegetation and land-use change from the end of the Lateglacial to the present day. High spatial and temporal resolution studies are integrated in a long term research program which began in 2000 and which is based on a multi-disciplinary approach in order to achieve a better understanding of the environmental/anthropogenic interactions in a mountain ecosystem ranging from1000 m to 1600 m a.s.l. Archaeological fieldwork carried out in an area of 50 km2 revealed more than 600 archaeological structures (176 pre- and proto-historical sites, 3 roman sites and 290 medieval/modern sites). Both archaeological and palaeoecological studies document first human occupation as early as the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition and the Early Neolithic period, even at higher altitude. Repeated local forest fires began at ca. 6200 cal BC and first regular Cerealia pollen-type are noticed as early as ca. 5800 cal B.C. Moreover, palaeoecological records provide two key phases in the history of this mountain occupation. A more significant impact between ca. 2450 and 2000 cal B.C. testifies a Final Neolithic/Early Bronze Age agro-pastoral management. The Roman period (mainly the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.) appear to be a complex threshold in the shaping of this medium mountain landscape. At this moment, large beech-fir forest clearances are related to a significant agro-pastoral extension which implied a rapid shift from a relatively undisturbed landscape towards a human dominated cultural landscape. Relating these reconstructed rhythms of landscape evolution to the Holocene climate changes is tried as well as the study of their connections to socio-economic transformations particularly since Medieval and Contemporaneous periods. Approximately between the 10th and the 15th century, an important and permanent mountain human settlement organised in hamlets was established ranging to an elevation of 1250 m a.s.l. The developed agro-pastoral system included grazing and cereal cultivation. Towards the 14th-15th centuries, archaeological data evidence a significant cultural shift in the mountain landscape management. Permanent mixed arable-pastoral farming was progressively substituted by a strict pastoral system based on herd seasonal migrations which especially affected the highest areas of this mountain landscape.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - 12:03:28 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 19, 2019 - 4:02:07 PM

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  • HAL Id : hal-00320129, version 1

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Yannick Miras, Frédéric Surmely, Pascal Guenet, Gabriel Servera Vives, Violaine Nicolas, et al.. Holocene vegetation change and long term land-use history in a medium French mountain: a multi-disciplinary research program in the Cantal (Massif Central, France). IPC-XII / IOPC - VIII, Bonn, Germany., 2008, Bonn, Germany. pp.193. ⟨hal-00320129⟩

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