Archaeobotany is the discipline that merges botany with archaeology. It is based on the study of plant fossils found in archaeological contexts with the aim to reconstruct plant use and diets of ancient populations, as well as the environment and the climate of the past, focusing on how people have adapted to them and reacted to their changes. Plant fossils include seeds and fruits (carpology), wood and charcoals (xylology and anthracology) and pollen (palynology). In the present study, archaeobotany is applied on the site of Motya, a small island set in Westerm Sicily, in the middle of the Mediterranean. Although the Phoenician-Punic period (late 8 th century B.C. – 397 B.C.) represents the main occupational phase of the archaeological settlement, the island is known to have been occupied by indigenous populations since the 17 th century BC and continued to be inhabited also after the Siege of Motya (397/6 B.C.), despite not recovering its former importance (Nigro and Spagnoli, 2017). Despite of knowledge regarding their use of plants and their impact on the environment being limited, a key- role in the spread of wine and olive oil production is attributed to Phoenicians (Estreicher, 2013). This is reflected by the findings at Motya, were Vitis vinifera (grape) seeds and Olea europeae (olive) wood are among the main findings. The carpological assemblage of the disposal pit 1112, found on the western slopes of the Acropolis and roughly ascribed to the 7 th century B.C., reveals a lot about the diet of Phoenicians at Motya. This was comprised of a wide variety of cereals (including Hordeum vulgare, Triticum monococcum, T. dicoccum and T. aestivum/durum), pulses (Cicer arietinum, Lathyrus sp., Pisum sativum, Vicia faba and V. ervilia) and fruits. Among these is also Punica granatum (pomegranate), found in the form of exocarp fragments, which was allegedly brought by Phoenicians to Motya and to Northern Africa around the 8 th century BC. Representations of this fruit are also found in the form of ceramic vessels (Nigro and Spagnoli, 2018). In terms of wood species, other than Olea europaea, also Quercus suber type (evergreen oaks) and Pistacia lentiscus (mastik) are widely represented. The presence of evergreen oaks is also confirmed by pollen evidence. Other anthracological remains include small Mediterranean shrubs such as Rhamnus sp. Further analyses will include pollen studies and morphometric analyses on the retrieved grape pips. The preliminary results already show the potential of combining carpology, anthracology and palynology to get an overall image of the paleoenvironment and paleodiets. This has been highlighted by other studies (Sabato et al., 2015), but still represents a novelty in the field.
Botany meets archaeology: archaeobotany at Motya (Italy) / Moricca, Claudia; Nigro, Lorenzo; Sadori, Laura. - (2019). (Intervento presentato al convegno Le scienze e i beni culturali: innovazione e multidisciplinarietà tenutosi a Milan, Italy).