The history of ancient Rome in pollen at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea

The history of ancient Rome in pollen at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire is ‘written’ in ancient pollen preserved in sediments at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea: recovered by core drilling in the Gulf of Sant’Eufemia in Calabria, it reveals the evolution of the region’s vegetation, by the communities that inhabited it 5,000 years ago . studio published In the journal Holocene published by the Federico II University of Naples in collaboration with the Institute of Coastal Marine Environment of the National Research Council (Iamc-Cnr) and the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli.

The researchers were able to extract large amounts of ancient pollen and spores from marine sediments (up to 12,000 grains per gram of matter) and through microscopic studies identified as many as 72 different plant species. Analyzes reveal that the area was covered with dense forest between 5,000 and 2,700 years ago. Then, between 2,700 and 2,000 years ago, vegetation decreased due to drought; Finally, in the last 790 years, there has been significant deforestation accompanied by an intensive practice of agriculture. These three distinct phases can be linked to the ups and downs of the humans who colonized the region over thousands of years.

In particular, the first phase corresponds to the time of the pre-Protoric populations, who inhabited the forests on the Tropea promontory: they may have also experienced the first signs of climate change, which subsequently caused three long periods of drought lasting hundreds of years. The stage of decreasing the size of the forests corresponds to the advent of the ancient Greeks (seventh and fifth centuries BC) and then the advent of the Romans (third and second centuries BC), when crops such as grains, lettuce and chicory increased. The increase in human population is also confirmed by the greater abundance of microalgal carbon in the sediments, probably caused by the fire used for cooking and heating.

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In the third and final stage, large-scale deforestation destabilized the soil and increased water runoff, as indicated by an increased sediment deposition rate. The researchers also point out that during the sixth century AD, the change in sedimentation rate was likely linked to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the region, with a sudden decline in land administration. This is also supported by a decrease in the fine carbonates present in the specimens as well as a decrease in the pollen of the fir trees: these trees were well managed by the Romans, but after their decline they were cut down in large quantities for timber.

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