Harvesting Cereals and Other Plants in Neolithic Iberia: The Assemblage from the Lake Settlement at la Draga

By Palomo, Antoni; Gibaja, Juan F. et al. | Antiquity, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Harvesting Cereals and Other Plants in Neolithic Iberia: The Assemblage from the Lake Settlement at la Draga


Palomo, Antoni, Gibaja, Juan F., Pique, Raquel, Bosch, Angel, Chinchilla, Julia, Tarrus, Josep, Antiquity


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Introduction

The first evidence of the Neolithic in north-eastern Iberia appears about the middle of the sixth millennium cal BC. Until that time, the area had been occupied by hunter-gatherer communities, living both on the plains and in mountain areas of the pre-Pyrenees and Pyrenees and the pre-littoral sierras. These sites were occupied later by groups whose subsistence was based on the joint exploitation of wild and domestic resources, obtained by hunting, gathering, agriculture and animal husbandry. However, the first Neolithic communities also sought out places with greater farming potential, located on the plains and in the valleys. This is the case of the site presented here. the Neolithic settlement of La Draga at Banyoles, Girona, Spain (Tarrus et al. 1994; Bosch et al. 1999, 2000, 2006b). The exceptional preservation encountered here has permitted the recovery of implements of wood as well as stone, some of them certainly used for harvesting.

The site

The settlement at La Draga is located in the north-east of Iberia, on the eastern shore of L'Estany de Banyoles, a small lake 50km from the Mediterranean coast and 40km south of the Pyrenees. It was discovered in 1990, and since then it has been excavated under the direction of the Museu Arqueologic Comarcal de Banyoles (MACB) and the Centre d'Arqueologia Subaquatica de Catalunya (CASC). Recently, the research team has been enlarged with the participation of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Museu Arqueologic de Catalunya (MAC).

The lake is a karst landform and is fed by underground waters. Originally it was drained on its eastern side by a small river, the modern Terri, a tributary of the Ter. This river, as it exited the lake, must have created an area of marshes on the northern shore, which is the location of the La Draga archaeological site. During the Neolithic occupation this shore would have taken the form of a peninsula, which stretched out into the lake with a gentle continuous slope from east to west and from north to south. A survey suggests that the settlement occupied an area of about 8000[m.sup.2].

The location of the site confortos to common practice in the western Mediterranean region: Neolithic settlements are found in wetland locations, on the shores of lakes, lagoons or marshes yet close to agricultural land. This pattern has been documented in Italy at La Marmota (Fugazzola et al. 1993), southern France at Leucate (Guilaine et al. 1984), by lakes in the Alps and the Jura, and inland in the Iberian Peninsula (Rojo et al. 2008).

The fact that the site is now partially covered by the waters of the lake has favoured the extraordinary state of conservation of organic remains made from plant matter (Figure 1). These range from the wooden posts in the buildings to the smallest objects made or gathered by the occupants. This makes La Draga a privileged place to carry out subsistence or technological studies in order to understand these first Neolithic populations in the western Mediterranean in greater depth.

The archaeological excavations carried out to date have documented a habitation level, situated immediately above the lacustrine chalk and largely underwater, which corresponds to an occupation by a Neolithic population linked to the Cardial culture (Figure 2). Numerous radiocarbon determinations have been obtained from samples of wood, bone and charcoal whose results place the oldest occupation between 5300 and 5150 cal BC. Equally, based on the dendrochronological analysis of wooden posts, we may consider that the occupation perhaps went through different phases, during a period of approximately 80 or 100 years.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The archaeological excavation has recovered hundreds of posts that supported large huts, sunk in the ground to depths of over 2m. …

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