Agricultural Development and Dietary Change in Switzerland from the Hallstatt (800 B.C.E.) to the Rise of the Carolingian Dynasty (754 C.E.)
Hughes, Ryan E.
MetadataShow full item record
The modern Swiss agricultural landscape has its roots buried deep in the ancient past. The phase of agricultural development spanning from the Iron Age, beginning with the Hallstatt in 800 B.C. (2750 BP), to the last of the Merovingian dynasty in A.D. 754 (1196 BP), was one of the most vibrant and important periods in the evolution of the landscape and agriculture of Switzerland. This phase, which begins with independent Iron Age tribes, encompasses the first large-scale conquest of the land of Switzerland, the incorporation of the region into the Roman Empire and the transition of control to the Frankish Kings which laid the foundation in the Early Middle Ages for the modern agricultural landscape. This study explores these developments in the three topographical zones of Switzerland (the Jura Massif and northwestern Switzerland, the Plateau and the Alps) through the archaeological record by combining archaeobotanical and archaeozoological remains recovered from excavations with the results of pollen studies and climatological research to acquire a holistic view of ancient agriculture and dietary preference. During the Hallstatt (800-480 B.C./2750-2430 BP), the three topographical zones had similar agricultural activities, however, beginning in the La Tène (480-13 B.C./2430-1963 BP) these show a significant divergence that further intensifies with the arrival of the Romans and persists after the transition of power to the Frankish Kings in the late 5th century A.D. (c. 1474 BP). The arrival of the Romans in the late 1st century B.C. had an immediate impact with the introduction of new crops into local cultivation alongside advanced horticulture, viticulture and animal husbandry practices, as well as a lasting presence in Swiss agriculture due to the persistence of many of these crops after the removal of Roman influence. Concurrently, the cultivation of Iron Age crops, primarily hardy hulled wheats and barley, continued throughout the Roman period, particularly at sites dominated by Celtic peoples, with Roman influence being most felt at higher status sites such as the capital at Avenches, the colony of Augst and the major military installation at Windisch. Roman influence on meat consumption is demonstrated by elevated levels of swine and chickens with a continuation of the dominance of cattle at predominately Celtic sites in the Jura and Plateau alongside elevated levels of sheep and goats at Alpine sites in the Rhône Valley. By combining archaeobotany, archaeozoology and palynology with climatological studies, this work shows that the arrival of the Romans had an immediate impact during the first centuries A.D., aided by favourable climatic conditions. After the removal of direct Roman influence and increasing climatic instability beginning in the mid-3rd century A.D., many of the crops, fruits and garden plants persisted with the arrival of Frankish and Germanic peoples into the region alongside a resurgence in the prevalence of cereal crops cultivated during the Iron Age.