Late Holocene Vegetation History of Grevena Province, Northwestern Greece
Palynological investigations aimed at reconstructing the vegetation history of the Grevena Province, northwestern Greece were conducted in association with an archaeological research project. Fossil pollen, spores, microscopic charcoal particles, and sediment stratigraphies of radiocarbon-dated sediment cores from three sites in pine, beech, and oak woodland zones provide evidence of climatic changes, land use, and erosion during the last 3500 years. Identification of pollen and spores was aided by an extensive reference collection of local species and construction of a pollen key modelled on that of Faegri & Iversen (1989). Extant vegetation units are characterized by their contemporary pollen assemblages. Surface samples collected along an elevational transect show that a fairly direct relationship exists between the major vegetation zones and pollen deposition: pine, beech, and oak pollen predominate in their respective zones. Over-representation of pine pollen is notable. The sequence from Gomara site in the pine wood-pasture zone at 1750 m asl covers the time span c. 1340 BC to 700 AD. A local open pine wood was gradually replaced by beech after c. 890 BC, perhaps through reduced disturbance and/or increased precipitation. A herbaceous pollen spike at c. 80 BC resulted from deposition of volcanic ash. Pine wood replaced beech at c. 330 AD. Two periods of accelerated erosion coincide with the pine wood phases and with anthropogenic burning and grazing. These periods are separated by a period of abandonment when the climate was probably wetter. The sequence from Anelia site in the beech wood zone at 1440 m asl spans c. 1560-1989 AD. The site was surrounded by beech wood for the duration of the sequence. Regional and local burning of vegetation is indicated by an abundance of microscopic charcoal particles from c. 1560 until c. 1730 AD, when it ceased. Periods of erosion occurred during this period. After c. 1730 AD a homogeneous peat formed on the wetland, suggesting a period of greater landscape stability. From pollen evidence, a variety of land-use practices such as cereal cultivation, grazing, coppicing, and lumbering were carried out in the vicinity of the site especially before c. 1730 AD, but these diminished after 1920 AD. The lower part of the sequence from Kellia site in the oak wood-steppe zone at 580 m asl is insecurely dated, but the upper part spans c. 1230-1989 AD. The lowlands were covered with deciduous/semi-evergreen oak woods for the duration of the sequence. Since c. 1230 AD land close to the site was intensively cultivated with a variety of cereals. Burning occurred frequently throughout the period. The ratio of deciduous to semi-evergreen oak pollen is correlated with temperature and indicates a decline from c. 1230-1680 AD, after which temperature increased, a pattern similar to that of the Little Ice Age. Frontispiece The cultural landscape of Grevena Province looking NE towards the Vourinos Mountains on the eastern border of Grevena, from a prominent hill about 1 1/4 km NW of the modern village of Itea. In the foreground is the stubble of a wheat field. Beyond is an 18th century church dedicated to Aghia Panaghia. The middle ground is the steppe oak wood pasture of Grevena plains. Recent erosion on the sides of gullies can be seen here, even though they appear to be well vegetated. Frescoes in the church are shown in the enlargement. It stands on a registered archaeological site, Grevena Project 108 (21 degrees 36.18' E, 40 degrees 04.29' N, 640 m asl) that covers more than 10,000 m2. Archaeological evidence dating to Early Iron Age, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Early Medieval and Ottoman periods has been recorded.