PAST - Territories in the Long Run

The three laboratories involved in this new axis project, with their paleoenvironmental specialists and geoarchaeologists with multiple skills (geomorphology, sedimentology, micromorphology, geochemistry, malacology, palynology, phytolithology, etc.), are at the forefront of the national scene in federating teams working on the relations between ancient societies and their environment. The aim is to deepen our knowledge of society-environment interrelationships (construction of landscapes, use of resources, risks) by paying particular attention to the exploitation of environmental resources and the ways in which societies' practices and management methods have evolved from the beginning of agriculture to the present day.

This new interdisciplinary theme proposes a reflection on temporalities, concerning at the same time:

  • Nested scale issues
  • The study of synchrony and diachrony, in particular the possibilities of comparing the chronologies of societies (archaeology, history) and those derived from naturalistic proxies (relative chronology, chronology based on the various radiometric chronometers, etc.)
  • On the chronological breaks that see the bifurcations of the studied anthropo-systems.

In addition to the methods and tools borrowed from the geosciences, as well as from the archaeosciences, this project relies on digital tools allowing not only the representation of the results but also the discussion of the data produced, by relying, for example in sub-theme 1, on the spatial simulation of the diffusion of archaeomaterials.

Covering a wide range of biomes (from cold environments to the equatorial zone, including Mediterranean and tropical areas), this theme comprises two sub-themes.

Resource use and mobility

This first sub-theme is concerned with "archaeomaterials", which are the raw materials used by ancient populations in the manufacture of everyday or prestige objects, or for construction. These materials bear witness to the exploitation of environmental resources by these populations. Moreover, in many cases, these materials, and/or the objects made from them, were transported and used at varying distances from the sources where they were naturally present ('exotic' materials). This spatial diffusion reflects the mobility of raw materials and objects, but also of populations and techniques. At all times, the preferential choice of certain sources reflects the relative importance of a multitude of factors such as the quality and cost of materials, transport distance, social and political relations and technological projects. In this context, these mobilities reflect a continuous and renewed structuring of territories. This first sub-theme therefore has two objectives. The first, which is more thematic, aims to use the spatial distribution of materials to reconstruct ancient mobilities, in close collaboration with archaeologists, ethnologists and historians. The second, more methodological, aims to propose, in collaboration with computer science colleagues, diffusion models that account for these mobilities and the early structuring of territories.

Anthropisation, environmental management and landscape dynamics

The exploitation of environmental resources leads to the progressive anthropisation of environments, sometimes leading to irreversible changes (cf. Anthropocene). The research conducted in this sub-theme will be centred around two major objectives. The first is methodological and proposes the constitution of new palaeoenvironmental references in order to calibrate a signature of anthropic practices based on the study of pedosedimentary and biological archives. Combining complementary approaches, the reference systems will be set up in close collaboration with our archaeological, ethnological and historical colleagues. Downstream of the first, the second objective is to analyse the respective roles of climatic and anthropic factors in the trajectory of landscapes, in order to compare the response of different biophysical and socio-cultural contexts, particularly during pivotal periods of anthropic origin (neolithisation, agricultural intensification, abandonment, etc.) or climatic origin. The final objective is thus to discuss the impact on landscapes of transformations in past and current management methods and to fuel the discussion on contemporary management methods, in particular in the context of heritage (biodiversity, classified landscapes, etc.).