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Emergence of agriculture on the Taman Peninsula, Russia

Émergence de l’agriculture dans la péninsule de Taman, Russie
David Kaniewski, Matthieu Giaime, Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, Nataliya S. Bolikhovskaya, Alexey V. Porotov and Elise Van Campo
p. 111-118

Abstracts

The temporal and spatial diffusion of early agriculture across Europe from the Fertile Crescent has been widely studied, but data from the Caucasian corridor are still rare. This study shows the first evidence for the cultivation of cereals and anthropogenic fires in southern Russia, between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, 7000 years ago. It suggests that the Caucasian corridor contributed to the spread of agricultural practices throughout the steppes of Eurasia. This study also shows the strong impact of these practices on the dynamics of local coastal and forested ecosystems.

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Author's notes

Support was provided by the Institut universitaire de France, CLIMSORIENT and Geoarchaeology of ancient harbours programs. This work has been carried out with the support of the Labex OT-Med (ANR-11-LABX-0061) and of the A*MIDEX project (n° ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02), funded by the « Investissements d’Avenir » French Government program, managed by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

Full text

1The onset of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent of Southwest Asia, about 10,000 years ago, and the spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East are considered as decisive events in human history (LEV‑YADUN et al., 2000 ; COWARD et al., 2008). Far from the Azov Sea and the Taman Peninsula, the Neolithic, which will later spread by the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and other passages, emerged in the Levantine Corridor, a narrow geographic region located between the northeast Mediterranean Sea and the desert to the southeast (KISLEV et al., 2004 ; BLOCKLEY and PINHASI, 2011). It is now also clear from high-resolution archaeobotanical evidence, genetic studies and cultural chronologies (MORRELL et al., 2003 ; ARMELAGOS and HARPER, 2005) that agriculture also emerged as the predominant form of food production in a second region of the Eurasian continent, China (BELLWOOD, 2001, 2005). While early agriculture in China was just as revolutionary as that in Southwest Asia (rice agriculture in the Yangtze River area ; foxtail millet and broomcorn millet in the Yellow River area), and may have a similar chronology (UNDERHILL, 1997 ; LI et al., 2007 ; ZHAO, 2011), this second region had no influence on the neolithization of the western Eurasian steppe (LI et al., 2007).

2While the nature and geographical distribution of Neolithic plant economies in Europe and the Near East have recently become clearer (BOOGARD 2004 ; COLLEDGE et al., 2005 ; WEISS et al., 2006 ; CONNOR et al., 2013), and even if routes of diffusion of early crop agriculture practices have been long studied (COLLEDGE et al., 2004 ; WENINGER et al., 2006 ; COWARD et al., 2008 ; LINSTÄDTER et al., 2012), the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and the western Eurasian steppe (MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE, 2012) still suffer from a paucity of data (GERASIMENKO, 1997 ; KANIEWSKI et al., 2015). Debates on the Neolithic are essentially focused on estimating the timing of plant domestication (e.g. PRINGLE, 1998 ; SALAMINI et al., 2002 ; KISLEV et al., 2006 ; LEV‑YADUN et al., 2006a, 2006b ; TANNO and WILCOX, 2006 ; HARTMANN et al., 2006 ; WEISS et al., 2006) and the spread of agricultural practices towards western Europe (e.g. PINHASI et al., 2005 ; WENINGER et al., 2006 ; ZEDER, 2008), neglecting the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and the wide Eurasian steppe, which cannot be considered as a uniform zone of neolithization (DOLUKHANOV et al., 2005 ; VELICHKO et al., 2009).

3Here we show that i) the emergence of agriculture in southernmost coastal Russia, at the intersection between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, occurred 6900 years ago, and ii) this emergence seems to be coherent with an agricultural dispersal that followed the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and the Eurasian steppe according to the scarce data already available. We also reinforce our suggestion with a numerical-derived environmental proxy based on a detailed pollen record retrieved from the Taman Peninsula, which details the landscape evolution following the introduction and development of agricultural practices.

1 - Methods

4All the biological indicators derive from a 975-cm continuous core (ORI 09, 45°9’59.80’’N, 37°39’22.86’’E ; + 1.5 m MSL) drilled on the Taman Peninsula (Fig. 1), about 25 km from the Azov Sea and 37 km from the Black Sea. These biological indicators (pollen grains, charcoal fragments, spores) were used to : (i) identify the first traces of agriculture on the peninsula ; (ii) radiocarbon date the emergence of agricultural practices on the southwestern Eurasian steppe ; and (iii) better understand the impact of early agriculture on ecosystem dynamics.

Fig. 1 ‑ Geographical location of the core ORI 09 on the Taman Peninsula, Russia

Fig. 1 ‑ Geographical location of the core ORI 09 on the Taman Peninsula, Russia

1.1 - Chronology

5The chronology for the emergence of agriculture on the Taman Peninsula is based on five accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon (14C) dates on short-lived samples (seeds and small leaves) and charcoal remains (see Table 1) retrieved from the core ORI 09 (GIAIME et al., 2016).

Tab. 1 – Details of radiocarbon age determinations

Tab. 1 – Details of radiocarbon age determinations

6Absolute dating was calibrated (1-sigma [σ] and 2σ calibrations, respectively 68 % and 95 % of probability) using CALIB REV 7.0.4. [http://calib.qub.ac.uk/​calib/​]. Compaction corrected deposition rates have been calculated between the intercepts of adjacent 14C ages. Because samples have been taken at regular distances along the 975 cm sediment column, the time resolution is directly dependent on the sedimentation rate.

1.2 - Biological data

7A total of 98 samples were prepared for pollen analysis using the standard palynological procedure for clay samples (FAEGRI and IVERSEN, 1989). Pollen and dinoflagellate cysts were counted under x 400 and x 1000 magnification. Pollen frequencies (%) are based on the terrestrial pollen sum excluding local hygrophytes and spores of non-vascular cryptogams (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 ‑ Simplified pollen diagram presented on a linear time-scale (cal yr BP)

Fig. 2 ‑ Simplified pollen diagram presented on a linear time-scale (cal yr BP)

8The aquatic taxa scores are calculated by adding the local hygrophytes-hydrophytes to the terrestrial pollen sum (Fig. 2). Dinoflagellate cysts were counted on pollen-slides and are displayed as concentrations (cysts per cm3). All pollen data were transformed into pollen-derived biomes (PdBiomes) (TARASOV et al., 1998), with the following categories : Desert, Steppe, Xerophytic woods/scrubs, Warm mixed forest, Cool mixed forest, Temperate deciduous forest, Cool conifer forest and Cold mixed forest.

1.3 -Fire history

9The fire history of the coastal plain, linked with agricultural practices (Fig. 3), was reconstructed by counting charcoal particles (50-200 μm) from the 98 slides prepared for pollen analysis as well as from larger charcoal remains (> 200 μm) (GAVIN et al., 2006 ; HIGUERA et al., 2007). The 50 μm size criterion was chosen to avoid confusion between microscopic charcoal fragments and opaque minerals, which are typically < 50 μm (PARSHALL and FOSTER, 2002 ; PEDERSON et al., 2005). Macroscopic charcoals, extracted with Na2HPO4, were sorted and counted under a binocular microscope (at ×36).

Fig. 3 ‑ Agro-pastoral farming and human-induced fire activity on the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.

Fig. 3 ‑ Agro-pastoral farming and human-induced fire activity on the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.

The cultivated species and charcoal-fragment curves are plotted on a linear timescale. The emergence of agriculture is indicated on the cultivated species curve. The cluster analysis details the components of the anthropogenic group. The linear detrended cross-correlations (P =0.05) are displayed with the Lag0 score and the associated Pvalue on each graph. The regression model from the CABFAC analysis is shown with the R2 value depicted on the graph.

1.4 - Statiscal analyses

10All biological data were analyzed using the software package PAST, version 2.17c [en ligne]. Principal components analysis (PCA) was performed to test the ordination of samples by assessing major changes in the PdBiome-scores (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4 Ecosystem dynamics in the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.

Fig. 4 ‑ Ecosystem dynamics in the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.

The PCA-Axis 1 (92.53 % of total inertia), cultivated species and weeds are plotted on a linear timescale. The linear detrended cross-correlations (P =0.05) are displayed with the Lag0 score and the associated Pvalue on each graph.

11Cultivated species, weeds and freshwater plants (hydrophilous and hygrophilous species) are excluded from the matrix. The main variance is loaded by the PCA-Axis1. Polynomial and sinusoidal smoothing curves (regression model) were also selected to synthesise the main changes observed at the site. The best smoothing was chosen according to the highest R2. The PCA-Axis1 has been plotted on a linear age-scale (Fig. 4) with the cultivated species and weeds (Centaurea, Plantago, Polygonum, and Rumex).

12A first matrix plot (individual scatterplot) was computed for the PCA-Axis1. A second matrix plot, with two individual scatterplots (PCA-Axis1 versus Cultivated species), was also computed to assess the relationship among these two variables. The weeds are displayed as a spindle diagram to illustrate the abundance of the secondary anthropogenic indicators through the core.

13To establish if (i) the forested ecosystems were modulated by anthropogenic activities, (ii) the increase in weeds was influenced by agricultural disturbances, (iii) the fire activity was linked to the human pressures and, (iv) the increase in steppic components was favoured by successive fires, linear detrended cross-correlations (LDCC, P = 0.05) were calculated (Figs 3-4). The LDCC assesses the time alignment of two time series by means of the correlation coefficient. The time-series have been cross-correlated to ascertain the best temporal match and the potential delay between the two time-series. The correlation coefficient is then plotted as a function of alignment position. This numerical approach is well-adapted to detect and quantify potential links between environmental data and anthropogenic activities. Positive correlation coefficients are considered, focusing on the Lag0 value (with +.50 as the significant threshold). Negative correlations are also assessed to test the inverse- or non-correlation between the two time-series (with -.50 as the significant threshold). Non-significant values indicate a complete absence of correlation.

14A cluster analysis (with paired group as algorithm and correlation as the similarity measure) was performed to group the PdBiomes with the freshwater plants, dinoflagellate cysts and fire activity by categorizing the various data in such a way that the degree of association between the two variables is maximal when they have similar occurrences and minimal when they are dissimilar (Fig. 3).

15The ecosystem dynamics were also analysed using CABFAC analysis (Fig. 3) to test the impact of human-induced fire activity. The CABFAC factor analysis (Q‑mode factor analysis) implements the classic method of factor analysis and environmental regression (CABFAC and REGRESS). Anthropogenic data are regressed on the CABFAC factors using the second-order (parabolic) method, with cross terms. The regression model (RMA) reports the observed values against the values reconstructed from the factors. The selected data for this study are the cultivated species. The consistency of the reconstructed model is indicated by the R2.

2 - Results and discussion

16PCA ordination was applied to the core samples (Fig. 4). PCA-Axis1 explains 92.53 % of total inertia. PCA‑Axes 2 and 3 respectively account for 5.58 % and 0.98 % of the total variability. The PCA-Axis1 positive scores are loaded by the forested components whereas negative scores correspond to steppe vegetation types (Fig. 4). The PCA‑Axis 1 scores shows that, for the 7800-4600 cal yr BP period, the coastal vegetation has evolved from a forest to an open steppe (Fig. 2). The first main inflexion of the PCA-Axis-1 curve is recorded from 6895 to 6750 calibrated (cal) yr BP, indicating a loss of forested areas resulting in an expansion of a steppe-landscape between the Azov and Black Seas. The same time-period is marked by the first peak in fire activity, cultivated species and weeds in the area, suggesting the occurrence of human-induced pressures on the ecosystem dynamics (Fig. 3). Before the emergence of agricultural practices, from 7800 to 6895 cal yr BP, the area was mainly covered by a dominant forest (e.g. Carpinus betulus, Quercus deciduous and Fagus) that probably corresponds to the pristine vegetation-type in the area (Fig. 2). The development of a forested vegetation has also been recorded in the Heraklean Peninsula and the Chyornaya Valley since ~7.5 kyr (CORDOVA and LEHMAN, 2005), but with dominant thermophilous taxa. The appearance of agricultural practices in the Taman Peninsula was radiocarbon-dated (AMS 14C date on seeds) to 6050 ± 30 14C BP (Fig. 3), calibrated to 6975-6830 yr BP [2 sigma (σ) - 95 % probability]. The intercept with the 14C calibration curve gives an age of 6895 cal yr BP, at the end of the Neolithic period, indicating that since this date, a clear anthropogenic imprint in the environment is recorded. No traces of gathering (annual plants from wild stands) or cultivation (wild plant genotypes systematically sown in fields) are recorded before this date, suggesting that the development of agriculture is based on domesticated species. Around 7000 BP, a similar drop in forest density leading to an expansion of steppic components was recorded in the lower Dniepr Valley, but interpreted as the outcome of climate change (KREMENETSKI, 1995). Because no radiocarbon dates were available for the emergence of agro-pastoral farming in the Taman Peninsula, our results have filled this knowledge gap by providing the first evidence of agriculture practices. This radiocarbon-dated evidence seems to be coherent with an agricultural dispersal that followed the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and the Eurasian steppe (MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE, 2012). Data from archaeobotanical investigations of Neolithic- Chalcolithic-period sites in eastern Ukraine and southwest Russia have previously defined the timeline for the earliest appearance and geographical origins of domesticated plants species in this region. Among the three possible corridors of influence upon agriculture (the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Eurasian steppe), the spread of cereal cultivation into the eastern regions of Ukraine and south-western Russia seems to have followed the Caucasian corridor and the Eurasian steppe, but only during the Chalcolithic period (MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE, 2012).

17The cross-correlograms (Figs 3-4), resulting from the LDCC (P = 0.05), shows a positive and significant correlation between the extent of weeds (secondary anthropogenic indicators) and anthropogenic activities (+.868 ; e.g. deforestation, agriculture, pastoralism) for the period 7800‑4600 cal yr BP, with a negative correlation with the forest components (-.621), suggesting that human pressures were a structuring factor behind the observed changes. Moreover, the fire activity is also positively and significantly correlated with the development of agriculture and the extent of steppic components. This suggests that, in the Taman Peninsula, the main parameter that may have predominantly influenced the ecosystem dynamics is the anthropogenic activities. This hypothesis is reinforced by the RMA (Fig. 3) that underlines the role of human-induced fire activity as a decisive factor, with an R2 of +.516 (Fig. 3). Although it is commonly believed that regions which experienced an early transition to Neolithic agriculture also became institutionally and economically more advanced (OLSSON and PAIK, 2012), the impact linked to these changing socio-economic models seems to have hastened strong environmental shifts in the Taman Peninsula.

18Even if the first traces of modern human behavior date back to 23,000 years in Israel (KISLEV et al., 1992, 2004), and while the first domesticated fruit appears in the Jordan Valley 11,700 years ago (KISLEV et al., 2006), the diffusion of what will become the founding basis of complex societies in the Old World, seems to have been a long and complex process. The spread of agro-pastoral farming from Southwest Asia (COLLEDGE et al., 2005 ; WENINGER et al., 2006 ; ZOHARY et al., 2012), and particularly the diffusion, and local inventions, of agricultural practices (DOLUKHANOV et al., 2005 ; VELICHKO et al., 2009), seems to have been one of the primary drivers behind human evolution but also behind the environmental shifts identified since the Neolithic (e.g. in the eastern Mediterranean, Europe, the Caucasus-Caspian corridor and the western Eurasian steppe). Clearly, there is also an environmental background behind the spread of the Neolithic (ROBINSON et al., 2006 ; WENINGER et al., 2006) and the adoption of farming in Western Asia, Europe, the Caucasian corridor and the Eurasian steppe that largely coincided with the Climatic Optimum of the Holocene (DOLUKHANOV and SHILIK, 2007) and the 8200 cal yr BP event. The 8200 cal yr BP event may have been one of the factors responsible for the Neolithic spread towards the west of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, by migration of people whose initial territory came under major water stresses (STAUBWASSER and WEISS, 2006 ; WENINGER et al., 2006). Climate pressures, mainly a drop in rainfall that generated irregularities in water supply of the first villages, could have caused a migration of peoples out of Turkey to the fertile plains of Macedonia, Thessaly, Bulgaria and the eastern coast of the Black Sea (WENINGER et al., 2006).

19While the onset of agriculture dates back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A culture in the Near East (11,700/11,400-10,300 calendar yr BP; BLOCKLEY and PINHASI, 2011), the first domesticated grains seem to have appeared later, during the interval 11,000-10,500 to 9300‑9000 uncalibrated yr BP (LEV‑YADUN et al., 2000; SALAMINI et al., 2002; WEISS et al., 2006). Studies focused on wheat in northern Syria and southern Turkey have mainly shown an increase in the cultivated form during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture, since 9250 uncalibrated yr BP (TANNO and WILLCOX, 2006). Focusing on the Caucasus-Caspian corridor (Fig. 3), the oldest charred botanical remains from the earliest known agricultural settlements in the Republic of Armenia, Aratashen and Aknashen, were radiocarbon‑dated to 6821 ± 46 14C BP (2σ calibration: 7740-7580 cal yr BP) and 7035 ± 69 14C BP (2σ calibration: 7975-7705 cal yr BP), giving an accurate time-window for the emergence of cultivated plants (HOVSEPYAN and WILLCOX, 2008) near the Caucasus-Caspian corridor.

20In Eastern Ukraine and southwestern Russia, archaeobotanical and archaeological evidence suggest that cereal cultivation began later, during the Chalcolithic period, with a maximum recorded for the Sredny‑Stog culture (MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE, 2012) at 4400‑3500 cal yr BC (6350-5450 cal yr BP; TELEGIN et al., 2003). In SW Crimea, the expansion of farming and pastoral activities was recorded since ~5000‑4000 BP (CORDOVA and LEHMAN, 2003). A statistical analysis, based only on Early Neolithic sites distributed from the Eastern European Plain to Central Europe, shows a concentration of radiocarbon dates in the 5300-4900 cal yr BC (7250-6850 cal yr BP) time-window, but with a high heterogeneity and a potential maximum at 6910 ± 58 cal BC (8860 ± 58 cal yr BP) for the Yelshanian Culture (8990-7950 cal yr BP; DOLUKHANOV et al., 2005). The earliest evidence of domesticated wheat in the Crimea (site Ardych-Burun) dates back to the Chalcolithic (MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE et al., 2013), at 4772 ± 51 14C yr BP (2σ calibration: 5600-5445 cal yr BP). In the northern Pontic area, it has been suggested that the gradual transition to pottery-making occurred at 8950 cal yr BP and that early farming cultures appeared around 7150 cal yr BP (DOLUKHANOV and SHILIK, 2007).

21The emergence of agricultural practices at the edge between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea (Fig. 5) appears after evidence for domestication and early cultivation in the earliest known agricultural settlements of the Republic of Armenia (HOVSEPYAN and WILLCOX, 2008).

Fig. 5 – Geography of the onset of cereal cultivation south and north of the Caucasus-Caspian corridor (see text for references).

Fig. 5 – Geography of the onset of cereal cultivation south and north of the Caucasus-Caspian corridor (see text for references).

22It seems to be quite similar to the emergence of agro-pastoral farming in the Eastern European Plain, and precedes cereal cultivation in Crimea (CORDOVA and LEHMAN, 2003, 2005 ; MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE et al., 2013). The second main corridor through which Neolithic agriculture has spread into continental Europe, the Thracian Plain in the SE Balkans, may shed new light on the dispersal process. It has been suggested that the early Holocene aridity may have been a major deterrent to early agriculture on the Thracian Plain (CONNOR et al., 2013). Lowland aridity may have conspired, with mountain barriers, to delay the transmission of agriculture through the eastern Balkans to the rest of Europe after 8200 cal yr BP (CONNOR et al., 2013).

Conclusions

23Our study gives the first radiocarbon date for the emergence of agro-pastoral farming near the northern part of the Caucasus-Caspian corridor. Agricultural practices started ca. 6900 years ago (6895 cal yr BP) in the fertile area of the Taman peninsula, between the Black and Azov Seas. The Taman peninsula mainly suggests that agro-pastoral farming has significantly altered ecosystems since the introduction of cereal cultivation and pastoralism, leading to a loss of forested areas.

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1 ‑ Geographical location of the core ORI 09 on the Taman Peninsula, Russia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 324k
Title Tab. 1 – Details of radiocarbon age determinations
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 108k
Title Fig. 2 ‑ Simplified pollen diagram presented on a linear time-scale (cal yr BP)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 380k
Title Fig. 3 ‑ Agro-pastoral farming and human-induced fire activity on the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.
Caption The cultivated species and charcoal-fragment curves are plotted on a linear timescale. The emergence of agriculture is indicated on the cultivated species curve. The cluster analysis details the components of the anthropogenic group. The linear detrended cross-correlations (P =0.05) are displayed with the Lag0 score and the associated Pvalue on each graph. The regression model from the CABFAC analysis is shown with the R2 value depicted on the graph.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 272k
Title Fig. 4 ‑ Ecosystem dynamics in the Taman Peninsula for the period 7800-4600 cal yr BP.
Caption The PCA-Axis 1 (92.53 % of total inertia), cultivated species and weeds are plotted on a linear timescale. The linear detrended cross-correlations (P =0.05) are displayed with the Lag0 score and the associated Pvalue on each graph.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 244k
Title Fig. 5 – Geography of the onset of cereal cultivation south and north of the Caucasus-Caspian corridor (see text for references).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/docannexe/image/8300/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 414k
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References

Bibliographical reference

David Kaniewski, Matthieu Giaime, Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, Nataliya S. Bolikhovskaya, Alexey V. Porotov and Elise Van Campo, « Emergence of agriculture on the Taman Peninsula, Russia », Méditerranée, 126 | 2016, 111-118.

Electronic reference

David Kaniewski, Matthieu Giaime, Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, Nataliya S. Bolikhovskaya, Alexey V. Porotov and Elise Van Campo, « Emergence of agriculture on the Taman Peninsula, Russia », Méditerranée [Online], 126 | 2016, Online since 01 January 2018, connection on 20 June 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mediterranee/8300 ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.8300

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About the authors

David Kaniewski

Université Paul Sabatier-Toulouse 3, CNRS, EcoLab, Toulouse, France, Institut universitaire de France, Paris, France, david.kaniewski@univ-tlse3.fr

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Matthieu Giaime

Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, UM 34 CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France

Nick Marriner

CNRS, Laboratoire Chrono-Environnement,UMR 6249, Besançon, France

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Christophe Morhange

Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, UM 34 CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France, Institut universitaire de France, Paris, France,

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Nataliya S. Bolikhovskaya

Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Alexey V. Porotov

Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Elise Van Campo

Université Paul Sabatier-Toulouse 3, CNRS, EcoLab

By this author

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Copyright

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