Agricultural terraces in the Mediterranean: medieval intensification revealed by OSL-PD

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The history of agricultural terraces remains poorly understood, largely due to problems in dating their construction and use. This has hampered broader research on their significance, limiting knowledge of past agricultural practices and the long-term investment choices made by rural communities. Optically stimulated luminescence profiling and dating (OSL-PD) has been applied to the sediments associated with agricultural terraces and earthworks in the Mediterranean region to date construction and use. Results reported in ‘Agricultural terraces in the Mediterranean: intensive construction during the later Middle Ages revealed by landscape analysis with OSL profiling and dating‘ (Antiquity, forthcoming) from five widely-dispersed areas in Spain, Greece and Turkey have revealed that although many terraces were used in the first millennium CE, the most intensive episodes of terrace building occurred during the later Middle Ages (c. CE 1100-1600).

 

Figure 1: Stages 1 to 5 of the methodology presented in ‘Agricultural terraces in the Mediterranean: medieval intensification revealed by OSL-PD’: Stage 1, initial HLC and site selection; Stage 2, OSL field profiles used to create hypotheses about earthwork development and target soil/sediment samples for subsequent lab analysis; Stage 3, OSL laboratory screening and sample selection for dating; Stage 4, quartz SAR OSL dating of selected samples; Stage 5: interpretation and use of results to refine HLC and landscape modelling.

Figure 2: The methodology as applied to an agricultural wall at Gölcük, Silifke, Turkey.

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