Holocene land use in western Sicily: a geoarchaeological perspective
Geoarchaeological research within Sicily continues to characterize the effects of anthropogenic and geological processes upon the island's Holocene alluvial landscape developments. Interdisciplinary approaches have been used including geomorphological mapping, archaeological survey and excavations to characterize land-use practices though the mid- to late Holocene. Landscape development changes are recorded in the alluvial sediments as a consequence of land use by the indigenous and Roman settlers of Sicilian valleys in the Nebrodi and Polizzo Mountains. A marked change in erosion has been identified during the late Roman occupation of Sicily, probably as a product of intensive pastoralism and land clearing. Sedimentation during indigenous hilltop occupation of north–central and western Sicily was dominated by coarse-grained (cobble or boulder) deposits attributed to flash-flooding. Sedimentation that temporally coincided with the Greek and later Roman occupation of the adjacent valleys is marked by fine-grained deposits. These data continue to support the geological and archaeological interpretations of human–landscape interactions in Sicily. Furthermore, such geoarchaeological data may be used in models to strengthen our present and future landscape conservation methods.
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Human impact on our environment is not a new phenomenon. For millennia, humans have been coping with – or provoking – environmental change. We have exploited, extracted, over-used, but also in many cases nurtured, the resources that the geosphere offers. Geoarchaeology studies the traces of human interactions with the geosphere and provides the key to recognizing landscape and environmental change, human impacts and the effects of environmental change on human societies. This collection of papers from around the world includes case studies and broader reviews covering the time period since before modern human beings came into existence up until the present day. To understand ourselves, we need to understand that our world is constantly changing, and that change is dynamic and complex. Geoarchaeology provides an inclusive and long-term view of human–geosphere interactions and serves as a valuable aid to those who try to determine sustainable policies for the future.