Shaping Mediterranean landscapes: the cultural impact of anthropogenic fires in Tyrrhenian southern Tuscany during the Iron and Middle Ages (800–450 BC / AD 650–1300)
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Mauro Paolo Buonincontri; Pierluigi Pieruccini; Davide Susini; Carmine Lubritto; Paola Ricci; Fabian Rey; Willy Tinner; Daniele Colombaroli; Ruth Drescher-Schneider; Luisa Dallai; Lorenzo Marasco; Giulio Poggi; Giovanna Bianchi; Richard Hodges; Gaetano Di Pasquale
Publication Year: 2020

Cataloging Information

  • anthropogenic fire
  • cultural landscape
  • Etruscans
  • floodplain forest
  • Italy
  • late Holocene
  • marsh
  • Mediterranean
  • Middle Ages
  • multiproxy approach
  • reclamation
  • sediment charcoal
  • thermophilous deciduous forest
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 27, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 62184


Charcoal analysis, applied in sediment facies analysis of the Pecora river palaeochannel (Tyrrhenian southern Tuscany, Italy), detected the occurrence of past fire events in two different fluvial landforms at 800–450 BC and again at AD 650–1300. Taking place in a central Mediterranean district adequately studied through palaeoenvironmental and archaeological research, the investigation determined land changes, time phases and socio-economic driving forces involved in dynamic processes of fire. The fire sequences had purely anthropogenic origins and were linked to forest opening and reduction by local communities. Introduced by the Etruscans, fires dated to 800–450 BC involved mainly the forest cover on the hilly slopes, ensuring agricultural exploitation. From AD 650, fires contributed to Medieval upstream reclamation and vegetation clearing of flat swamplands. From AD 850 to 1050, the use of fire spread over a wider area in the river valley, increasing arable lands. Between AD 1150 and 1300, fires belonged to a regional forest clearance phase. Medieval fire episodes had a paramount importance in shaping and determining the character of the Tuscan Mediterranean landscape. From AD 850, Medieval fire clearing influenced regional vegetation history contributing to the decline of the dominant deciduous Quercus woodland. Open habitats became the new form of a clearly detectable agricultural landscape from AD 950. The use of fire clearing and the resulting landscape changes in the Pecora river valley depended on the political strategies adopted by Medieval authorities and marked, in fact, the progression of a cultural landscape still characterizing central Tyrrhenian Italy.

Online Link(s):
Buonincontri, Mauro Paolo; Pieruccini, Pierluigi; Susini, Davide; Lubritto, Carmine; Ricci, Paola; Rey, Fabian; Tinner, Willy; Colombaroli, Daniele; Drescher-Schneider, Ruth; Dallai, Luisa; Marasco, Lorenzo; Poggi, Giulio; Bianchi, Giovanna; Hodges, Richard; Di Pasquale, Gaetano. 2020. Shaping Mediterranean landscapes: the cultural impact of anthropogenic fires in Tyrrhenian southern Tuscany during the Iron and Middle Ages (800–450 BC / AD 650–1300). The Holocene 30(10):1420-1437.