The history of human land use activities in the Northern Alps since the Neolithic Age
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Fridtjof Gilck; Peter Poschlod
Publication Year: 2021

Cataloging Information

  • Germany
  • Northern Alps
  • palynology
  • pedoanthracology
  • prehistoric agriculture
  • prehistoric land use
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: April 12, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 63088


Millenia of sustainable, low intensity land use have formed the cultural landscapes of central Europe. Studies from the Central Alps show that mountain pastures also look back onto many thousand years of land use history. In this palynological and pedoanthracological study in the border region between Germany and Austria in the Mangfall Mountains, we aim to close the knowledge gap that exists for the German part of the Northern Alps, where no conclusive evidence for the onset of pastoral activities has been presented so far. Our results reveal strong evidence, that mountain pasture use in this region reaches back to the Iron Age at least. However, the reconstruction of vegetation and fire history indicates human interaction with the environment much earlier, starting in the Neolithic Age, where we found evidence of slash and burn activities and first occurrences of pasture indicator pollen. A rising number of mega charcoal pieces dated to the Bronze Age suggests increased slash and burn activities, possibly linked to the creation of open space for pasturing. Therefore, our results provide profound evidence of human interaction with the mountain environment, beginning in the Neolithic Age and clear evidence of mountain pasture use beginning during the Iron Age at 750 BC. Based on palynology and pedoanthracology it is, however, difficult to clearly differentiate between pasturing, hunting and other human interactions with the environment. Further archaeological studies in this area could add valuable information to our findings and shed more light onto the early history of farming activities in the Northern Alps.

Online Link(s):
Gilck, Fridtjof; Poschlod, Peter. 2021. The history of human land use activities in the Northern Alps since the Neolithic Age. A reconstruction of vegetation and fire history in the Mangfall Mountains (Bavaria, Germany). The Holocene 31(4):579-591.