Palynology: July 20-31, 2008
For several years, palynologists have been studying the vegetation history of the territory of Sagalassos by looking at the changes in pollen deposition through time and comparing their finds with modern ecological data (e.g. modern pollen rain and the current plant composition). The aim of their research was to piece together the way the landscape used to look and to determine in what way humans living in the area have altered their environment through the centuries.
Their studies have revealed that there was a strong human impact on the vegetation during the so-called Beysehir Occupation Phase; A period of increased human activity during the in the late 2nd millennium BCE. The problem is that, until now, very little is known about the changes in vegetation patterns from the end of Antiquity until the present day.
The aim of the current research is to get a more detailed view of the vegetation changes during this period. Similar to the previous palynological studies, a number of soil cores, collected by the geomorphology team, will be sampled. Only the top two or three meters of the drilled cores are studied (corresponding with sediments deposited from the end of the BO Phase until the present). While the cores that were drilled during previous years were sampled at 10 cm intervals, this year the aim is to make the intervals as small as possible (between 1 and 5 centimeters). Also, rather than just looking at fossil pollen, the analysis of the soil samples will now also include non-pollen palynomorphs (e.g. fossil fungal or algal spores) and microscopic charcoal particles. These extra proxies will increase our understanding of the local environment and give an indication about the occurrence of fires on or near the coring site.
The preliminary results from the study of a core that was extracted in the nearby Gravgaz marsh during a previous campaign are already quite promising. The current research indicates that anthropogenic influence gradually changed after the end of the BO Phase. Crop cultivation slowly decreased and there was regeneration of Pinus forest in the region. The landscape around the sample site remained relatively open, possibly as a result of overgrazing. The phase of decreasing crop cultivation following the BO Phase was interrupted by a distinct wet period and the study site was, at least periodically, inundated. An increase in wetland trees indicated that this wet phase took some time and was more than a local phenomenon. During this phase, there were several distinct peaks in the amount of micro charcoal, suggesting local or extralocal fires. Indicators of crop cultivation disappeared from the pollen spectrum during this dry phase, indicating that the current agricultural activities in Gravgaz have a very recent origin.