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Mid- To Late-Holocene Coastal Vegetation Patterns In Northern Levant (Tell Sukas, Syria): Olive Tree Cultivation History And Climatic Change

Philippe Sorrel, Marie Mathis

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A detailed, high-resolution, pollen record conducted on Holocene sediments from Tell Sukas provides an advanced picture of landscape evolution and vegetation dynamics between 6000 and 2600 cal. BP (ca. 4050–650 BCE) in coastal Syria (core TSII). We report a prominent and abrupt increase in Olea pollen content and a coeval decrease in other arboreal essences at 4600 cal. BP, reflecting an intensification of olive horticulture in coastal Syria which is probably contemporaneous with the development of olive oil production in Northern Levant and an increased influence of human activities on vegetation dynamics. Highest abundances of Olea pollen (up to 60%) occurred between ca. 3900 and 3600 cal. BP at Tell Sukas, suggesting that the region became an important olive oil producer. However, the 4200 cal. BP increase in regional dryness widely reported in the Eastern Mediterranean coincides only with a slight decline in olive exploitation in Northern Levant, suggesting that milder conditions prevailed in coastal Syria. Conversely, the abrupt decline of Olea pollen abundances during 3400–3000 cal. BP along with increased values of semi-arid indicators and non-palatable herbs implies a significant drier climate, in accordance with other studies from the Levantine region. This is concurrent with the period of turmoil and crisis characterizing the end of the late Bronze Age and the transition to the Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean.