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Early oleiculture or native wild Olea in eastern Maghreb: New pollen data from the sebkhalagoon Halk el Menjel (Hergla, Central Tunisia)

2015, Lebreton, V., Jaouadi, S., Mulazzani, S., Boujelben, A., Belhouchet, L., Gammar, A.M., Combourieu-Nebout, N., Saliège, J.-F., Karray, M.R., Fouache, E.

Pollen analyses from the sebkha-lagoon Halk El Menjel document the vegetation history in Central Tunisia, linked to climate change since the Middle Holocene. Steppes are the main biomes developed under semi-arid conditions between 4965 ± 35 and 3410 ± 40 BP. At 4365 ± 50 BP Pistacia is replaced by Olea and high representation of Olea pollen grains are reported between 4365 ± 50 and 3410 ± 40 BP, illustrating a humid episode at the Mid-to-Late Holocene transition. Thus, the semi-arid area of Central Tunisia could correspond to the native biome for oleasters at the beginning of the Late Holocene. Early olive cultivation is not yet evidenced in the Neolithic sites of the eastern Maghreb, and the Phoenicians are assumed to have introduced olive cultivars in Tunisia. However, an early cultivation of Olea from local native oleaster and dissemination of native cultivars in Central Tunisia can be hypothesised even if it has to be still demonstrated with further archaeological and archaeobotanical evidences. © 2015 Association for Environmental Archaeology.