عنوان مقاله [English]
نویسنده [English]چکیده [English]
In the northern part of the Iranian plateau, the archaeology of Epipaleolithic and Neolithic period be in a fundamentally important position. Mountain ranges and intermountain plains are two main geographical elements playing a key role in the environmental dynamism of the northern Iran. Dense forests and alpine pastures are both present in the mountains. The north Iranian forests, also famous as the Hyrcanian or Caspian forests (in the Irano-Turanian region), are located in the southern margin of the Caspian Sea and in the northern piedmont of Alborz from Astara in the west to Gildaghi in the East. The climate of this region is humid largely influenced by the Caspian Sea and the distribution and abundance of forest trees in this region is due to climatic variations, elevation and the relative amounts of annual rainfall. Juniper and Caucasian oak are found in the mountainous region between 2000m and 2500m altitude. On the western and central parts of the coastal strip with an elevation between 500m and 700m, there are forests of Querceto-Buxetosum with trees such as chestnut-leaved oak and boxwood. At the lower elevations, there are native-type trees like Persian ironwood, Caucasian wingnut, Caucasian alder, Persian silk, Caspian locust and Persian maple. Today, there is an obvious contrast between the mountains and open plains of the northern Iran due to anthropogenic intervention. The mountain piedmonts are covered with trees such as oriental beech, Persian ironwood and chestnut-leaved oak but the plains are usually bare of trees that are caused by human exploitation as well as agricultural activities. Pollen evidence indicates also a decrease in Caspian forests as a result of human activities during the past.
Keywords: Archaeobotany, Herbal Community, Epipaleolithic, The Eastern Alborz, Ali Tappeh Cave.
Introduction & Method
Regarding to the investigations of Carlton Coon and Charles McBurney, several Epipaleolithic open-air sites including Ali Tappeh was identified. Some other Epipaleolithic sites have recently been identified in adjacent regions including Central Asia (Dam Dam Cheshmeh) and southeastern Anatolia (Körtik Tepe). Moreover, eastern Chia Sabz and Chogha Golan sites in western Iran offered some fresh data on the PPN (Pre-pottery Neolithic) shedding more lights on the transitional phase from Epipaleolithic to the Neolithic. The current paper aims to present the results of a study on charcoal samples gathered during the archeological excavations at Ali Tappeh cave located in the south of the Caspian Sea coast, undertaken by Charles McBurney in 1964. It should be mentioned that charcoal or anthracological studies have not taken place in this part of Iran so far and the following results could be effective in reconstructing the vegetation covering as well as the exploitation of wood by hunter-gatherers during Epipaleolithic period in the eastern Alborz. The comparison of the vegetation of the past with that of modern times could also be useful for a better understanding of human interactions and environmental change. Situated at a steep point in the piedmont of Alborz, Ali Tappeh cave is located about 13 km from the sea. Recent calibrated dating indicates that the earliest occupation phase (Epipaleolitic) in Ali Tappeh Cave started about 11,300 BP (BM-2726: 11,240±210 BP; BM-2727: 11,300±190 BP) while the end of occupation is estimated at about 10,180±110 BP. This dating is in direct correlation with the Mesolithic/Transitional Neolithic phase (10,875±630) in Kamarband Cave and close to Mesolithic with the seals (11,740±825 BP) in Hotu Cave. A total of 166 pieces of charcoal from the excavations of 1964 have been studied. These samples were acquired from 4 trenches and 15 archeological layers. Samples were gathered by dry sieving through superimposed sieves, from large (7.5mm), through medium, to fine (2.5mm) respectively. Analysis and identification of these materials were conducted at the French archaeobotanical laboratory of Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Éthnologie René Ginouvès at Nanterre. In order to analyse these materials, a reflected-light microscope (Nikon Eclipse L150) allowing magnifications from 50 to 1000 times was used. Identification of species was based on the anatomical structure of the wood preserved in the charcoal. Three sections (transverse, tangential and longitudinal) from selected samples were prepared and then identified by comparison with the reference collection available in the laboratory or with an anatomical reference atlas. The charcoal fragments were small in size but relatively well preserved. Photography of the samples has been undertaken at Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris using scanning electron microscope (SEM) that is provided the high-quality images.
Charcoal studies of Ali Tappeh Cave indicate the presence of various species including oak, plum/almond and conifer (steppe–forest community, 43%), elm, willow and vine (hygrophilous community, 39%), Chenopodiaceae, Fabaceae and Rhamnaceae (steppe community, 7%) and Ericaceae (alpine community, 9%) growing more or less around the site. The presence of plum/almond and elm at Ali Tappeh is significant and demonstrates its existence in the northern piedmont of eastern Alborz in the Epipaleolithic period used as feul. The same preference could be proposed for the Epipaleolithic people of Ali Tappeh Cave due to the high frequency of elm among the identified samples. The Significant presence of elm and oak at that time indicates a humid and moderate environment in this region. The presence of vine among the identified taxa in the Epipaleolithic period is striking. The remains of wild vine (seeds and pollen) is attested from at least 10000 BC in its natural habitats around lakes Ghab, Van and Urmia. Grape residues have also been found inside jars at Tepe Haji Firuz (6000 BC). In the late Neolithic (5000 BC), vine pollen has been reported from Zaribar Lake, outside its natural habitat. A Few seeds of cultivated vine have been found at Kurban Höyük in southern Anatolia. In the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age, the remains of cultivated vine in the form of seeds, charcoals and products have been reported from a dozen sites such as Godin Tepe in the western part of the Iranian Plateau, Tal-e Malyan in the south, Tepe Hisar in the north east, Anau in southern Turkmenia as well as some Indo-Iranian borderland sites including Tepe Yahya, Konar Sandal, Shahr-i Sokhta and Mehrgarh in the Kechi Plain. In the south-east of Anatolia, preliminary anthracological studies carried out on the samples found at Körtic Tepe have resulted in identification of 14 species belonging to two distinct vegetal community. These include a steppe-forest community consisting of species such as almond, hackberry, pistachio, oak and buckthorn, and a riparian community comprising tamarisk, willow/poplar, vine, alder, ash and maple. The presence of these communities supported by carpological and palynological data indicate that the site was situated along the flanks of an oak forest and a forest corridor on an ancient bed of the Batman Chay River in the early Holocene.
It should also be pointed out that anthracological studies at Dam Dam Cheshmeh in western Turkmenistan show the same presence of juniper and buckthorn in the Epipaleolithic period. Today, Turkmen juniper can be found in the piedmont of western Turkmenia (at Bolshoi Balkhan altitudes), and buckthorn grows in the western part of Turkmenia (Bolshoi Balkhan) and the piedmont of Kopet-Dagh. In Iran, buckthorn is dispersed through the forests of northern Iran and occasionally in the central steppes. These results must be considered as preliminary and future endeavors should be concentrated on the study of new material coming from sites such as the Hotu, Kamarband and Ki-Aram caves in the same region.