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Late Quaternary environmental and land use changes in semiarid NE Morocco – a geoarchaeological reconstruction

The reconstruction of prehistoric human-environment-relations requires archaeological and geo-scientific expertise. Geological archives document landscape changes, but seldom show the underlying causes (whether human or environmental) for these changes, so that corresponding causal factors often remain speculative. Archaeological archives supply the data necessary to understand development of human communities, but clear indicators of causal mechanisms (human or environmental) are notoriously difficult to detect. In our geoarchaeological case studies we address such questions by interdisciplinary field-work.

The project aims at reconstructing and contrasting land-use and landscape-change between 11ka calBP (beginning of the Epipalaeolithic culture) and present times in the morphodynamically sensitive regions of Northeast-Morocco. The alluvial sediments of the Lower Moulouya have a key function in our studies. The stratigraphic linkage of geomorphological archives and buried (well-preserved) archaeological open-air sites allows a precise chronological linking of changes in settlement and subsistence pattern with variations of regional environmental parameters.

On the base of sedimentological, soil genetical, and chronometrical records a high resolution chronostratigraphy of the stratified high-flood sediments of the Lower Moulouya in NE-Morocco will be established. The 15m deep exposed Moulouya river sediments provide excellent conditions for the development of chronostratigraphic sequences. The high-flood sediments document both variations of the fluvial dynamics and supply direct environmental data for reconstruction of the Late Quaternary landscape development.

Thanks to the cañon-like erosion, the buried open-air sites in the Moulouya river sediments are well exposed. The archaeological recording of the material culture, as well as flora and fauna, allows a detailed reconstruction of prehistoric land-use patterns during the last 11ka. The stratigraphic connection of the archaeological data with the alluvial archives will give us ample opportunities for the envisaged reconstruction of prehistoric man-environment-relations.

Funded by VolkswagenStiftung (2005-2009)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielhofer


Zielhofer C, Bussmann J, Ibouhouten H, Fenech K, 2010. Flood frequencies reveal Holocene Rapid Climate Changes (Lower Moulouya River, NE Morocco). Journal of Quaternary Science 25, 700-714.

Ibouhouten H, Zielhofer C, Mahjoubi R, Kamel S, Linstädter J, Mikdad A, Bussmann J, Werner P, Fenech K. 2010. Archives alluviales holocènes et occupation humaine en Basse Moulouya (Maroc nord-oriental). Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement 16, 41-56.

Linstädter A, Zielhofer C. 2010. Regional fire history shows abrupt responses of Mediterranean ecosystems to centennial-scale climate change (Olae-Pistacia woodlands, NE Morocco). Journal of Arid Environments 74, 101-110.

Letzte Änderung: April 25, 2017