Humanities and Arts

Plant economy in the westernmost territory of the Roman state through waste: the wet site of O Areal (Vigo, Spain)

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Doi: doi:10.20944/preprints202112.0252.v2



The Roman economy of the Iberian Peninsula has habitually been characterised in terms of prestige goods and economic activities such as trade, mining and metallurgy. The analysis of plant-based foods –less prestigious but more essential in everyday life– has commonly been marginalised in state-of-the-art reviews. The O Areal saltworks is exceptional in terms of the large number of organic materials it preserves, and the excellent state of that preservation. After its abandonment (end of the 3rd/4th century AD), the saltworks was briefly used as a dumping ground for the surrounding area. The site's archaeobotanical remains, preserved under anoxic, waterlogged conditions, consist of the building materials used at the saltworks, tools and other artefacts, organic objects employed in activities such as fishing, and refuse. The assemblage suggests a wide diversity of species to have been introduced into northwestern Iberia during the Roman Period, including the mulberry, peach, fig, plum, grapevine, and melon. The notable presence of other edible fruit species that normally grew wild during this period, such as chestnut, walnut, stone pine, and cherry trees, might be related to the start of their cultivation.