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Land use and settlement dynamics in the bays of Bevaix and Cortaillod (Neuchâtel Lake, Switzerland) during the Late Bronze Age (HaB).

Deák, Judit; Langenegger, Fabien; Wüthrich, Sonia

Abstract: Several bays located on the north-western shores of Neuchâtel Lake (Neuchâtel canton, Switzerland) were intensively occupied during the Late Bronze Age (HaB, corresponding to 1060-850 BC). The dendroarchaeological data of the two bays, Bevaix and Cortaillod, were confronted with evidence stemming from the terrestrial sites and archaeopedological study, in order to get insight into the interaction between settlement dynamics, land use, and handling environmental challenges. Although these bays were occupied almost continuously between 1060-1050 and 850 BC, archaeological data reveal that in the hinterland, behind the bays, only few structures attributed to the HaB period are documented. This absence seems to be related to occupational dynamics. The exhaustive study of the piles of the palafittic villages indicates that shoreward colonisation of the lake was carefully planned. The synchronous expansion of satellite villages in two bays has been interpreted as an indication of recurrent interaction between their populations. Moreover, the oak piles, mostly used for the construction of houses, suggest that forest resources exploited by inhabitants of the two bays were considerably different. These data correspond well with the agronomic and forestry potentials of the hinterland as it is reconstructed by applying the principles of land evaluation. This investigation showed that a large part of the soilscape was too humid or too clayey both for cereal production and optimal oak growth. Significant differences of agricultural and forestry suitability of soils in the vicinity of the two bays was revealed as well. To conclude, the superposition of data permitted us to unravel new understandings of the occupation dynamics and management strategies of the environmental challenges faced by the Late Bronze Age population in the studied region.

This article is part of a book edited at the occasion of the Geoarchaeological meeting of Bruges: Soils as records of Past and Present: the geoarchaeological approach. Focus on: is there time for fieldwork today? - Bruges (Belgium), 6 and 7.11.2019. Editors Judit Deák, Carole Ampe and Jari Hinsch Mikkelsen Technical editor Mariebelle Deceuninck English language reviewer Caroline Landsheere Graphic design Frederick Moyaert Printing and binding Die Keure, Bruges
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