Basque Cultural Landscapes of the Western French Pyrenees

Ted L Gragson, David S. Leigh, Michael R. Coughlan


Results are presented on the co-evolution of agropastoralism and soils in the western Pyrenees Mountains (>800 masl) over the course of the Holocene conducted in the ethnically Basque commune of Larrau, France. Larrau presents a unique opportunity to examine the structural legacies and biotic factor in soil evolution across millennia. Multi-proxy evidence from geoarchives, archaeology, history and ethnography is analyzed to evaluate the relation between land management practices, soil characteristics and chronostratigraphy in the study area. Research indicates that the landscape of Larrau has been subject to intense human transformation through agropastoral use since at least the early Bronze age, yet there are no signs of significant degradation of the soil mantle. The place-based approach followed in this research provides the means for evaluating modal human behaviors and decisionmaking within a complex adaptive system. It details how the present is connected to the past and how contemporary land systems can contribute to a sustainable future.

Nel corso della ricerca effettuata nel comune etnicamente basco di Larrau (Francia) abbiamo indagato tracce multi-proxy per esaminare le forme di domesticazione dei paesaggi montani (> 800 m slm) dei Pirenei occidentali, nel corso dell’Olocene. I nostri dati suggeriscono che in quest’area le foreste originarie sono state trasformate in pascoli diverse migliaia di anni fa, senza che questo abbia comportato un degrado significativo del paesaggio e dei suoli. Il patrimonio dei paesaggi agropastorali di Larrau offre una rara opportunità per esaminare un doppio sistema in lento cambiamento, nel quale, attraverso millenni, le attività di gestione umana hanno strutturato un paesaggio scenografico, creando un sistema di produzione agropastorale resiliente e durevole, e hanno reindirizzato i sottostanti percorsi e meccanismi di pedogenesi. Se i sistemi terrestri contemporanei mirano a raggiungere un desiderabile futuro sostenibile, la situazione attuale deve essere continuamente e fortemente collegata al suo passato.

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