Up until recent times, the cultivation of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) ensured there was a raw material available for several different essential products. It was one of the first plants to be used for textiles, thanks to the processing of the cellulose fibres extracted from the stem, while the seeds were exploited to make edible oils, or oil for medicinal purposes and for lighting. In the course of the Neolithic period, its importance was such that it was one of the first domesticated species (founder crops) and, later, the subject of varietal selection. Some of these processes are fairly well known in the case of the earliest phases, while little is known in the case of the medieval period and, in general, what little information we have refers to aspects connected to crop cultivation and textile production. The recent archaeological and archaeobotanical investigations at Rocchicella di Mineo (Catania) have provided new data, and a basis for further discussion on the subject. Archaeological and numismatic findings make it possible to date to the start of the 9th century the occupation of the site, which stands on the ruins of a proto-Byzantine village (6th-7th centuries). Pottery indicators, and new types of buildings, help to place this phase in the context of a wider demographic and socio-economic expansion of south-eastern Sicily in the period in question. Gas chromatography and archaeobotanic analyses conducted on the remains found outside Room A, a storage room near the craft area, provide a further basis for discussion. Indeed, the remains of carbonised flax were found here, conserved in two separate pottery containers datable to to the early 9th century. Gas chromatography analysis of the contents of the amphoras would seem to indicate this kind of composition, characterised by an association of several plant elements. However, following biometric tests on the seeds, it was found that the variety of flax used in the preparation probably belongs to the category chosen as a source of oil, but aspects of its size are peculiar and, currently, there are no parallels for it: This would help to suggest that Byzantine Sicily had a preminent role as a crossroads and a place of cultural diversification in the Mediterranean area. Evidence of a “new” variety at Rocchicella would seem to indicate the need to implement the production of flaxseed oil (linseed oil). In an environmental context in which the availability of oil as a resource must already have been guaranteed, thanks to the widespread presence of olive trees, this seems anomalous, and the explanation for this may perhaps have been that there were differentiated preferences governing the uses of the two raw materials.

Le vie del lino nel Medioevo: nuovi dati dal contesto bizantino di Rocchicella di Mineo (CT)

Anna Maria Grasso;Matilde Stella;Giuseppe E. De Benedetto;Girolamo Fiorentino
2021

Abstract

Up until recent times, the cultivation of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) ensured there was a raw material available for several different essential products. It was one of the first plants to be used for textiles, thanks to the processing of the cellulose fibres extracted from the stem, while the seeds were exploited to make edible oils, or oil for medicinal purposes and for lighting. In the course of the Neolithic period, its importance was such that it was one of the first domesticated species (founder crops) and, later, the subject of varietal selection. Some of these processes are fairly well known in the case of the earliest phases, while little is known in the case of the medieval period and, in general, what little information we have refers to aspects connected to crop cultivation and textile production. The recent archaeological and archaeobotanical investigations at Rocchicella di Mineo (Catania) have provided new data, and a basis for further discussion on the subject. Archaeological and numismatic findings make it possible to date to the start of the 9th century the occupation of the site, which stands on the ruins of a proto-Byzantine village (6th-7th centuries). Pottery indicators, and new types of buildings, help to place this phase in the context of a wider demographic and socio-economic expansion of south-eastern Sicily in the period in question. Gas chromatography and archaeobotanic analyses conducted on the remains found outside Room A, a storage room near the craft area, provide a further basis for discussion. Indeed, the remains of carbonised flax were found here, conserved in two separate pottery containers datable to to the early 9th century. Gas chromatography analysis of the contents of the amphoras would seem to indicate this kind of composition, characterised by an association of several plant elements. However, following biometric tests on the seeds, it was found that the variety of flax used in the preparation probably belongs to the category chosen as a source of oil, but aspects of its size are peculiar and, currently, there are no parallels for it: This would help to suggest that Byzantine Sicily had a preminent role as a crossroads and a place of cultural diversification in the Mediterranean area. Evidence of a “new” variety at Rocchicella would seem to indicate the need to implement the production of flaxseed oil (linseed oil). In an environmental context in which the availability of oil as a resource must already have been guaranteed, thanks to the widespread presence of olive trees, this seems anomalous, and the explanation for this may perhaps have been that there were differentiated preferences governing the uses of the two raw materials.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11587/468984
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact