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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 27, 2016

Preliminary paleoecological reconstruction of long-term relationship between human and environment in the northern part of Danube-along Plain, Hungary

  • Rozália Kustár EMAIL logo , Dávid Molnár , Pál Sümegi , Tünde Törőcsik and Szilvia Sávai
From the journal Open Geosciences


The peat bog at Ócsa is located at the northern part of the Danube-Tisa Interfluves at the transitional zone of two landscapes with different morphological characters. At the boundary of the Danube-Tisa Interfluves and the Danube-along Plain a marshland sequence can be found from Hajós to Ócsa. We extended our research to the Ócsa peat bog to complete the environmental historical investigations in the examined area, as well.

The bog is located in a former pool formed by the Danube River in which aeolian sand and thick lake sediment deposited from the Late Pleistocene. The initial oligotrophic lake became mesotrophic, therefore thick carbonate sediment deposited. Afterwards, as a consequence of the Neolithic human occupations, the natural development of the lake changed drastically and the lake choked up. The pollen and quartermalacological analysis of the area support the mentioned geological processes.

1 Introduction

The relationship between prehistoric human communities and their surrounding environment can be uncovered with various geoarcheological and paleoecological examinations. Out of these chronological, sedimentological, geochemical, palynological, macrobotanical and malacological analyses of sediments, which were accumulated in sediment-accumulation basins (e.g. lakes, peat-bogs), are remarkable. With these analyses environmental conditions and changes as well as anthropogenic environmental changes could be reconstructed. Such multi-proxy examinations were published from the southern part of the Ócsa-Őrjég-Hajós peat-bog system in the Danube alluvial plain [1], and this paper shows complex geoarcheological, paleoecological and archaeological results from the northern part of the peat-bog system mentioned above.

Relatively insufficient internationally accepted results are known of the paleoecological changes in the Pleistocene-Holocene transition from the Danube-along Plain [2]. Because of the wrong drilling method used by most of the researchers on sampling lakes, peat-bogs and mort-lakes, i.e. disturbed sediment cores were obtained. The other reason is that not a single radiocarbon date was available from these sections, that is why these results were negligible in international sphere [3].

Although several paleoecological examinations were fulfilled lately using undisturbed core drilling in the Great Hungarian Plain [1, 48], moreover radiocarbon dating were completed on undisturbed samples obtained previously. Thus a relatively significant paleoecological database was created in the Great Hungarian Plain using internationally accepted sampling and dating methods [9]. But because of the mosaic-like environmental conditions of the Carpathian Basin [10] these examinations must have expanded as many sites as possible to understand what happened with the environment and human communities during the global warming at the end of the Pleistocene [9]. Since some complex (radiocarbon, palynological, macrobotanical and malacological) analyses were made on lakes, peat-bogs and swamps in the Danube-Tisza Interfluves [2]. Therefore the northernmost part of the peat-bog system, lying in the border area of the Danube-along Plain and the sand ridge (so-called “turjános”), near the town of Ócsa seemed a good examination site (Fig. 1). Paleoecological results were amplified with archaeological data from the Danube alluvial plain, south of the examination site [11], to reconstruct the long-term relationship between human and environment in the northern part of the Danube-along Plain (Pest Plain).

Figure 1 Location of the examined site of Ócsa (1 = alluvium of Danube-along Plain; 2 = marshland site at Ócsa)
Figure 1

Location of the examined site of Ócsa (1 = alluvium of Danube-along Plain; 2 = marshland site at Ócsa)

2 Geographical setting

The Ócsa peat-bog is situated in a remarkably complicated geomorphologic area (Fig. 2). It is bounded by aeolian converted sand-ridge and Pleistocene gravelly terrace of the Danube [12] from North and East. From South the area is bounded by the lower parts of the Danube alluvial plain. The geomorphologic dichotomy of the area is induced by the river Danube or one of its branches, when owing to tectonic and/or climatic causes it was progressively pressed to West and incised into its fan than eroded the fan’s edge in hollow-like shape. Thus the examined site can be found in a lower-situated, choked-up Danube-branch in the foreground of the sand-ridge and the gravelly terrace (Fig. 2).

Figure 2 The marshland and bore-hole point at Ócsa on the first Austrian Military map (1782) (black dot = undisturbed coring point; dark green hatched areas = marshland areas; pale yellow areas = aeolian sand ridges)
Figure 2

The marshland and bore-hole point at Ócsa on the first Austrian Military map (1782) (black dot = undisturbed coring point; dark green hatched areas = marshland areas; pale yellow areas = aeolian sand ridges)

The peat-bog area was affected by human activity from the 20th century, for example irrigation of the lower parts, and expressive peat extraction in the “Öreg Turján” area. Nowadays the water-feeding of the area is solved from two main artificial channels, but by the reason of historic maps and geological examinations the original water-feed of the peat-bog was derived from the ground water, flowed from the higher-situated fan, and the accretion-waters from the Danube.

The Ócsa peat-bog – probably formed in a low situated, choked-up Danube-branch – can be already well investigated on the maps of the 1st Austrian Military Survey (Fig. 2). The branch itself had been partly buried by the latter sand-drift movements and segregated from the other branch-parts as it is visible in other abandoned branches in the Danube-Tisa Interfluves [7]. Periodically flooded gallery-forests and sudd spots could be found in the Ócsa peat-bog and grasslands, meadows and lawns represented the surrounding flora in the 18th century, ploughed fields were not distinctive. A significant environmental feature of the area is the forest in the Selyemrét area which was present in the 18th century as well.

Originally the area was covered by spots of galleryforests and sedge communities, and clump-peat formation was typical on the surface of the bog. Unfortunately owing to the irrigating and channelling, started in 1928, the main part of the bog was transformed, and clumpsedge lands were replaced by marsh-fields. The peat extraction lasted about 70 years, and finished in the 1970s. Fortunately the examined Selyemrét area was not affected by the peat extraction very much, but drainage canals were built thus the permanent flooded area become periodically flooded. This is why significant sediment compaction was investigated in the layers. At the present time marsh-fields with rush and purple moor grass, sporadically sedge communities in the “Öreg Turján” area and forests – narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus angustifolia) and alder (Alnus) bogs, oak (Quercus), elm (Ulmus), ash (Fraxinus) mixed forests – were survived in the Ócsa peat-bog. During the malacological examinations two important but pretty rare species came to light, the Pomatias elegans and the Vertigo pusilla [1316]. Both species are common in mid-mountain region and in this case they mark the connection between the examined area and the Pleistocene forest refugees [17].

3 Material and methods

The sampling of the 2 m deep, undisturbed sedimentary sequences from the swamp at Ócsa (Fig. 3) was carried out using a special Russian core-head drill, with which 40 cm long, undisturbed cores were obtained. The main lithostratigraphic features of the sedimentary sequence were determined and analyzed. For the description of the cores the internationally accepted system and symbols of Troels-Smith developed for unconsolidated sediments was adopted [18]. During the sedimentological examinations Casagrande’s hydrometric grain-size analysis [19] was used. For LOI examinations sub-samples were taken in every 4 cm, so the examination was carried out on 48 sub-samples, and the method was Dean’s loss on ignition which is commonly used for analyze organic matter and carbonate content on calcareous sediments [20].

Figure 3 Sedimentation rate changes in the core geological sequence at Ócsa based on radiocarbon data
Figure 3

Sedimentation rate changes in the core geological sequence at Ócsa based on radiocarbon data

For radiocarbon analyses two Pisidium shells (from different parts of the sequence) and a piece of charcoal were used. Previously the shells were wet-screened and cleaned with hydrogen-peroxide (H2O2) to remove the inactive carbonate from the shells’ surface [21]. The samples were analyzed using the AMS technique at the Pozńan Radiocarbon Lab, Poland. The raw dates were calibrated using the Oxcal v.3.9 software package [22], using the athmospheric data of Stuiver et al. [23]. The obtained raw dates (14C) are indicated as uncal BP, while the calibrated dates are indicated as cal BC or cal BP by using the CALIB 4.0 [23] and the CalPal software pack [24, 25]. Besides the 14C analysis, age-marker sediment facies were [26] investigated for the chronological fixation.

Samples were prepared for elemental composition analyses using the sequential extraction method of Dániel [28]. Concentrations of selected major and trace elements were determined via flame and graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy.

From the upper part (130–160 cm) sub-samples were taken in every 16 cm, and from 130 cm to the top every 8 cm. The pollen concentration was determined by the method of Lycopodium spore-tablet [29]. A volumetric sampler was used to obtain 1 cm3 samples, which were then processed for pollen [30]. A known quantity of exotic pollen was added to each sample in order to determine the concentration of identified pollen grains [29]. A minimum count of 300 grains per sample (excluding exotics) was made in order to ensure a statistically significant sample size [31]. Charcoal abundances were determined using the point count method [32]. Tablets with a known Lycopodium spore content (supplied by Lund University, Sweden) were added to each sample to enable calculation of pollen concentrations and accumulation rates. The pollen types were identified and modified according to Moore et al. [33], Beug [34] and Punt et al. [35], Kozáková and Pokorny [36], supplemented by examination of photographs in Reille [3739] and of reference material held in the Hungarian Geological Institute, Budapest.

The full result of pollen analysis is not suitable to publish in this paper because the 8 and 16 cm sub-sample distances average a few hundred years in pollen concentration. Thus the results were only used to examine the pollen concentration of each archaeological level and to show the anthropologic pollens in the samples. The 2 cm sample distance analysis is now in progress. Modelling and empirical studies [40, 41] indicate that for a lake such as Selyemrét at Ócsa (150–200 m diameter), the correlation between pollen abundances and vegetation composition is not improved by considering vegetation more than 400–600 m from the lake. The regionally “uniform” background pollen component representing vegetation between 600 m and tens of kilometres from the lake, accounts for c. 45% of the total pollen [41]. The Selyemrét pollen data thus provide an integrated palaeovegetation record for the landscape around the lake and the surrounding region, with pollen from extra-local and regional sources [42] predominating. The biomization procedure translates pollen and plant macrofossil spectra into biome assignments. The biomization method [4345] is an objective method based on assigning taxa to one or more plant functional types (PFTs). The concept and the different steps of this method were fully described in Prentice et al. [44] and Prentice-Webb [45].

The basis of reconstructing the paleovegetation was the pollen analytical works of Sugita [40], Soepboer et al. [41], Jacobson and Bradshaw [42], Prentice [46] and Magyari et al. [27]. Each vegetation type and indicator elements in addition the elements of weed-vegetation were defined using the works of Allen et al. [47], Behre [48, 49], Elenga et al. [50], Magyari et al. [6], Prentice et al. [44], Prentice and Webb [45] and Tarasov et al. [51, 52]. By using these works 6 environmental indicator elements were defined: warm steppe, cool steppe, cool-mixed wood steppe, cool mixed forest, temperate deciduous wooded steppe and temperate deciduous forest.

Percentages of terrestrial pollen taxa, excluding Cyperaceae, were calculated using the sum of all those taxa. Percentages of Cyperaceae, aquatics and pteridophyte spores were calculated relative to the main sum plus the relevant sum for each taxon or taxon group. Calculations, numerical analyses and graphing of pollen diagrams were performed using the software package Psimpoll 4.26 [53]. Local pollen assemblage zones (LPAZs) were defined using optimal splitting of information content [54], zonation being performed using the 20 terrestrial pollen taxa that reached at least 5% in at least one sample.

The malacological examinations were carried out from every 8 cm of the section, each sub-sample were about 0.5 kg. The samples were wet-screened in a screen with 0.5 mm mesh. After drying and sorting each shell were identified and clustered into paleoecological groups by using the works of Ložek [55], Evans [56], Krolopp [57] and Sümegi [58]. After that computerized processing was carried out using Bennett’s Psimpoll software package [59].

4 Results

4.1 Chronology and Lithology

The age of the upper 115 cm of the section was dated between 11,700 and 11,500 cal. BP years, usingthe radiocarbon data. By the latest chronological standards it can be completely clustered into the Holocene. It is supported by some methods which show annual cycles: German pinechronological data [60], Japanese [61, 62] and Venezuelan [63] lake laminae and counting off coral-banks [64, 65]; than a 5-year-period calendar was created, using all of these methods, 14C and GRIP data, from the Late Pleistocene to the Early Holocene [6668].

Thus the lower part of the section, below 115 cm, was deposited during the Pleistocene. The low-carbonated and low-organic-matter containing sand in the substratum is the oldest part of the section, deposited probably during the Upper-Weichselian/Würmian [26] (Fig. 3).

Above the sandy substratum a mid-calcareous farther low organic matter containing, coarse and fine silty, minerorganic lake sediment was deposited between 160 and 110 cm. Based on 14C data and stratigraphic comparisons [7, 69] the accumulation period of this sediment was between 17,000–18,000 and 11,600 cal. BP years (Fig. 3). This minerorganic limnic sediment-type usually deposited in Late-Pleistocene cold, low weathered lakes. This is why the low clay content, but high mineral and wind transported silt content in the sediment. By several results [7, 69] this sediment-type was deposited up to 22,000 cal BP years in the Carpathian Basin.

From 110 cm the quality of the sediment is changed, the rate of (aeolian origin) coarse silt fraction decreased than the carbonate content gradually the clay content drastically increased. This means a deposition of a fossiliferous caustic sludge (clayey silt) between 100 and 60 cm (11,600–11,500 and 7,700–7,600 cal BP years) as regards to the Bátorliget [4, 58] or Kardoskút [69] sections.

Above 60 cm (7,700–7,600 cal BP years) the sedimentquality changes again, the carbonate content decreased from 30% to 5% and the organic-matter content increased from 1–2% to above 60% (Fig. 3). This horizon (60–30 cm) is constituted by eutrophic, peaty, silty-clayey lake sediment. This condition probably remained until the channelling works in the 19th century but owing to the irrigating in the area from 1928 the upper part of this peaty sediment was run dry and pedogenetic processes become determinant.

The thickness of the peaty horizon probably was much larger but owing to the drying processes the layer could be compacted (from about 100 cm to 30 cm). The eutrophic swampy lake condition could be make parallel with the Culture of Linear Pattern Poetry in the 5,600s BC.

As a consequence of these processes, the former Late-Pleistocene oligotrophic lake was choked up and became a calcareous eutrophic system [7072]. The increased organic matter content owing to the in-washed organic matter and soil and the transformation of the lake-system could be well demonstrated by the carbonate and organic matter content charts in Fig. 3. In the uppermost 30 cm part of the section the carbonate content increases and the organic matter content decreases again because of the last 150–160 years’ irrigation works in the area.

4.2 Geochemical analysis

The content of water-soluble Na and K shows small fluctuations along the section, the highest values can be linked to the high organic-matter containing parts of the section. Both elements are linked to the organic matter content, i.e. significant organic-matter content can be linked to high rainfall and mild climate, when rich vegetation can develop. The increased content of Na and K marks intensive weathering processes [76, 77]. The water and littoral plants (e.g. Na accumulating reed species) could help fixing the Na and K ions [78, 79].

Minor maximum values of the water-soluble Ca content can be shown in the slightly carbonated oligotrophic layers, but the highest concentration values are from the caustic sludgy layers. The Mg content was quite similar to the Ca-trends but with lower concentration values. Geochemical data suggest that the originally oligotrophic lake system became mesotrophic in the early Holocene [80]. In the near-surface, high organic-matter containing layers, maximum concentration of Na and K can be measured. The Na-content links to the organic-matter content, but the K-content could be linked to flying ashes or in-washed burnt wood components [76, 77].

4.3 Palynological analysis

The results of palynological investigations show that the sandy base of the section was devoid of pollens. From the second horizon (160–110 cm), so-called minero-organic horizon, good quantity and quality of pollen came into light. The dominance of woody species can be observed: from Pinaceae the Picea, Pinus cembra, and Betula. Besides them with about 5% dominance pollens of thermomesophilous woody species (Quercus, Ulmus, Tilia, Corylus) also appear. The pollen-composition can be compared to the pollen data of Bátorliget, Hungary [4] where a Late-Pleistocene boreal-type mixed coniferous forest refuge (or a nearby refuge) was reconstructed. It is not certain in the case of Selyemrét, because of the short time horizon what the section contains so it cannot be proved that the thermo-mesophilous species could survive the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) or not.

The second horizon contains some Salix, Alnus and Betula pollen. Thesespecies can be found in forests with moist underwood, designating a higher humidity and ground water-level [81]. From herbs the Poaceae were dominant, but Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae and Centaurea species were found. This horizon shows the cool-mixed forest (CLMX), cool-mixed wooded steppe (CMWS) and marshland (sedge) vegetation mosaics around the oligotrophic lake.

The next pollen horizon can be characterized by the high volume of Carpinus pollen. This high dominance can be detected from 60 cm (8,000 cal BP years) with the higher dominance of Fagus pollen. This change is also characteristic in the northern part of Transdanubia [94, 95], but in the Nyírjes bog at the Mátra mountains in Hungary this change can be observed as well [96]. In this period Quercus-Carpinus-Fagus mixed washland forests developed in the examined area. After this pollen composition change, some cultivated plants (Triticum, Hordeum) appear in the section with segetal weeds (Plantago major/media, Plantago lanceolata). The appearance and diffusion of Neolithic farming caused the first anthropogenic impacts which can be observed at 7,400–7,600 cal BP years (5,400–5,600 cal BC years) in the Selyemrét section. Nevertheless there are not any significant changes in the composition of the aquatic vegetation, but the increased dominance of bulrush and sedge what could be mark increased choking up processes (Fig. 7).

4.4 Malacological analysis

For malacological analysis only a meter high part of the section was suitable. From this part of the section 34 mollusc taxa (22 terrestrial and 12 freshwater) with more than 1,000 specimens were found. The section can be divided into 5 horizons by the ecological demands of the mollusc species and these horizons can be paralleled with palaeoecological changes [55, 57, 58]. The 1st horizon between 114 and 82 cm, the 2nd between 82 and 66 cm, the 3rd between 66 and 34 cm, the 4th between 34 and 18 cm and the 5th is between 18 and 10 cm.

The 1st horizon is dominated by the hygrophilous coastal Succinea oblonga and the carbonated water bearer Anisus spirorbis; the accompanying fauna contains of shallow, partly searing, carbonated water bearing or dry lake basin living species (Vallonia pulchella). By the constitution of the fauna, the early Holocene lake could be quite shallow, and probably periodically dry. One significant result is that the shells of Pomatias elegans were found in this horizon, because this species is known as a Tertiary warm, humid forester [105], thus the early Holocene appearance of this species (Fig. 8) implies a refuge area, an oasis [106].

The 2nd horizon shows appearance of the higherorganic-matter-content bearing Valvata cristata, but only low dominance compared to the dominance of Succinea oblonga and Vallonia pulchella and other few hygrophilous and sub-hygrophilous terrestrial species. Probably a coastal and water planted zone was developed in the edge area of the reservoir and owing to the found Pomatias elegans shells deciduous tree and shrub containing parkland developed in the surroundings.

In the 3rd horizon organic-matter-rich water species dominated (Valvata cristata), and sedge-reed zone-dweller species (Succinea putris, Carychium minimum and Vertigo antivertigo) appeared. The composition of the fauna shows parity with the sedge and reed pieces found in the sediment of this horizon. It is not impossible that a part of the sediment-accumulation basin transformed into a shallow vegetated, periodically swampy lake (Fig. 8).

The 4th horizon contains high dominance of eutrophic lake dwelling Valvata cristata and Bythinia tentaculata and terrestrial species Pomatias elegans and some typical forest dweller species Vertigo pusilla and Cochlodina laminata. The increased dominance of freshwater taxa and the remarkable number of terrestrial, forester species shows robust soil erosion and fast choking up processes [56].

In the 5th zone coastal, humid pasture-land species (Vertigo angustior) and the Lymnaea truncatula a swampy-clumpy environment can be reconstructed. This is why the appearance of rheophilous, moving water environment dweller Valvata piscinalis is so surprising: this species is incongruous in this environment. These specimens could have been transported by sticking to the legs of waterfowls [107].

5 Discussion

By using the various results of the paleoecological and geoarchaeological examinations, the development history of Ócsa peat bog can be reconstructed. The results of geochemical analysis reinforce the sedimentological results (Fig. 4). The water-soluble iron content shows two maximum concentration peaks. The first maximum marks the oligotrophic lake conditions during the Late Pleistocene when, owing to the high dominance of cold-loving coniferous trees, acidic podsol soils formed [73]. In podsol soils, because of the acidic pH, the iron (and manganese) content dissolve and link to clay minerals [74] showing higher peaks during geochemical analysis [75]. The other maximum peak of iron concentration marks the mesotrophic lake conditions which could be linked to the regulated ground water level, and because of this, abundant siderophilous bacteria at the border of oxidative/reductive horizons (Fig. 4).

Figure 4 Results of sedimentological analysis of the geological core sequence at Ócsa. The grain sizes and organic matter, carbonate, inorganic matter percentage plotted against depth
Figure 4

Results of sedimentological analysis of the geological core sequence at Ócsa. The grain sizes and organic matter, carbonate, inorganic matter percentage plotted against depth

Figure 5 Results of geochemical analysis of the geological core sequence at Ócsa. Water soluble Fe, Na, K and Ca content plotted against depth
Figure 5

Results of geochemical analysis of the geological core sequence at Ócsa. Water soluble Fe, Na, K and Ca content plotted against depth

The archaeological adaptation of palynological results revealed the anthropogenic history of Selyemrét site. According to the pollen composition, a mixed coniferous forest ruled in the area in the Late Pleistocene with some moist, swampy spots around the lakes, perhaps some cool steppe mosaics. During the Late Pleistocene the area progressively afforested since in the beginning pollen dominance of arboreal taxa was under 70% (around 50–60% only) later than, about 13,500 cal BP years the dominance was over 75% [6, 44, 47]. It is possible that cool mixed forest steppe dominance was appeared during the Upper Palaeolithic and cool mixed forest dominance was formed in the Epipalaeolithic. The radiocarbon ages cannot show the change of these horizons but it is possible that the process passed off during 13,000 cal BP (11,000 cal BC) years similarly to other data [82, 83]. The change of vegetation composition resulted in faunal changes, among them the large herbivorous animals which were so important for the Upper Palaeolithic human communities [8487]. Thus the Late Palaeolithic environmental (floral and faunal) changes indicated a techno-cultural transformation of the human communities in the Carpathian Basin.

The Late Pleistocene pollen compositions transformed rapidly from 11,500 BP years. The dominance of Pinaceae and later the Betula drastically decreased and concurrently the dominance of Corylus and thermomesophilous trees (Tilia, Quercus, Ulmus, Fraxinus) are increased remarkably. Owing to the change of woody vegetation typical washland forests, lime-plane mixed oakash-elm hardwood and willow-common elder softwood gallery forests developed in the vicinity of Selyemrét in the Early Holocene, so the cold loving mixed taiga forest transformed into a temperate deciduous forest during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Parallel with this transformation, the pollen rate of Phragmites, Typha, T. latifolia, Artemisia species increased, thus it is possible that the water level rose and a bulrush-reed zone developed between the coastal sedge zone and the open water. A temperate hydro-series was formed in the area (lacustrine, coastal, washland forest and dune). It is likely that a type of a wooded steppe vegetation developed on the top of the dunes and the pollen of steppe species could derived from there [88].

Figure 6 Diagram of arboreal, non-arboreal and aquatic pollen percentage plotted against depth in the geological core sequence at Ócsa
Figure 6

Diagram of arboreal, non-arboreal and aquatic pollen percentage plotted against depth in the geological core sequence at Ócsa

On the basis of radiocarbon data and the derived deposition rate it is possible that this coastal, swampy (sedge) area with small mosaics of temperate wooded steppe and temperate deciduous woodland was developed during the Mesolithic. The Early and Late part of Mesolithic can be well separated using the vegetation data: the Early Mesolithic can be characterized with high dominance of Betula species. Various sections from the Carpathian Basin [58, 82, 8991] show similar results, the Early Mesolithic can be separated from the Late Mesolithic from environmental view. This change indicates that during the Late Mesolithic, a techno-cultural revolution occurred in the human communities in the Carpathian Basin. Although Hungarian archaeological data for the Mesolithic are sporadic and chronologically problematic [92], these few data also show the technological development to a unifying geometric microlith shape in the second half of the Mesolithic [93].

The appearance and diffusion of Neolithic farming caused the first anthropogenic impacts, which can be observed at 7,400–7,600 cal BP years (5,400–5,600 cal BC years). Tilling agriculture pursuing communities appeared on the northern parts of Transdanubia and the Danubevalley and also in the northern parts of the Great Hungarian Plain. The appearance of a tilling lifestyle and the other impacts of anthropogenic activity (farming, rearing, settling and road development) caused a decrease in the arboreal areas than owing to these processes soil and other humic horizons were in-washed into the lower areas such as the peat-bog of Ócsa.

The paleoecological results, the settled lifestyle and the plant disturbance can be well compared with other excavations from the Carpathian Basin [11, 97100]. The results of the dating show that the earliest Neolithic communities were settled in the Carpathian Basin in the end of the 7th millennia BC.

The most intensive anthropogenic impact can be reconstructed from the late Bronze Age (Fig. 7). During this term impacts of the settled human lifestyle (settlements, roads, arable land, pasture land) i.e. the rate of human indicator weeds [49?] is the highest in the section. This data is well correspond with results of excavation of Harta village, south from Ócsa, where settlements and objects from middle and late Bronze Age came to light [11]. Based on the examination of Harta objects the Bronze Age communities were well and deliberately utilized the floodplain areas among others the washland forests [11]. Based on the geoarchaeological and paleoecological examinations in the late Bronze Age the environment was completely transformed owing to the human impact in both sites. Because of human impacts the Late Pleistocene lake system choked up at Ócsa and from the late Bronze Age it become a peat bog, and even these changes can be examined in other sites [101104]. From the second part of the Bronze Age another technological change and/or overpopulation can be traceable because of the formation of peaty areas. This change may caused by the increased anthropogenic erosion and the choking up of the lake basin at Ócsa during the second half of the Bronze Age. Poorly the near-surface part of the borehole section was dried out and decayed owing to the 19th–20th irrigation processes thus the upper part from the Iron Age was awkward for palynological analyses (Fig. 8).

Figure 7 Summary of arboreal and non-arboreal pollen taxa plotted against depth in the geological core sequence at Ócsa, sorted by palaeovegetation phase and correlated with the Blytt-Sernander sequence
Figure 7

Summary of arboreal and non-arboreal pollen taxa plotted against depth in the geological core sequence at Ócsa, sorted by palaeovegetation phase and correlated with the Blytt-Sernander sequence

Figure 8 Description of geochemical, mollusc and pollen zones within sedimentary sequence at Ócsa
Figure 8

Description of geochemical, mollusc and pollen zones within sedimentary sequence at Ócsa

The composition of the malacofauna indicates a progressively choking up lake environment where the faunal changes followed the sedimentologic changes, but in every horizon a mosaic-like territory should be supposed.

Prominent elements of malacofauna are the Pomatias elegans, the Vertigo pusilla and the Cochlodina laminata. Recent living specimens can be found only of the first two species, Cochlodina laminata can only found as a fossil in the Ócsa peat-bog (Fig. 8).

6 Conclusions

The Ócsa, Selyemrét site is a sediment-accumulation basin formed on wind-blown sand surface, where choking up process would started from the late Pleistocene. During the late glacial a mixed leaved taiga surrounded oligotrophic clear watered lake developed where silty, carbonated, low organic matter containing lake sediment deposited. The late Pleistocene lake would be 1–5 metres deep, according to the plant fossils. The area then transformed, during the end period of the upper Palaeolithic cool wooded steppe, then during the Epipalaeolithic cool mixed forest developed (Fig. 8).

In the transition period of the Pleistocene and the Holocene a specific sediment change happened: the carbonate and the organic matter content suddenly raised and a temperate mesotrophic lake system formed. Even the mixed leaved taiga transformed, deciduous forest and rich coastal vegetation surrounded the early Holocene lake. The soundings decreased and a periodically searing hydrological system developed. The pollen content results show Betula and Pinus pollens in the early Mesolithic and temperate wood elements in the upper Mesolithic. The carbonated lake system remained as far as the early Neolithic (6th millennia BC) and after that owing to the increasing organic matter content it became a eutrophic lake system (Fig. 8).

This middle Holocene eutrophic lake was divided with swampy islands and floating mats and it was surrounded by big-ranged bulrush-reed littoral zone. Anthropogenic impacts can only traceable from the middle Neolithic. Than the progressive vegetation and sediment-content changes can probably bind to robust human activities, and in the late Bronze Age a short term environment reshaping human impact can be reconstructed (Fig. 8).

Rare snail species (Pomatias elegans, Vertigo pusilla, Cochlodina laminata) which make the Ócsa peat bog unique in the plain environment have already been appeared in the Neolithic. The late Bronze Age deforestation and the found Pomatias elegans specimens in the inwashed soil presumes disturbed coastal vegetation what might refer the ceased filter capability. After the Bronze Age a swamp-marshland stage remained until the 19th century when channelling works were made (Fig. 8).

After the channelling works the swamp soil progressively went dry, transformed, the organic matter content decayed and became a hydromorph soil. By the results of this paper it can be said that the anthropogenic activities had already affected the environment before the channelling. However, after the channelling, much significant transformation happened, and because of it the former environmental conditions could only remain in a few small spots in the area.


This research was supported by the European Union and the State of Hungary, co-financed by the European Social Fund in the framework of TÁMOP-4.2.4.A/2-11/1-2012-0001 “National Excellence Program”


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Received: 2014-2-26
Accepted: 2015-8-17
Published Online: 2016-6-27
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

© 2016 R. Kustár et al., published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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