Tuesday, December 18, 2007


An intriguing perspective on Corsica’s way of life

Corsica’s strange and variegated landscape and climate have been in the news again this week. While I have been waiting in vain for a slightly white Christmas here in the UK (some hope!), they have been having blizzards in Central Corsica.

Motorists have been stranded, animals rescued and traffic patterns have been in chaos, while I’ve been learning about Corsica’s climate and vegetation, past and present, via an e-newsletter, from the comfort of my English sofa. In this month’s issue of Corsica Bullitinu – the English language newsletter about all things Corsican – there was an article about an archaeological project near Galeria that got me thinking about the way that Corsican people interact with their environment.

An international team of scientists from Corsica, the USA and Great Britain have been taking deep drill-core samples from river mouths, lakes and coastal lagoons. These samples, which contain pollen, charcoal and volcanic ash blown over by the wind from nearby Italy, tell an interesting story about the relationship between Corsicans, their animals and their way of life. It seems that in very early times, most of Corsica’s lowlands were covered by forest, but as humans and grazing animals spread over the island, the forest gradually gave way to the prickly, scrubby and aromatic vegetation we now know as the maquis.

According to one of the team involved in the work, Dr Keith Wilkinson of the University of Winchester in the UK, constant grazing stopped the larger forest tree species developing and with the changing landscape, the practice of transhumance started becoming a way of life some time in prehistory – possibly as early as 6,000 years ago. No wonder the maquis and the mountains are so deeply embedded in Corsican literature, music and consciousness.

If you want to receive Corsica Bullitinu every quarter, you can register for your free subscription on www.corsica-isula.com.

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