In this research palynology has been applied to the study of an adhesive beeswax compound found beneath one enamel of the medieval Evangelistary cover ‘Pace di Chiavenna’, ca 1000 years old and preserved for the last five centuries in the Treasury of the Collegiate Church of Chiavenna (Northern Italy). The purpose of this study was to test whether it is possible to determine the geographical area of wax collection and of the origin of the wooden support of the artefact, using the pollen imprint of plants and their related spatial ranges. Palynological analyses allowed the identification of 184 pollen grains belonging to 33 taxa. The reconstructed vegetation represents dry to humid meadows and pastures (e.g. Artemisia, Apiaceae, Campanula type, Poacaeae, Thalictrum, Asteroideae), wet areas (e.g. Alnus glutinosa type, Salix), woods or forests (e.g. Acer, Tilia, Picea, Castanea), shrublands (Ericaceae, Corylus) and arable fields or gardens (e.g. Cerealia type, Urtica, Plantago major). The Evangelistary cover has been attributed to the Ottonian art, developed especially in Germany, Eastern France and Northern Italy. On the basis of the palynological evidence from the beeswax, we can restrict the provenance area. A Northern Italian or Southern Prealpine origin seems likely since Castanea sativa was much more frequent south than north of the Alps. This geographic origin is corroborated by the material used for the support, made of Juglans regia (walnut), frequently planted in the region at that time. Moreover, the technique used to produce the wooden plate was widespread in Italy during the High Medieval period. The palynological evidence points to a very open, deeply human-affected environment, possibly around a city or a larger village in which the apiary was located. Inferences of this nature cannot be provided by other approaches such as wood or leather analyses; we thus conclude that palynology can provide unique insights into the origin of cultural treasures.
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Vol. 43 • No. 3