Since a few years, the study of carpological assemblages is commonly taking into account the question of the feeding of domestic animals. It is however still difficult to identify fodder remains or to give evidence of ancient pastures. Firstly, taphonomic bias are affecting the various botanical remains that can be preserved. Secondly, the palaeoecological interpretation of ancient assemblages necessarily relies on various present models, especially phytosociological classifications, that are not fully efficient.
Assemblages dominated by small pulses, including bur medic (Medicago cf. polymorpha) and clovers (Trifolium spp.), and several grasses have been encountered in two settlements from the Hérault department, Mont Joui (Florensac; first Iron Age) and La Cisternes (Cabrières; XVIth century AD). These assemblages, which do not have any parallel in other previously studied sites in Languedoc, could give an evidence for meadows composed of selected species in order to produce highly nutritive fodder.
In a first part, we sum up information about the various products that can be used to feed animals, about the schemes of evolution of pastures and meadows under anthropo-zoological influences, and about the limits of the use of phytosociological grids in archaeobotany. In a second part, archaeobotanical data from both sites is detailed and discussed, especially as regards the agrological interest and validity of these assemblages and the nature and origin of the fodder documented. Information from historical written sources as well as ethnographical data are taken into consideration, to document the wide variety of agro-pastoral practices that could have occurred in the past and the diversity of modern comparison models that should be taken into account.