, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 315-327

Linking past cultural developments to palaeoenvironmental changes in Estonia

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Connections between environmental and cultural changes are analysed in Estonia during the past c. 4,500 years. Records of cereal-type pollen as (agri)cultural indices are compared with high-resolution palaeohydrological and annual mean temperature reconstructions from a selection of Estonian bogs and lakes (and Lake Igelsjön in Sweden). A broad-scale comparison shows increases in the percentage of cereal-type pollen during a decreasing trend in annual mean temperatures over the past c. 4,300 years, suggesting a certain independence of agrarian activities from environmental conditions at the regional level. The first cereal-type pollen in the region is found from a period with a warm and dry climate. A slow increase in pollen of cultivated land is seen around the beginning of the late Bronze Age, a slight increase at the end of the Roman Iron Age and a significant increase at the beginning of the Middle Ages. In a few cases increases in agricultural pollen percentages occur in the periods of warming. Stagnation and regression occurs in the periods of cooling, but regression at individual sites may also be related to warmer climate episodes. The cooling at c. 400–300 cal b.p., during the ‘Little Ice Age’ coincides with declines in cereal-type and herb pollen curves. These may not, however, be directly related to the climate change, because they coincide with war activities in the region.

Communicated by B. Aaby.