, Volume 19, Issue 5-6, pp 439-452
Date: 30 Sep 2010

Woodland disturbance and possible land-use regimes during the Late Mesolithic in the English uplands: pollen, charcoal and non-pollen palynomorph evidence from Bluewath Beck, North York Moors, UK

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Abstract

Pollen, micro-charcoal and non-pollen palynomorph (NPP) data from the mid Holocene Ulmus decline and the preceding millennium have provided evidence of repeated fire disturbance of the upland woodland at Bluewath Beck Head, on the North York Moors in northeast England. Woodland disturbance coincides with the Ulmus decline, which at several similar upland sites in northern England is dated to ca. 4800 uncal b.p. (ca. 5550 cal b.p.), and so to the early Neolithic period. Two fire events occur within a cycle of disturbance and regeneration between about 6100 (ca. 6950 cal b.p.) and 5700 b.p. (ca. 6475 cal b.p.), placing them in the later stages of the Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer occupation of the upland and near the start of the transition to early Neolithic agricultural economies. Increased Melampyrum and Corylus pollen percentages characterise the post-fire vegetation response. These disturbances probably resulted from human activity, suggesting that fire was an integral part of the Late Mesolithic ecology. The local origin of some NPPs greatly enhances the palaeoecological interpretation, showing variations in the hydrological responses to disturbance that are much less visible in the pollen record, and helping to distinguish between local and regional vegetation changes. Other NPPs indicate burning near to the site. A substantial peak in spores of the wood-rot fungus Kretzschmaria deusta across the Ulmus decline may indicate girdling and other woodland management techniques as part of Neolithic woodland farming.

Communicated by: J.N. Haas.