Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 81–98 | Cite as

Vegetation, landscape and human activity in Midland Ireland: mire and lake records from the Lough Kinale-Derragh Lough area, Central Ireland

  • Antony G. Brown
  • Jackie Hatton
  • Charlotte E. O’Brien
  • Katherine A. Selby
  • Peter G. Langdon
  • Ingelisa Stuijts
  • Christopher J. Caseldine
Original Article


A high-resolution pollen record for the Holocene has been obtained from Derragh Bog, a small raised mire located on a peninsula in Lough Kinale-Derragh Lough, in Central Ireland as part of the Discovery Programme (Ireland) Lake Settlements Project. The data are compared with two lower resolution diagrams, one obtained from Derragh Lough and one from adjacent to a crannog in Lough Kinale. The general trends of vegetation change are similar and indicate that landscape-scale clearance did not occur until the Medieval period (ca. a.d. 800–900). There are, however, significant differences between the diagrams due primarily to core location and taphonomy, including pollen source area. Only the pollen profile from Derragh Bog reveals an unusually well represented multi-phase primary decline in Ulmus ca. 3500–3100 b.c. (4800–475014C b.p.) which is associated with the first arable farming in the area. The pollen diagram indicates a rapid, and almost complete, clearance of a stand of Ulmus with some Quercus on the Derragh peninsula, arable cultivation in the clearing and then abandonment by mobile/shifting late Neolithic farmers. Subsequently there are a number of clearance phases which allow the colonisation of the area by Fraxinus and are probably associated with pastoral activity. The pollen sequence from adjacent to a crannog in Lough Kinale shows clear evidence of the construction and use of the crannog for the storage of crops (Hordeum and Avena) whereas the Derragh Bog diagram and the diagram from Derragh Lough reflect the growth of the mire. This study reveals that in this landscape the record from a small mire shows changes in prehistoric vegetation caused by human agriculture that are not detectable in the lake sequences. Although in part this is due to the higher temporal resolution and more consistent and complete chronology for the mire, the most important factor is the closer proximity of the raised mire sequence to the dry land. However, the pollen sequence from adjacent to a crannog does provide detailed evidence of the construction and function of the site. It is concluded that in order to ascertain a complete picture of vegetation changes in a lowland shallow lake-dominated landscape, cores from both the lake and surrounding small mires should be analysed.


Pollen Raised mire Lake sediments Ulmus decline Crannog Deforestation 


  1. Aaby, B., Berglund, B.E. (1986). The characterisation of peat and lake deposits. In: Berglund, B.E. (ed) Handbook of holocene palaeoecology and palaeohydrology. Wiley, Chichester, pp 231–246Google Scholar
  2. Andersen, S.T. (1979). Identification of wild grass and cereal pollen. Danmarks Geologiske Undersøgelse Årbog, 1978, 69–92Google Scholar
  3. Barber, K.E. (1976). History of vegetation. In: Chapman, S.B. (ed) Methods in Plant Ecology. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 5–83Google Scholar
  4. Behre, K. (1986). Anthropogenic Indicators in Pollen Diagrams. Balkema, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  5. Bennett, K.D. (1996). Determination of the number of zones in a biostratigraphic sequence. New Phytologist, 132, 155–179Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, K.D., Whittington, G., Edwards, K.J. (1994). Recent plant nomenclatural changes and pollen morphology in the British Isles. Quaternary Newsletter, 73, 1–6Google Scholar
  7. Brown, A.G. (1984). The Flandrian vegetation history of Hartlebury Common Worcestershire. Proceedings of the Birmingham Natural History Society, 25, 89–98Google Scholar
  8. Brown, P., Coxon, P. (1991). The Nephin Beg Range and the Late-glacial. In: Coxon, P. (ed) Field guide to the quaternary of North Mayo. Irish Association for Quaternary Studies, DublinGoogle Scholar
  9. Caseldine, C., Hatton, J. (1996). Early land clearance and trackway construction in the third and fourth millennia b.c. at Corlea, Co. Longford. Proceedings Royal Irish Academy: Biology and Environment, 96B, 11–19Google Scholar
  10. Edwards, K.J. (1985). The anthropogenic factor in vegetational history. In: Edwards, K.J., Warren, W.P. (eds) The quaternary history of Ireland. Academic Press, London, pp 187–220Google Scholar
  11. Erdtman, G. (1969). Handbook of palynology. Munksgaard, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  12. Faegri, K., Iversen, J. (1989). Textbook of Pollen Analysis, 4th edn. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  13. Fredengren, C. (2002). Crannogs. Wordwell, Co WicklowGoogle Scholar
  14. Grimm, E.C. (1991). Tilia version 2.00b4 and Tilia*graph 2.05b5. Program for the analysis and display of microfossil data. Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  15. Grogan, E. (2001) Lake Settlement Project: Research Design. Unpub. Report, The Irish Discovery Programme, DublinGoogle Scholar
  16. Heery, A. (1997). The vegetation history of two lake sites adjacent to eskers in Central Ireland. Quaternary Newsletter, 82, 33–36Google Scholar
  17. van Hoeve, M.L., Hendrikse, M. (1998) A study of non-pollen objects in pollen slides. Unpub. Report, University of AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacobsen, G.L., Bradshaw, R.H.W. (1981). The selection of sites for palaeovegetational study. Quaternary Research, 11, 80–96Google Scholar
  19. Johnston, P. (2004). Appendix IV. Analysis of plant remains from Ballywillin Crannog. In: Selby, K.A., O’Brien, C.E., Brown, A.G., Hatton, J., Ruiz, Z., Stuijts, I., Langdon, P.C., Caseldine, C.J. (eds) An environmental investigation in the Lough Kinale— Derragh Lough area. Unpub. Report for the Irish Discovery Programme, Lake Settlements Project, University of Exeter, pp 76–77Google Scholar
  20. Little, D.J., Mitchell, F.F.G., von Engelbrechten, S., Farrell, E.P. (1996). Assessment of the impact of past disturbance and prehistoric Pinus sylvestris on vegetation dynamics and soil development in Uragh Wood, SW Ireland. The Holocene, 6, 90–99Google Scholar
  21. McAulay, I.R., Watts, W.A. (1961) Radiocarbon, 3, 26–38Google Scholar
  22. Mitchell, F.J.G., Bradshaw, R.H.W., O’Connell, M., Pilcher, J.R., Watts, W.A. (1996) In: Berglund, B.E., Birks, H.J.B., Ralska-Jasiewiczowa, M., Wright, H.E. (eds) Palaeoecological events during the last 15000 years: regional syntheses of palaeoecological studies of lakes and Mires in Europe. Wiley, Chichester Ireland, pp 1–14Google Scholar
  23. Mitchell, G.F. (1965). Littleton Bog, Tipperary: an Irish agricultural record. Journal of Vegetation Science, 1, 245–254Google Scholar
  24. Molloy, K., O’Connell, M. (1987). The nature of the vegetational changes at about 5000 BP with particular reference to the elm decline: fresh evidence from Connemara, western Ireland. New Phytologist, 106, 203–220Google Scholar
  25. Molloy, K., O’Connell, M. (2004). Holocene vegetation and land-use dynamics in the karstic environment of Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, western Ireland: pollen analytical evidence evaluated in the light of the archaeological record. Quaternary International, 113, 41–64Google Scholar
  26. Moore, P.D., Webb, J.A., Collinson, M.E. (1991). Pollen Analysis, 2nd edn. Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. O’Brien, C.E., Selby, K.A., Ruiz, Z., Brown, A.G., Dinnin, M., Caseldine, C.J., Langdon, P.G. (in press) A sediment-based multi-proxy palaeoecological approach to the environmental archaeology of lake dwellings; a case study from Central Ireland. The HoloceneGoogle Scholar
  28. O’Connell, M. (1980). The developmental history of Scragh Bog, Co. Westmeath, and the vegetation history of its hinterland. New Phytologist, 85, 301–319Google Scholar
  29. O’Connell, M. (1987). Early cereal-type pollen records from Connemara, Western Ireland and their possible significance. Pollen et Spores, 19, 207–224Google Scholar
  30. O’Connell, M., Molloy, K. (2001). Farming and woodland dynamics in Ireland during the Neolithic. Proceedings Royal Irish Academy: Biology and Environment, 101B, 99–128Google Scholar
  31. O’Connell, M., Molloy, K., Bowler, M. (1988). Postglacial landscape evolution in Connemara, western Ireland with particular reference to woodland history. In: Birks, H.H., Birks, H.J.B., Kaland, P.E., Moe, D. (eds) The cultural landscape— past, present and future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 487–514Google Scholar
  32. O’Sullivan, A. (1998). The Archaeology of lake settlement in Ireland. Discovery Programme Monograph 4. Irish Discovery Programme and Royal Irish Academy, DublinGoogle Scholar
  33. Parker, A.G., Goudie, A.S., Anderson, D.E., Robinson, M.A., Bonsall, C. (2002). A review of the mid-Holocene Ulmus decline in the British Isles. Progress in Physical Geography, 26, 1–45Google Scholar
  34. Pearson, G.W., Pilcher, J.R. (1975). Belfast radiocarbon dates VIII. Radiocarbon, 17, 226–238Google Scholar
  35. Peglar, S.M. (1993). The mid-Holocene Ulmus decline at Diss Mere, Norfolk, UK: a year-by-year pollen stratigraphy from annual laminations. The Holocene, 3, 1–13Google Scholar
  36. Peglar, S.M., Birks, H.J.B. (1993). The mid-Holocene Ulmus fall at Diss Mere, south-east England— disease and human impact? Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 2, 61–68Google Scholar
  37. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A., Dines, D. (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  38. Reynolds, J.D. (1998) Ireland’s Freshwaters. Produced for Societas Internationalis Limnologiae (SIL), International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology 28th Congress, DublinGoogle Scholar
  39. Rackham, O. (1980). Ancient Woodland. Arnold, LondonGoogle Scholar
  40. Selby, K.A., O’Brien, C.E., Brown, A.G., Ruiz, Z., Stuijts, J., Langdon, P.G., Caseldine, C.J. (2004) An environmental investigation in the Lough Kinale-Derragh Lough Area. Report for the Irish Discovery Programme Lake Settlements Project, University of ExeterGoogle Scholar
  41. Sevastopulo, G.D., Wyse Jackson, P.N. (2001). Carboniferous (Dinantian). In: Holland, C.H. (ed) The geology of Ireland. Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh, pp 241–288Google Scholar
  42. Stace, C. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles. 2nd edn. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  43. Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen, K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, F.G., van der Plicht, J., Spurk, M. (1998) Calib 4.3 Radiocarbon, 40, 1041–1083Google Scholar
  44. Sugita, S. (1993). A model of pollen source area for an entire lake surface. Quaternary Research, 39, 239–244Google Scholar
  45. Weir, D.A. (1995). A palynological study of landscape development in County Louth from the second millennium b.c. to the first millennium A.D. In: Discovery Programme Reports: 2. Project Results 1993. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, pp 77–126Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antony G. Brown
    • 1
  • Jackie Hatton
    • 1
  • Charlotte E. O’Brien
    • 2
  • Katherine A. Selby
    • 1
  • Peter G. Langdon
    • 1
  • Ingelisa Stuijts
    • 3
  • Christopher J. Caseldine
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth ResourcesUniversity of ExeterUK
  2. 2.Archaeological servicesUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK
  3. 3.Discovery Programme (Ireland)Dublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations