Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 545–558

Late Mesolithic environmental change at Black Heath, south Pennines, UK: a test of Mesolithic woodland management models using pollen, charcoal and non-pollen palynomorph data

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00334-010-0263-1

Cite this article as:
Ryan, P.A. & Blackford, J.J. Veget Hist Archaeobot (2010) 19: 545. doi:10.1007/s00334-010-0263-1


The recognition of Mesolithic impacts in mid Holocene pollen diagrams of the British Isles has led to the development of models describing sophisticated woodland management, particularly through the use of fire, by Mesolithic populations. However, the significance of human agency in creating mid Holocene woodland disturbances is unclear, with natural and human-induced clearings arguably indistinguishable in the pollen record. Analysis of non-pollen palynomorphs (NPPs) should aid the identification of events and processes occurring within these woodland disturbances and provide more precise palaeoecological data. In this paper we present pollen, charcoal and NPP analyses from a potentially critical location in the Mesolithic impacts debate. NPP types aid significantly in the reconstructions, suggesting periods of dead wood, grazing, local burning and wetter ground conditions. The results indicate that between 7700 and 6800 cal b.p., a predominantly wooded environment periodically gave way to phases of more open woodland, with inconsistent evidence for animal grazing. From 6800 cal b.p., a phase of open woodland associated with high charcoal concentrations and indicators of grazing was observed. This probably represents the deliberate firing of vegetation to improve grazing and browse resources, although it remains unclear whether fire was responsible for initially creating the woodland opening, or if it was part of an opportunistic use of naturally occurring woodland clearings.


Holocene Mesolithic Fire Fungi NPPs United Kingdom 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography, School of Environment and DevelopmentUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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