Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 439–452

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

Original Article

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.

Keywords

Late Mesolithic Fungal spores Pollen Charcoal Woodland disturbance North York Moors 

References

  1. Atherden M (1979) Late Quaternary vegetational history of the North York Moors VII. Pollen diagrams from the eastern central area. J Biogeogr 6:63–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berglund BE, Ralska-Jasiewiczowa M (1986) Pollen analysis and pollen diagrams. In: Berglund BE (ed) Handbook of Holocene palaeoecology and palaeohydrology. Wiley, New York, pp 455–484Google Scholar
  3. Blackford JJ, Edwards KJ, Buckland PC, Dobney K (1996) Keith’s Peat Bank, Hoy: Mesolithic human impact? In: Hall A (ed) The Quaternary of Orkney. Quaternary Research Association Field Guide, Quaternary Research Association, London, pp 62–68Google Scholar
  4. Blackford JJ, Innes JB (2006) Linking current environments and processes to fungal spore assemblages: surface NPM data from woodland environments. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blackford JJ, Innes JB, Hatton JJ, Caseldine CJ (2006) Mid-Holocene environmental change at Black Ridge Brook, Dartmoor, SW England: a new appraisal based on fungal spore analysis. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:189–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bos JAA, van Geel B, Groenewoudt BJ, Lauwerier RCGM (2005) Early Holocene environmental change, the presence and disappearance of early Mesolithic habitation near Zutphen (The Netherlands). Veget Hist Archaeobot 15:27–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyd WE (1986) Vegetation history at Linwood Moss, Renfrewshire, Central Scotland. J Biogeogr 13:207–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown AG (1997) Clearances and clearings: deforestation in Mesolithic/Neolithic Britain. Oxford J Archaeol 16:133–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caseldine C, Hatton J (1993) The development of high moorland on Dartmoor: fire and the influence of Mesolithic activity on vegetation change. In: Chambers FM (ed) Climate change and human impact on the landscape. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 119–131Google Scholar
  10. Chandler C, Cheney P, Thomas P, Traband L, Williams D (1983) Fire as a natural process in forests. In: Chandler C (ed) Fire in forestry: forest fire behaviour and effects (vol 1). Wiley, New York, pp 293–393Google Scholar
  11. Clarke C (1994) Differential recovery of fungal and algal palynomorphs versus embryophyte pollen and spores by three processing techniques. In: Davis OK (ed) Aspects of archaeological palynology: methodology and applications. AASP Contributions Series 29, pp 53–62Google Scholar
  12. Davies P, Robb JG, Ladbrook D (2005) Woodland clearance in the Neolithic: the social aspects. Antiquity 79:280–288Google Scholar
  13. Davis O, Shafer DS (2006) Sporormiella fungal spores, a palynological means of detecting herbivore density. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 237:40–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delcourt PA, Delcourt HR, Ison CR, Sharp WE, Gremillion KJ (1998) Prehistoric human use of fire, the eastern agricultural complex, and Appalachian oak-chestnut forests: palaeoecology of Cliff Palace Pond, Kentucky. Am Antiquity 63:263–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edwards KJ (1989) Meso-Neolithic vegetational impacts in Scotland and beyond: palynological considerations. In: Bonsall C (ed) The Mesolithic in Europe. Donald, Edinburgh, pp 143–155Google Scholar
  16. Edwards KJ (1990) Fire and the Scottish Mesolithic: evidence from microscopic charcoal. In: Vermeersch M, van Peer P (eds) Contributions to the Mesolithic in Europe. Leuven University Press, Leuven, pp 69–88Google Scholar
  17. Edwards KJ (1993) Models of forest farming for north-west Europe. In: Chambers FM (ed) Climate change and human impact on the landscape. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 134–145Google Scholar
  18. Graf M-T, Chmura GL (2006) Development of modern analogues for natural, mowed and grazed grasslands using pollen assemblages and coprophilous fungi. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grimm EC (2004) TILIA and TGView. Illinois State Museum, Springfield, ILGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoaen A, Coles G (2000) A preliminary investigation into the use of fungal spores as anthropogenic indicators on Shetland. In: Nicholson RA, O’Connor TP (eds) People as an agent of environmental change. (Symposia of the association for environmental archaeology 16). Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 30–36Google Scholar
  21. Hörnberg G, Bohlin E, Hellberg E, Bergman I, Zackrisson O, Olofsson A, Wallin J-E, Påsse T (2006) Effects of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers on local vegetation in a non-uniform glacio-isostatic land uplift area, northern Sweden. Veget Hist Archaeobot 15:13–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ingold CT (1971) Fungal spores, their liberation and dispersal. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  23. Innes JB (1999) Regional vegetation history. In: Bridgland DR, Horton BP, Innes JB (eds) The Quaternary of North-East England. Quaternary Research Association Field Guide, Durham, pp 21–34Google Scholar
  24. Innes JB (2002) Introduction to the Flandrian. In: Huddart D, Glasser NF (eds) Quaternary of Northern England. (Geological Conservation Review Series 25). Joint Nature Conservation Committee, pp 351–365Google Scholar
  25. Innes JB, Blackford JJ (2003) The ecology of Late Mesolithic woodland disturbances: model testing with fungal spore assemblage data. J Archaeol Sci 30:185–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Chambers FM (2006) Kretzschmaria deusta and the northwest European mid-Holocene Ulmus decline at Moel y Gerddi, North Wales, United Kingdom. Palynology 30:121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Davey PJ (2003) Dating the introduction of cereal cultivation to the British Isles: early palaeoecological evidence from the Isle of Man. J Quat Sci 18:603–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Simmons IG (2004) Testing the integrity of fine spatial resolution palaeoecological records: micro-charcoal data from near-duplicate peat profiles from the North York Moors, UK. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 214:295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Innes JB, Simmons IG (1988) Disturbance and diversity: floristic changes associated with pre-elm decline woodland recession in north-east Yorkshire. In: Jones M (ed) Archaeology and the flora of the British Isles. (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 14) pp 7–20Google Scholar
  30. Innes JB, Simmons IG (1999) North Gill. In: Bridgland DR, Horton BP, Innes JB (eds) The Quaternary of north-east England. Field Guide, Quaternary Research Association, London, pp 99–112Google Scholar
  31. Innes JB, Simmons IG (2000) Mid-Holocene charcoal stratigraphy, fire history and palaeoecology at North Gill, North York Moors, UK. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:151–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Irdi GA, Jones JR, White CM (2002) Pollen and fungal spore sampling and analysis. Statistical evaluations. Grana 41:44–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jacobi RM, Tallis JH, Mellars PA (1976) The southern Pennine Mesolithic and the ecological record. J Archaeol Sci 3:307–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kuhry P (1997) The palaeoecology of a treed bog in western boreal Canada: a study based on microfossils, macrofossils and physico-chemical properties. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 96:183–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lacey J (1996) Spore dispersal and its role in ecology and disease: the British contribution to fungal aerobiology. Mycol Res 100:641–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewis HT (1982) Fire technology and resource management in aboriginal North America and Australia. In: Williams NM, Hunn ES (eds) Resource managers: North American and Australian hunter-gatherers. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp 45–67Google Scholar
  37. Long AJ, Innes JB, Shennan I, Tooley MJ (1999) Coastal stratigraphy: a case study from Johns River, Washington. In: Jones AP, Tucker ME, Hart JK (eds) The description and analysis of Quaternary stratigraphic field sections. (Technical Guide 7). Quaternary Research Association, London, pp 267–286Google Scholar
  38. Lundqvist N (1972) Nordic Sordariaceae s lat. Symbolae Botanicae Upsalienses 20:1–374Google Scholar
  39. Mason SLR (2000) Fire and Mesolithic subsistence - managing oaks for acorns in northwest Europe? Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:139–150Google Scholar
  40. Mellars P (1976) Fire ecology, animal populations and man: a study of some ecological relationships in prehistory. Proc Prehist Soc 42:15–45Google Scholar
  41. Mighall TM, Martinez Cortizas A, Biester H, Turner SE (2006) Proxy climate and vegetation changes during the last five millennia in NW Iberia: pollen and non-pollen palynomorph data from two ombrotrophic peat bogs in the north-western Iberian Peninsula. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:203–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moore PD, Evans AT, Chater M (1986) Palynological and stratigraphic evidence for hydrological changes in mires associated with human activity. In: Behre K-E (ed) Anthropogenic indicators in pollen diagrams. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 209–220Google Scholar
  43. Moore PD, Webb JA, Collinson ME (1991) Pollen analysis. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  44. Pals JP, van Geel B, Delfos A (1980) Palaeoecological studies in the Klokkeweel Bog near Hoogkarspel (Prov. of Noord-Holland). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 30:371–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parker AG, Goudie AS, Anderson DE, Robinson MA, Bonsall C (2002) A review of the mid-Holocene elm decline in the British Isles. Prog Phys Geogr 26:1–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Robinson D (1984) The estimation of the charcoal content of sediments. A comparison of methods on peat sections from the Isle of Arran. Circaea 2:121–128Google Scholar
  47. Ryan P, Blackford JJ (2009) Late Mesolithic environmental change in the upland zone of Britain: high resolution records of woodland disturbance and fire. In: Crombé P, van Strydonck M, Sergant J, Boudin M, Bats M (eds) Chronology and evolution within the Mesolithic of north-west Europe. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, pp 591–613Google Scholar
  48. Ryan PA, Blackford JJ (2010) 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. Veget Hist Archaeobot (this volume)Google Scholar
  49. Simmons IG (1975) Towards an ecology of Mesolithic man in the uplands of Great Britain. J Archaeol Sci 2:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Simmons IG (1995) The history of the early human environment. In: Vyner B (ed) Moorland monuments: studies in the archaeology of north-east Yorkshire in honour of Raymond Hayes and Don Spratt. (Council for British Archaeology Research Report 101). C.B.A, London, pp 5–15Google Scholar
  51. Simmons IG (1996) The environmental impact of later Mesolithic cultures. Edinburgh University Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  52. Simmons IG (2003) The later Mesolithic. In: Butlin RA (ed) Historical atlas of North Yorkshire. Westbury Press, Otley, pp 34–35Google Scholar
  53. Simmons IG, Atherden MA, Cloutman EW, Cundill PR, Innes JB, Jones RL (1993) Prehistoric environments. In: Spratt DA (ed) Prehistoric and Roman archaeology of north east Yorkshire. (Council for British Archaeology Research Report 87). C.B.A., London, pp 15–50Google Scholar
  54. Simmons IG, Cundill PR (1974) Late Quaternary vegetational history of the North York Moors, 1. Pollen analyses of blanket peats. J Biogeogr 1:159–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1981) Tree remains in a North York Moors peat profile. Nature 294:76–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1985) Late Mesolithic land-use and its impacts in the English uplands. Biogeogr Monogr 2:7–17Google Scholar
  57. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1987) Mid-Holocene adaptations and Later Mesolithic forest disturbance in northern England. J Archaeol Sci 14:385–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1988a) Late Quaternary vegetational history of the North York Moors, X. Investigations on East Bilsdale Moor. J Biogeogr 15:299–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1988b) The Later Mesolithic period (6000–5000 b.p.) on Glaisdale Moor, North Yorkshire. Archaeol J 145:1–12Google Scholar
  60. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1996a) Disturbance phases in the mid-Holocene vegetation at North Gill, North York Moors: form and process. J Archaeol Sci 23:183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1996b) Prehistoric charcoal in peat profiles at North Gill. J Archaeol Sci 23:193–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1996c) An episode of prehistoric canopy manipulation. J Archaeol Sci 23:337–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Smith AG, Cloutman EW (1988) Reconstruction of Holocene vegetation history in three dimensions at Waun-Fignen-Felen, an upland site in south Wales. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 322:159–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Spikins PA (2000) GIS models of past vegetation: an example from northern England, 10,000–5000 b.p. J Archaeol Sci 27:219–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Spratt DA (1993) The Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. In: Spratt DA (ed) Prehistoric and Roman archaeology of north-east Yorkshire. (Council for British Archaeology Research Report 87). C.B.A., London, pp 51–67Google Scholar
  66. Stockmarr J (1971) Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen Spores 13:615–621Google Scholar
  67. Sturludottir SA, Turner J (1985) The elm decline at Pawlaw Mire: an anthropogenic interpretation. New Phytol 99:323–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tallis JH (1975) Tree remains in southern Pennine peats. Nature 256:482–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tallis JH, Switsur VR (1983) Forest and moorland in the south Pennine uplands in the mid-Flandrian period. 1. Macrofossil evidence of the former forest cover. J Ecol 71:585–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tipping R (1996) Microscopic charcoal records, inferred human activity and climate change in the Mesolithic of northernmost Scotland. In: Pollard T, Morrison A (eds) The early prehistory of Scotland. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp 39–61Google Scholar
  71. Tipping R, Milburn P (2000) Mid-Holocene charcoal fall in southern Scotland—temporal and spatial variability. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:177–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Troels-Smith J (1955) Characterisation of unconsolidated sediments. Danm geol Unders Series IV 3:38–73Google Scholar
  73. Ugla E (1950) Ecological effects of fire in north Swedish forests. Stockholm, Almqvist and WiksellGoogle Scholar
  74. Van der Wiel AM (1983) A palaeoecological study of a section from the foot of the Hazendonk (Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands), based on the analysis of pollen spores and macroscopic plant remains. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 38:35–90Google Scholar
  75. Van Geel B (1978) A palaeoecological study of Holocene peat bog sections in Germany and the Netherlands. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 25:1–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Van Geel B (1986) Application of fungal and algal remains and other microfossils in palynological analyses. In: Berglund BE (ed) Handbook of palaeoecology and palynology. Wiley, New York, pp 497–505Google Scholar
  77. Van Geel B (2001) Non-pollen palynomorphs. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments (vol 3) Terrestrial, algal and siliceous indicators. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 99–119Google Scholar
  78. Van Geel B (2006) Quaternary non-pollen palynomorphs deserve our attention. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:vii–viiiCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Van Geel B, Aptroot A (2006) Fossil ascomycetes in Quaternary deposits. Nova Hedwigia 82:313–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Van Geel B, Bohnke SJP, Dee H (1981) A palaeoecological study of an upper Late Glacial and Holocene sequence from De Borchert, The Netherlands. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 31:367–448Google Scholar
  81. Van Geel B, Buurman J, Brinkkemper O, Schelvis J, Aptroot A, van Reenen G, Hakbijl T (2003) Environmental reconstruction of a Roman period settlement site in Uitgeest (The Netherlands), with special reference to coprophilous fungi. J Archaeol Sci 30:873–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Van Smeerdijk DG (1989) A palaeoecological and chemical study of a peat profile from the Assendelver Polder (The Netherlands). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 58:231–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography DepartmentDurham University, Science LaboratoriesDurhamUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations