Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 21, Issue 4–5, pp 279–302 | Cite as

Neolithic human impact on the landscapes of North-East Hungary inferred from pollen and settlement records

  • Enikő K. MagyariEmail author
  • John Chapman
  • Andrew S. Fairbairn
  • Mark Francis
  • Margarita de Guzman
Original Article


In this article, we discuss the Neolithic and Early Copper Age (ECA) part of two pollen records from the Middle Tisza Floodplain in association with the local archaeological settlement record. We address the hypothesis of Willis and Bennett (2004) that there was little human impact by farmers on the environment of SE Europe until the Bronze Age. Contrary to this hypothesis, our results show that small-scale agriculture and woodland clearance is already attestable in the earliest Neolithic in Eastern Hungary, there are signs of expanding scale of mixed farming in the Middle Neolithic and strong evidence for extensive landscape alterations with enhanced pasturing and mixed farming in the Late Neolithic (LN) and ECA. The main vegetation exploitation techniques in the alluvial plain of Sarló-hát were selective tree felling (mainly Quercus), coppicing (mainly Corylus and Ulmus) and woodland clearance to establish grazing pastures and small-scale crop farming. Comparison with other well-dated pollen diagrams from Eastern Hungary suggested that, in the Early and Middle Neolithic (8000–7000 cal. b.p.), Corylus and Ulmus coppicing were probably frequent, while pastoral activities and associated woodland clearance is distinguished in the LN (7000–6500 cal. b.p.). Our data also suggested a shift to moister summer conditions in the alluvium during the ECA, which may have contributed to a trend towards settlement dispersion and increased reliance on animal husbandry in the NE Hungarian Plain.


Human impact Pollen analysis Archaeology Neolithic Copper Age Great Hungarian Plain 



This research was funded by the European Commission through a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship held by E.K.M. (MEIF-CT-2003-5005001), the Bólyai Scholarship (BO/00518/07) and the OTKA Research Funds (F026036, PD73234). Financial support for the fieldwork was provided by the British Academy. This is MTA-MTM Paleo Contribution No. 141. We thank László Rupnik and Zoltán Czajlik for help in the preparation of Fig. 1. The first author would also thank to Zsolt Molnár for helpful discussions on the potential vegetation and habitat types of the study area. John Chapman would also like to thank Pál Sümegi for his help in soil coring of the Sarló-hát sites and the Mayor of Tiszagyulaháza for his kind hospitality. We thank Wiley-Blackwell for approving the reproduction of Figs. 5 and 6 in modified forms. These figures were published originally in Magyari et al. (2010).

Supplementary material

334_2012_350_MOESM1_ESM.doc (69 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enikő K. Magyari
    • 1
    Email author
  • John Chapman
    • 2
  • Andrew S. Fairbairn
    • 3
  • Mark Francis
    • 4
  • Margarita de Guzman
    • 5
  1. 1.Research Group for PaleontologyHungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungarian Natural History Museum, Eötvös UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  3. 3.School of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  4. 4.BelfastNorthern Ireland, UK
  5. 5.Circle CRM Group Inc.CalgaryCanada

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