Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 545–558 | Cite as

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Holocene Mesolithic Fire Fungi NPPs United Kingdom 

References

  1. Bakker M, van Smeerdijk DG (1982) A palaeoecological study of a late Holocene section from “Het Ilperveld”, western Netherlands. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 36:95–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnes B (1982) Man and the changing landscape. A study of occupation and Palaeoenvironment in the central Pennines. Merseyside County Museums, LiverpoolGoogle Scholar
  3. Bennett KD, Fossitt JA, Sharp MJ, Switsur VR (1990a) Holocene vegetational and environmental history at Loch Lang, South Uist. New Phytol 114:281–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bennett KD, Simonson AB, Peglar SM (1990b) Fire and man in the postglacial woodlands of eastern England. J Archaeol Sci 17:635–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benninghoff WS (1962) Calculation of pollen and spore density in sediments by addition of exotic pollen in known quantities. Pollen Spores 4:332–333Google Scholar
  6. Blackford JJ (1990) Blanket mires and climatic change: a palaeoecological test using peat humification and microfossil analyses. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of KeeleGoogle Scholar
  7. Blackford JJ (2000) Charcoal fragments in surface samples following a fire and the implications for interpretation of subfossil charcoal data. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:33–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 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 (QRA), London, pp 62–68Google Scholar
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. Blackford JJ, Innes JB, Kelly AE, Jones SL (2007) Recent research from the peatlands of the North York Moors: human impact and climatic change. In: Lillie M, Ellis S (eds) Wetland archaeology and environments: regional issues, global perspectives. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 229–241Google Scholar
  12. Boyd WE (1986) Vegetation history at Linwood Moss, Renfrewshire, Central Scotland. J Biogeogr 13:207–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bronk Ramsey C (2005) OxCal (v. 3.10). University of Oxford, Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown AG (1997) Clearances and clearings: deforestation in Mesolithic/Neolithic Britain. Oxf J Archaeol 16:133–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Buckland PC, Edwards KJ (1984) The longevity of pastoral episodes of clearance activity in pollen diagrams: the role of post-occupation grazing. J Biogeogr 11:243–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 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
  17. Chamberlain AT (2001) Early Neolithic dates on human bone from Fox Hole Cave, Derbyshire. Capra 3. English Heritage and University of Sheffield. http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/3/foxholedates.html. Accessed 22 June 2010
  18. Clark RL (1982) Point count estimation of charcoal in pollen preparations and thin sections of sediments. Pollen Spores 24:523–535Google Scholar
  19. Clarke C (1994) Differential recovery of fungal and algal palynomorphs versus embryophyte pollen and spores by three processing tehniques. In: Davis OK (ed) Aspects of archaeological palynology: methodology and applications. AASP Contribution Series, vol 29. American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists, Dallas, pp 53–62Google Scholar
  20. Clarke C, Blackford JJ (in press) Methods. In: Blackford JJ, Innes JB and Clarke C (eds) Fungal spores in quaternary palaeoecology. QRA Technical Guide, Quaternary Research Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Cronon W (1983) Changes in the land: Indians, colonists and the ecology of New England. Hill and Wang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Davis OK, Shafer DS (2006) Sporormiella fungal spores, a palynological means of detecting herbivore density. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 237:40–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Edwards KJ (1990) Fire and the Scottish Mesolithic: evidence from microscopic charcoal. In: Vermeersch PM, Van Peer P (eds) Contributions to the Mesolithic in Europe. Leuven University Press, Leuven, pp 71–79Google Scholar
  24. Edwards KJ (2004) Palaeoenvironments of Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Scotland and the North Sea area: new work, new thoughts. In: Saville A (ed) Mesolithic Scotland: the early Holocene prehistory of Scotland and its European context. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, pp 55–72Google Scholar
  25. Edwards KJ, Whittington G (2000) Multiple charcoal profiles in a Scottish lake: taphonomy, fire ecology, human impact and inference. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:67–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ellis MB, Ellis JP (1988) Microfungi on miscellaneous substrates: an identification handbook. Croom Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Fægri K, Iversen J (1989) Textbook of pollen analysis, 4th edn. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  28. Godwin H (1975) History of the British flora: a factual basis for phytogeography, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Göransson H (1991) Vegetation and Man around Lake Bjärsjöholmssjön during prehistoric time. A contribution to the project “Kulturlandskapet under 6,000 år” (The cultural landscape during the last 6000 years in southern Sweden). Lundqua Report 31. Lund University Press, LundGoogle Scholar
  30. Grimm EC (1987) CONISS: a Fortran 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Comput Geosci 13:13–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grimm EC (1993) Tilia2 and Tilia2Graph. Illinois State Museum, SpringfieldGoogle Scholar
  32. Grimm EC (2004) TG View v.1.6.2. Illinois State Museum, SpringfieldGoogle Scholar
  33. Groenman-van Waateringe W (1993) The effect of grazing on the pollen production of grasses. Veget Hist Archaeobot 2:157–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Higuera PE, Peters ME, Brubaker LB, Gavin DG (2007) Understanding the origin and analysis of sediment-charcoal records with a simulation model. Quat Sci Rev 26:1790–1809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 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, Oxford, pp 30–36Google Scholar
  36. 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
  37. 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
  38. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Simmons IG (2004) Testing the integrity of fine spatial resolution palaeoecological records: microcharcoal data from near-duplicate peat profiles from the North York Moors, UK. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 214:295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Simmons IG (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. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19 (this volume)Google Scholar
  40. 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
  41. Jacobi RM (1978) Population and landscape in Mesolithic lowland Britain. In: Limbrey S, Evans JG (eds) The effect of man on the landscape: the lowland zone. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 21. CBA, London, pp 75–85Google Scholar
  42. Jacobi RM, Tallis JH, Mellars PA (1976) The southern Pennine Mesolithic and the ecological record. J Archaeol Sci 3:307–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jeffries TA (1915) Ecology of the purple heath grass (Molinia caerulea). J Ecol 3:93–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kuhry P (1985) Transgression of a raised bog across a coversand ridge originally covered with an oak-lime forest: palaeoecological study of a Middle Holocene local vegetational succession in the Amtsven (northwest Germany). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 44:303–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Latałowa M (1992) Forest changes at the Mesolithic/Early Neolithic transition and in the migration period on Wolin Island (NW Poland). In: Frenzel B (ed) Evaluation of land surfaces cleared from forests by prehistoric man in early Neolithic times and the time of migrating Germanic tribes. European Science Foundation, Strasbourg, pp 139–155Google Scholar
  46. 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
  47. Litt T (1992) Investigations on the extent of the early Neolithic settlement in the Elbe-Saale region and on its influence on the natural environment. In: Frenzel B (ed) Evaluation of land surfaces cleared from forests by prehistoric man in early Neolithic times and the time of migrating Germanic tribes. European Science Foundation, Strasbourg, pp 83–91Google Scholar
  48. Lundqvist N (1972) Nordic Sordariaceae s. lat. Symb Bot Upsalienses 20:1–374Google Scholar
  49. Mason SLR (2000) Fire and Mesolithic subsistence—managing oaks for acorns in northwest Europe? Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:139–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mellars PA (1975) Ungulate populations, economic patterns and the Mesolithic landscape. In: Evans JG, Limbrey S, Cleere H (eds) The effect of man on the landscape: the highland zone. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 11. CBA, Oxford, pp 49–56Google Scholar
  51. Mellars PA (1976) Fire ecology, animal populations and man: a study of some ecological relationships in prehistory. Proc Prehist Soc 42:15–45Google Scholar
  52. Mighall TM, Timpany S, Blackford JJ, Innes JB, O’Brien C, O’Brien WF, Harrison S (2008) Vegetation changes during the Mesolithic and Neolithic in Co. Cork, SW Ireland. Veget Hist Archaeobot 17:617–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Moore J (1996) Damp squib: how to fire a major deciduous forest in an inclement climate. In: Pollard T, Morrison A (eds) The early prehistory of Scotland. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp 62–73Google Scholar
  54. Moore J (2000) Forest fire and human interaction in the early Holocene woodlands of Britain. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:125–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moore PD, Webb JA (1978) An illustrated guide to pollen analysis. Hodder and Stoughton, LondonGoogle Scholar
  56. Moore PD, Webb JA, Collinson ME (1991) Pollen analysis. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  57. Noel ARA (1970) The girdled tree. Bot Rev 36:162–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ohlson M, Tryterud E (2000) Interpretation of the charcoal record in forest soils: forest fires and their production and deposition of macroscopic charcoal. Holocene 10:519–525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pals JP, van Geel B, Delfos A (1980) Paleoecological studies in the Klokkeweel bog near Hoogkarspel (prov. of Noord-Holland). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 30:371–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Patterson WA III, Edwards KJ, Maguire DJ (1987) Microscopic charcoal as a fossil indicator of fire. Quat Sci Rev 6:3–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Petch JA (1924) Early man in the district of Huddersfield, vol 3. Tolson Memorial Museum, HuddersfieldGoogle Scholar
  62. Rackham O (1980) Ancient woodland: its history, vegetation and uses in England. Arnold, LondonGoogle Scholar
  63. Rackham O (1986) The history of the countryside. Dent, LondonGoogle Scholar
  64. Reimer PJ, Baillie MGL, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Bertrand C, Blackwell PG, Buck CE, Burr G, Cutler KB, Damon PE, Edwards RL, Fairbanks RG, Friedrich M, Guilderson TP, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kromer B, McCormac FG, Manning S, Bronk Ramsey C, Reimer RW, Remmele S, Southon JR, Stuiver M, Talamo S, Taylor FW, van der Plicht J, Weyhenmeyer CE (2004) INTCAL04 terrestrial radiocarbon age calibration, 0–26 cal kyr b.p Radiocarbon 46:1,029–1,058Google Scholar
  65. Rodwell JS (1991) British plant communities, vol 2, Mires and heaths. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  66. Ryan PA (2006) Mid-Holocene environmental change: multi-proxy palaeoecological studies from upland peats. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  67. Simmons IG (1969) Evidence for vegetation changes associated with Mesolithic man in Britain. In: Ucko PJ, Dimbleby GW (eds) The domestication and exploitation of plants and animals. Duckworth, London, pp 111–119Google Scholar
  68. Simmons IG (1975a) Towards an ecology of Mesolithic man in the uplands of Great Britain. J Archaeol Sci 2:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Simmons IG (1975b) The ecological setting of Mesolithic man in the highland zone. In: Evans JG, Limbrey S, Cleere H (eds) The effect of man on the landscape: the Highland Zone. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 11. CBA), London, pp 57–63Google Scholar
  70. Simmons IG (1996) The environmental impact of later Mesolithic cultures. Edinburgh University Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  71. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1987) Mid-Holocene adaptations and later Mesolithic forest disturbance in northern England. J Archaeol Sci 14:385–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Simmons IG, Innes JB (1996) Disturbance phases in the mid-Holocene vegetation at North Gill, North York Moors: form and process. J Archaeol Sci 23:183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Smith AG (1970) The influence of Mesolithic and Neolithic man on British vegetation: a discussion. In: Walker D, West RG (eds) Studies in the vegetational history of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 81–96Google Scholar
  74. Spikins PA (1999) Mesolithic northern England: environment, population and settlement. British Archaeological Reports, British Series 283. BAR, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  75. Stewart OC (1956) Fire as the first great force employed by man. In: Thomas WL (ed) Man’s role in changing the face of the earth. University Press, Chicago, pp 115–133Google Scholar
  76. Tallis JH, Switsur VR (1990) Forest and moorland in the south Pennine uplands in the mid-Flandrian period. II. The hillslope forests. J Ecol 78:857–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tinner W, Nielsen EH, Lotter AF (2007) Mesolithic agriculture in Switzerland? A critical review of the evidence. Quat Sci Rev 26:1416–1431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tipping R (1994) The form and fate of Scottish woodlands. Proc Soc Antiq Scotland 124:1–54Google Scholar
  79. 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
  80. Van der Wiel AM (1982) 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 38:35–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Van Geel B (1972) Palynology from a section of the raised peat bog Wietmarscher Moor, with special reference to fungal remains. Acta Bot Neerl 21:261–284Google Scholar
  82. Van Geel B (1978) A palaeoecological study of Holocene peat bog sections in Germany and The Netherlands, based on the analysis of pollen, spores and macro- and microscopic remains of fungi, algae, cormophytes and animals. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 25:1–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 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
  84. Van Geel B, Aptroot A (2006) Fossil ascomycetes in quaternary deposits. Nova Hedwigia 82:313–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Van Geel B, Bohncke SJP, Dee H (1981) A palaeoecological study of an upper Lateglacial and Holocene sequence from De Borchert, The Netherlands. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 31:367–392Google Scholar
  86. Van Geel B, Coope GR, van der Hammen T (1989) Palaeoecology and stratigraphy of the lateglacial type section at Usselo (the Netherlands). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 60:25–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Van Geel B, Hallewas DP, Pals JP (1983) A late Holocene deposit under the Westfriese Zeedijk near Enkhuizen (Prov. of Noord-Holland, The Netherlands): palaeoecological and archaeological aspects. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 38:269–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Vescovi E, Ammann B, Ravazzi C, Tinner W (2010) A new Late-glacial and Holocene record of vegetation and fire history from Lago del Greppo, northern Apennines, Italy. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:219–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Zvelebil M (1994) Plant use in the Mesolithic and its role in the transition to farming. Proc Prehist Soc 60:35–74Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations