Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 629–646 | Cite as

The potential role of humans in structuring the wooded landscapes of Mesolithic Ireland: a review of data and discussion of approaches

  • Graeme Warren
  • Steve Davis
  • Meriel McClatchie
  • Rob Sands


This paper has two primary aims. Firstly, we review new data demonstrating interactions between people, plants, animals and woodlands in Mesolithic Ireland (ca. 8000–4000 cal. b.c.). This includes a synthesis of evidence from archaeological fishtraps, plant macrofossils, palynological indications of disturbance, and large mammal records. Secondly, we suggest that the potential role of humans in structuring the wooded landscape of the island of Ireland has been underestimated and is a key area for future research; Ireland may be an important case study for understanding the role of hunter-gatherers in influencing ecological relationships at the landscape scale. The new data demonstrate that existing models of the role of humans in structuring the wooded landscapes of Ireland are inadequate, and we suggest that new models are required.


Ireland Mesolithic Colonization history Woodland management Macrofossil records Pollen analysis 



We are grateful to the participants at the Wild Things conference for discussion. We would like to thank Nyree Finlay, Christina Fredengren and the National Roads Authority for providing access to excavation and archaeobotany reports, and Welmoed Out, Caroline Vermeeren, Kirsti Hänninen and Rosie Bishop for access to data from their ongoing research projects. We are very grateful to Ceiridwen Edwards, W. Out and Richard Tipping for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The comments of the two reviewers were very useful and we would like to thank Michael O’Connell for his significant editorial contribution. We are solely responsible for any errors of judgement that remain.

Supplementary material

334_2013_417_MOESM1_ESM.doc (58 kb)
Details of pollen profiles that show evidence for disturbance possibly attributable to Mesolithic activity used in construction of Fig. 4; dates expressed in cal. b.c, cal. b.p., and (uncal.) b.p. (DOC 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graeme Warren
    • 1
  • Steve Davis
    • 1
  • Meriel McClatchie
    • 1
  • Rob Sands
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ArchaeologyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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