Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 357–375 | Cite as

Multi-profile fine-resolution palynological and micro-charcoal analyses at Esklets, North York Moors, UK, with special reference to the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition

  • Bruce Albert
  • James InnesEmail author
Original Article


Multi-proxy palaeoecological data from two peat profiles at Esklets on the North York Moors upland provide a record of vegetation changes for much of the Holocene. Possible vegetation disturbance in the late Mesolithic and activity in the Neolithic and Bronze Age are recognised. In both profiles fine resolution analyses have been applied to the period leading up to the mid-Holocene Elm Decline which in this upland has been dated to ca. 4,800 bp (uncalibrated 14C years). Disturbance impacts at the Esklets Elm Decline are low scale, but phases of woodland disturbance, which include cereal (Hordeum)-type pollen, occur in both profiles ca. 5,200 bp, some centuries before the Elm Decline on the North York Moors, but similar to dates for this key palynological horizon in nearby lowland areas. A protocol is presented for the separation of Hordeum (cultivated species) and Glyceria (wild grass) pollen. The Esklets sites record disturbances during the late Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. These pre-Elm Decline disturbance phases represent either early penetration of neolithic cultivator-pastoralists into this upland or the activities of final mesolithic foragers. No neolithic archaeological sites occur nearby, but a ‘Terminal Mesolithic’ flint site dominated by microlith ‘rod’ forms occurs close to the palaeoecological sites. Such rod sites are dated in northern England to the centuries leading up to 5,000 bp and so are contemporary with the disturbance phases that included Hordeum-type pollen at Esklets. The cultural context of these disturbance phases and the role of ‘rod’ microlith sites during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition require further focused research to clarify all issues relating to this important period.


Mesolithic-Neolithic transition Palynology Hordeum Woodland disturbance Rod microliths North York Moors 



We are grateful to Chris Orton of the Design and Imaging Unit, Geography Department, Durham University for preparation of the figures, to Charlotte O’Brien for wood identification, to Natasha Barlow for assistance with computer modelling, to the landowner for access to the site and to the Leverhulme Trust for funding the research under project F/00128/BD. Radiocarbon dating was carried out at Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory, Poland, at SUERC Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, Glasgow, UK and at Beta Analytic, Florida, USA. We are also grateful to anonymous referees and the editor whose comments led to improvements in the text.

Supplementary material

334_2014_488_MOESM1_ESM.doc (64 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 64 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental SciencesCzech Life Sciences UniversityPraha-SuchdolCzech Republic
  2. 2.Geography Department, Science LabsDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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