Beyond Villages and Open Fields: The Origins and Development of a Historic Landscape characterized by Dispersed Settlement in South-West England

Rippon, S.J., Fyfe, R.M. and Brown, A.G. (2006) Beyond Villages and Open Fields: The Origins and Development of a Historic Landscape characterized by Dispersed Settlement in South-West England. Medieval Archaeology, 50, 31-70. (doi:10.1179/174581706x124239).


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POLLEN EVIDENCE has, to date, made little contribution to our understanding of the
origins and development of the medieval landscape. Compared to the prehistoric period,
relatively few long palaeoenvironmental sequences provide a continuous record for the past two
millennia, and those that have been analysed are mostly located in upland locations that lay
beyond areas settled during this period. The nine sequences reported here from central Devon
and the edges of Exmoor start to redress that imbalance. They suggest substantial clearance
of woodland in lowland areas and the upland fringe by the Late Iron Age, and that the
incorporation of this region into the Roman world had little impact on patterns of landscape
exploitation. In a region that lay beyond the main area of Romanisation, it is not surprising
that the 5th century saw little discernible change in management of the landscape. These
palaeoenvironmental sequences suggest that around the 7th–8th centuries, however, there was a
significant change in the patterns of land-use, which it is suggested relates to the introduction
of a regionally distinctive system of agriculture known as ‘convertible husbandry’. This may
also have been the context for the creation of today’s historic landscape of small hamlets and
isolated farmsteads set within a near continuous fieldscape, replacing the late prehistoric/
Romano-British/post-Roman landscape of small, enclosed settlements with only very localised
evidence for field systems. This transformation appears to be roughly contemporary with, or even
earlier than, the creation of nucleated villages in the ‘Central Province’ of England, suggesting
that the ‘great replanning’ was just one of several regionally distinctive trajectories of landscape
change in the later 1st millennium A.D.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1179/174581706x124239
ISSNs: 0076-6097 (print)
Related URLs:
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Geography > Environmental Processes and Change
ePrint ID: 55199
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:35

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