Palaeoecological, archaeological and historical data and the making of Devon landscapes. I. The Blackdown Hills

Brown, Anthony G., Hawkins, Charlotte, Ryder, Lucy, Hawken, Sean, Griffith, Frances and Hatton, Jackie (2014) Palaeoecological, archaeological and historical data and the making of Devon landscapes. I. The Blackdown Hills Boreas, 43, (4), pp. 1-22. (doi:10.1111/bor.12074).


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This paper presents the first systematic study of the vegetation history of a range of low hills in SW England, UK,lying between more researched fenlands and uplands. After the palaeoecological sites were located bespoke archaeological, historical and documentary studies of the surrounding landscape were undertaken specifically to inform palynological interpretation at each site. The region has a distinctive archaeology with late Mesolithic tool scatters, some evidence of early Neolithic agriculture, many Bronze Age funerary monuments and Romano- British iron-working. Historical studies have suggested that the present landscape pattern is largely early Medieval. However, the pollen evidence suggests a significantly different Holocene vegetation history in comparison with other areas in lowland England, with evidence of incomplete forest clearance in later-Prehistory (Bronze?Iron Age). Woodland persistence on steep, but poorly drained, slopes, was probably due to the unsuitability of these areas for mixed farming. Instead they may have been under woodland management (e.g. coppicing) associated with the iron-working industry. Data from two of the sites also suggest that later Iron Age and Romano-British impact may have been geographically restricted. The documented Medieval land management that maintained the patchwork of small fields, woods and heathlands had its origins in later Prehistory, but there is also evidence of landscape change in the 6th–9th centuries AD. We conclude that the Blackdown Hills area was one of many ‘distinctive subregions’, which due to a combination of edaphic, topographic and cultural factors could qualify as an eco-cultural region or ‘pays’. It is argued that the use of such eco-culturally distinctive regions or pays can provide a spatial and archaeological framework for palaeoecology, which has implications for landscape research, designation and heritage management.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1111/bor.12074
ISSNs: 0300-9483 (print)
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Organisations: Palaeoenvironment Laboratory (PLUS)
ePrint ID: 367035
Date :
Date Event
April 2014Published
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2014 11:43
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 13:27
Further Information:Google Scholar

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