Amesbury, Matthew J., Charman, Dan J., Fyfe, Ralph M., Langdon, Peter G. and West, Steve
Bronze Age upland settlement decline in southwest England: testing the climate change hypothesis
Journal of Archaeological Science, 35, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2007.02.010).
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The division of land on Dartmoor during the Bronze Age by the construction of moor-wide
boundaries known as reaves represents a significant development in agricultural practice and land tenure.
Previous research relating to the Dartmoor reaves suggests this way of life may have continued for no
longer than 200-400 years. It has been suggested that their abandonment occurred as the result of a
deteriorating climate, although there are no published palaeoclimatic reconstructions from the area. We
therefore test the hypothesis that on Dartmoor, a marked climatic deterioration occurred in the late Bronze
Age that can be linked to the abandonment of the reaves. A palaeoclimatic reconstruction derived from
testate amoebae and peat humification analyses is presented from Tor Royal Bog, central Dartmoor, the first
such record from southwest England. A major shift to a cooler and/or wetter climate is inferred from ca.
1395-1155 cal BC that is coincident with the period hypothesised as encompassing the abandonment. This
climatic deterioration is replicated in sites in northern Britain, suggesting it was a widespread event. It is
concluded that while the evidence supports a climatically forced retreat, there are a range of other socioeconomic
factors that must also be taken into consideration.
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