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Bronze Age upland settlement decline in southwest England: testing the climate change hypothesis

Amesbury, Matthew J., Charman, Dan J., Fyfe, Ralph M., Langdon, Peter G. and West, Steve (2008) Bronze Age upland settlement decline in southwest England: testing the climate change hypothesis Journal of Archaeological Science, 35, (1), pp. 87-98. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2007.02.010).

Record type: Article


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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Published date: January 2008
Keywords: dartmoor, palaeoclimate, bronze age, reaves, environmental determinism, testate amoebae, peat humification


Local EPrints ID: 64235
ISSN: 0305-4403
PURE UUID: 28ecd67f-af1f-4b89-ac94-266f03dfe78b
ORCID for Peter G. Langdon: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 17 Dec 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:14

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Author: Matthew J. Amesbury
Author: Dan J. Charman
Author: Ralph M. Fyfe
Author: Steve West

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