A high resolution palynological study of the Holocene vegetational development of central Holderness, eastern Yorkshire, with particular emphasis on the detection of prehistoric human activity
Compared to upland areas and Scotland, the Holocene vegetational history of lowland England is poorly known. This is particularly the case for the region of Holdemess, eastern Yorkshire, where only a low number of poor temporal resolution pollen diagrams have been published, none of which include analysis of microscopic charcoal content. The records are also largely undated and as a result reliable correlation between sites is not possible, and the timings of the key vegetation changes recorded in the data remain unknown. In this study, high resolution pollen and charcoal records were produced from four small (24 ha) infilled basins located within central Holderness. Complementary techniques of percentage loss-on-ignition and pollen preservation analysis were also employed, and a comprehensive radiocarbon-dating programme was undertaken to provide a secure chronological framework. The palaeoecological records produced provide a high temporal resolution reconstruction of the Holocene development of central Holderness, particularly during the Early-Mid Holocene, and allow consideration of the changing roles that ecological interactions, climate, and human influence have played in determining the Holocene vegetational composition of the region. A number of significant landscape-scale disturbances of inferred anthropogenic origin were identified from ca 9290 BP onwards and shown to vary significantly in timing, duration and character between sites. It is proposed that this palaeoecological data can be used to supplement the poor archaeological record of the area. Several key issues including the role of climatic instability in determining vegetational composition during the Early Holocene, the interpretation of incidences of cereal-type pollen, the use of the charcoal record as a proxy indicator of human activity, and the use of pollen preservation analysis as an interpretational tool are also considered.