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Title: Human-environment interactions during the Mid-Holocene in Cumbria
Author: Grosvenor, Mark James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 968X
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2014
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The influence of anthropogenic activity on the natural environment is constantly changing. A series of major developments in human culture have resulted in a shifting nature of impact. Separating change attributable to humans and the change resulting from natural forcing is complex. This study investigates the degree of human impact during the onset of agriculture when humans were shifting from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to herding livestock and the cultivation of plants. This cultural development is known as the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition within Europe. In particular, this project focuses on the nature of environmental change in Cumbria in the British Isles during the mid-Holocene. This region exhibits strong contrasts in landscape from coastal lowlands to mountainous uplands. Cumbria also has a rich record of archaeological sites and environmental reconstructions, but existing datasets have not allowed for detailed comparisons of the different landscapes. Two contrasting sites (one upland, one lowland) were investigated to produce a high-resolution environmental reconstruction including: vegetation change, burning patterns, catchment erosion and climatic changes. A radiocarbon chronology was produced for each site investigated. This was used to re-address the archaeological record and in particular, determine the details of the impact of humans on the landscape. Key differences are highlighted in the nature of human impact during the late-Mesolithic and early-Neolithic in contrasting landscapes with different types of land-use. There is an estimated temporal offset of around 200 years between similar events occurring in lowland and upland landscapes. Climatic variability indicates only small fluctuations and is unlikely to account for the extent of vegetation modification on its own. It is clear Neolithic activity is far more intensive than Mesolithic activity, but importantly the scale of impact in the upland landscape is far more extensive than the archaeological evidence would suggest. Furthermore, the upland landscape appears to recover relatively quickly after clearance events, whilst in the lowland environment, the open vegetation landscape remains far more dominant.
Supervisor: Jones, Richard; Charman, Dan Sponsor: University of Exeter ; Sir John Fisher Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Holocene ; palynology ; Neolithic ; Mesolithic ; Cumbria ; palaeolimnology