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The effect of man on the landscape: the Highland Zone

J G Evans, Susan Limbrey & Henry Cleere (editors)

CBA Research Report No 11 (1975)


Abstract

Title page of report 11

The Lancaster conference was concerned with evidence for topography, vegetation, soils, fauna, climate and ancient monuments of the prehistoric and early historic periods. E E Evans (1-5) introduced the concept of a 'pluvial' zone (to include Ireland), and stressed the enduring effects of early human interaction with upland environments. J A Taylor (6-19) illustrated from Welsh evidence the importance of meso- and microclimatic variations (arising from altitude, aspect, etc.) within the Highland zone and stressed the local or regional ecosystematic approach. D F Ball (20-27) described the major processes affecting Highland Zone soils and concluded that human interference had only increased inherent trends, not initiated them. R T Smith (27-37) presented methodological problems and case studies of the kinds of degradation of soil brought about by pastoralism, as well as arable cultivation, in W Yorkshire. The nine soil profiles cited by J C C Romans and L Robertson (37-9) provide an evolutionary sequence Early Neo-RB. Management of deer economies in prehistoric Britain was R E Chaplin's topic (40-42) with particular reference to their likely environmental effects. Pam Evans (43-8) interpreted Mesolithic settlement patterns in terms of the food and habitat needs of the aurochs, and attributed the eventual adoption of Atlantic economies to the loss through rising sealevels of the rich W seaboard grazing. P Mellars (49-56) suggested that Mesolithic man perhaps deliberately burnt tree cover to encourage spectacular increases in deer population. However, I G Simmons (57-63) took the view that, although Meso man manipulated his environment to some extent, the effect was small compared with that of later peoples. Neo-BA landscape changes in N Ireland were treated by A G Smith (64-74), who suggested cattle-barking as a factor in the elm decline, noted forest recovery at c 2600 bc, and considered upland peat formation. W Pennington's absolute pollen diagrams for NW England (74-86) provided evidence for widespead clearance of upland forest c 3100 bc around the Neo axe factories, and for cereal cultivation on coastal sites, with consequent degeneration of soils. Judith Turner's three-dimensional pollen evidence from Ayrshire (86-95) enabled her to locate fairly precisely the actual area of land cleared; shifting cultivation in BA times was succeeded by major clearance after ad 415. Turning to mollusca, P J Spencer's analysis (96-103) of coastal deposits in Cornwall and the Orkneys revealed the former presence of woodland, destroyed partly by human clearance, occasionally by sand-encroachment. J B Stevenson (104-8) examined the complex effects of differential land use on the survival of archaeological evidence, illustrating from Perthshire the distinction between 'discovery potential' and 'survival value'. D R Wilson (108-11) stressed the value of air photography in revealing highland zone sites, especially in remote areas where traditional fieldwork is unrealistically slow. W H Manning (112-16) showed how important were local supplies of grain to Roman forts even in the Highland Zone. L Alcock (117-22) raised the problem of interpreting the Dinas Powys animal bones in the light of documentary sources, but R E Chaplin (123) pointed out the difficulty of correctly interpreting selective bone samples. Finally, F Lynch (124-7), turning the topic round, showed how often prehistoric man chose particularly beautiful landscapes in which to build his monuments. G W Dimbleby (127-9) summed up the conference, stressing how frequently speakers had shown man as an important influence on the landscape even if he was not always demonstrably the initiator of ecological change.

Contents

  • Cover
  • Title pages (pp i-vi)
  • Editors' Foreword (p vii)
  • List of Contributors (p vii)
  • Highland landscapes: habitat and heritage by E Estyn Evans (p 1)
  • The role of climatic factors in environmental and cultural changes in prehistoric times by J A Taylor (p 6)
  • Processes of soil degradation: a pedological point of view by D F Ball (p 20)
  • Early agriculture and soil degradation by R T Smith (p 27)
  • Soils and archaeology in Scotland by J C C Romans and L Robertson (p 37)
  • The ecology and behaviour of deer in relation to their impact on the environment of prehistoric Britain by R E Chaplin (p 40)
  • The intimate relationship: an hypothesis concerning pre-Neolithic land use by Pam Evans (p 43)
  • Ungulate populations, economic patterns, and the Mesolithic landscape by P Mellars (p 49)
  • The ecological setting of Mesolithic man in the Highland Zone by I E Simmons (p 57)
  • Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape changes in northern Ireland by A G Smith (p 64)
  • The effect of Neolithic man on the environment in north-west England : the use of absolute pollen diagrams by Winifred Pennington (Mrs T G Tutin) (p 74)
  • The evidence for land use by prehistoric farming communities : the use of three-dimensional pollen diagrams by Judith Turner (p 86)
  • Habitat change in coastal sand-dune areas: the molluscan evidence by Penelope J Spencer (p 96)
  • Survival and discovery by J B Stevenson (p 104)
  • The evidence of air-photographs by D R Wilson (p 108)
  • Economic influences on land use in the military areas of the Highland Zone during the Roman period by W H Manning (p 112)
  • Dry bones and living documents by L Alcock (p 117)
  • Comments on Professor Alcock's paper by R E Chaplin (p 123)
  • The impact of landscape on prehistoric man by Frances Lynch (p 124)
  • Summary and general conclusions by G W Dimbleby (p 127)

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