HOLOCENE VEGETATION HISTORY AND HUMAN IMPACT AT BRYN-Y-CASTELL, SNOWDONIA, NORTH WALES

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Abstract

Three radiocarbon-dated pollen diagrams are presented from Holocene peat and lake deposits in Snowdonia, close to the Late Iron Age/Romano-British ironworking hill-fort of Bryn y Castell, Gwynedd, in upland north Wales. This paper discusses pollen, charcoal and peat-stratigraphic evidence for major local vegetation changes and for the development of the surrounding cultural landscape during the last 10 000 radiocarbon yr. Pollen data from one of the sites (BYC 2) provided a vegetational record for most of the Holocene. The early part of the sequence suggests an oligotrophic lake in a landscape that is being colonized by birch-pine woodland; later, mixed deciduous woodland surrounds an infilling lake basin. Dating of peat deposits at two of the sites (BYC, BYC H) indicated that their pollen records commenced between 5500 and 5000 yr sp. By this time, the lake basin was fringed by alder carr. There followed a gradual and then, c. 2700 yr sp, a more abrupt decline in woodland, such that, by the end of the Bronze Age and with the basin largely terrestrialized, the local landscape became dominated by mire vegetation communities, which have persisted to the present. Human activity seems to have been a major factor in the loss of woodland cover. Although there is some circumstantial evidence for earlier phases of human disturbance at BYC 2, human activity becomes increasingly apparent from c. 5000 yr BP. During the mid Holocene, the impact of Neolithic and early- to mid-Bronze Age cultures appears to be characterized by temporary woodland clearances, for arable and pastoral agriculture. By c. 2700 yr sp the majority of woodland cover seems to have been permanently removed from the landscape, but as there is scant archaeological evidence for late Bronze Age cultures in this part of Snowdonia, other factors, especially climate change, could be implicated. During the late Holocene, especially during part of the late Iron Age and Romano-British period, remaining local stands of woodland seem to have been exploited for iron smelting, although the overall impact of ironworking was limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-321
Number of pages23
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume130
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1995

Keywords

  • HOLOCENE
  • POLLEN ANALYSIS
  • HUMAN IMPACT
  • VEGETATIONAL HISTORY
  • WALES
  • DATED POLLEN DIAGRAMS
  • BRITISH-ISLES
  • SOUTH-WALES
  • PATTERNS
  • ENGLAND
  • IRELAND
  • ALDER
  • PEATS
  • FIRE

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