Modelling land use around an early Neolithic timber hall in North East Scotland from high spatial resolution pollen analyses

Richard Tipping, Jane Bunting, Althea Davies, Hilary Murray, Shannon Fraser, Robert McCulloch

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Abstract

A methodology is described by which spatial patterns of land use were reconstructed from pollen analyses on anthropogenic sediments at a recently excavated early Neolithic timber ‘hall’ in north east Scotland. The anthropogenic sediments were from a deep, small diameter pit within the building. They present numerous taphonomic and interpretative challenges to the analyst, but from this type of deposit, the power to estimate quantitatively the vegetation structure around the archaeological site makes such difficult deposits very significant. A rigorous methodology is firstly described, therefore, by which confidence in ecological interpretation can be established. Secondly, the source of pollen in the deposit is evaluated. Thirdly, the possible pollen source area and structure of the surrounding vegetation are estimated by quantitative simulation modelling. Finally, these analyses are compared with region-scale pollen analyses from nearby conventional wetland deposits with much larger pollen source areas. The pollen assemblages recovered probably reflect land uses adjacent to the ‘hall’ and up to 2.5 km around. Cereal cultivation was the most important land use immediately around the ‘hall’, possibly grown between stands of scrub Corylus (hazel) woodland. These intensive but local-scale land uses cannot be discerned in region-scale pollen analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

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