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Mediterranean landscape change during the Holocene: synthesis, comparison and regional trends in population, land cover and climate

Roberts, CN; Woodbridge, J; Palmisano, A; Bevan, A; Fyfe, R; Shennan, S; (2019) Mediterranean landscape change during the Holocene: synthesis, comparison and regional trends in population, land cover and climate. The Holocene (In press).

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Abstract

This synthesis paper offers a comparative perspective on how seven different Mediterranean regions, from Iberia and Morocco to the Levant, have been transformed by human and natural agencies during the last ten millennia. It draws on a range of sources of data notably, 1) archaeological site surveys (n=32k) and 14C dates (n=12k) as proxies for long-term population change, 2) pollen records as a proxy for past vegetation and land cover (n=157), and 3) proxies, such as stable isotopes, from lake, cave and marine records as indicators of hydro-climate (n=47). Where possible, these data sets have been made spatially and temporally congruent in order to examine relationships between them statistically and graphically. Data have been aggregated or averaged for each region/subregion and put into 200-year time windows. Archaeo-demographic data show a clear increase at the start of Neolithic farming, followed by a series of regionally-asynchronous fluctuations in population, prior to a pan-Mediterranean Roman settlement maximum. Pollen data indicate a Late Holocene decline in %Arboreal Pollen in those regions that were initially well-wooded, but not in drier regions of the southern/eastern Mediterranean. Overall, the clearest palynological proxy for human land cover change is provided by the OJCV (tree crop) index. The cultivation of these trees in the eastern Mediterranean after 6500 Cal yr BP may have been an adaptive response to mid-Holocene climatic desiccation. These anthropogenic pollen indicators correlate more closely with trends in population than with regional hydro-climatic z-scores, implying that they reflect primarily human activities. During the mid-Holocene, most Mediterranean landscapes were transformed by a combination of climate and rural land use, but after ~3500 Cal yr BP, human actions became increasingly dominant in determining land cover. During the last 1500 years the dominant landscape trajectory in the eastern Mediterranean was markedly different to that in the central/western Mediterranean.

Type: Article
Title: Mediterranean landscape change during the Holocene: synthesis, comparison and regional trends in population, land cover and climate
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068443
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