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Is Neolithic land use correlated with demography? An evaluation of pollen-derived land cover and radiocarbon-inferred demographic change from Central Europe

Lechterbeck, J; Edinborough, K; Kerig, T; Fyfe, R; Roberts, N; Shennan, S; (2014) Is Neolithic land use correlated with demography? An evaluation of pollen-derived land cover and radiocarbon-inferred demographic change from Central Europe. HOLOCENE , 24 (10) 1297 - 1307. 10.1177/0959683614540952. Green open access

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Abstract

The transformation of natural landscapes in Middle Europe began in the Neolithic as a result of the introduction of food-producing economies. This paper examines the relation between land-cover and demographic change in a regionally restricted case study. The study area is the Western Lake Constance area which has very detailed palynological as well as archaeological records. We compare land-cover change derived from nine pollen records using a pseudo-biomisation approach with 14C date probability density functions from archaeological sites which serve as a demographic proxy. We chose the Lake Constance area as a regional example where the pollen signal integrates a larger spatial pattern. The land-cover reconstructions for this region show first notable impacts at the Middle to Young Neolithic transition. The beginning of the Bronze Age is characterised by increases of arable land and pasture/meadow, whereas the deciduous woodland decreases dramatically. Changes in the land-cover classes show a correlation with the 14C density curve: the correlation is best with secondary woodland in the Young Neolithic which reflects the lake shore settlement dynamics. In the Early Bronze Age, the radiocarbon density correlates with open land-cover classes, such as pasture, meadow and arable land, reflecting a change in the land-use strategy. The close overall correspondence between the two archives implies that population dynamics and land-cover change were intrinsically linked. We therefore see human impact as a key driver for vegetation change in the Neolithic. Climate might have an influence on vegetation development, but the changes caused by human land use are clearly detectable from Neolithic times, at least in these densely settled, mid-altitude landscapes.

Type: Article
Title: Is Neolithic land use correlated with demography? An evaluation of pollen-derived land cover and radiocarbon-inferred demographic change from Central Europe
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0959683614540952
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959683614540952
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: demography, Holocene, Lake Constance, land-cover reconstruction, Middle Europe, Neolithic, pollen, radiocarbon
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/1455032
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