Land-use patterns and cultural change in the Middle to Late Bronze Age in Ireland: inferences from pollen records

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In Ireland, the Middle to Late Bronze Age (1500-600 cal. B.C.) is characterised by alternating phases of prolific metalwork production (the Bishopsland and Dowris Phases) and apparent recessions (the Roscommon Phase and the Late Bronze Age-Iron Age transition). In this paper, these changes in material culture are placed in a socio-economic context by examining contemporary settlement and land-use patterns interpreted from the pollen record. The vegetation histories of six tephrochronologically-linked sites are presented that provide high-resolution and chronologically well-resolved insights into changes in landscape use over the Middle to Late Bronze Age. The records are compared with published pollen records in an attempt to discern if there are any trends of woodland clearance and abandonment from which changes in settlement patterns can be inferred. The results suggest that prolific metalworking industries correlate chronologically with expansive farming activity, which indicates that they were supported by a productive subsistence economy. Conversely, declines in metalwork production occur during periods when farming activity is generally less extensive and perhaps more centralised, and it is proposed that disparate socio-economic or –political factors, rather than a collapse of the subsistence economy, lies behind the demise of metalworking industries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-x295
Number of pages23
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Palaeontology

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