An environmental history of the Navan area of Co. Armagh

  • David Weir

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Palynology, archaeobotany and a study of lake-level fluctuations were used in a study of the environmental history of the Navan area, Co. Armagh the site of the ancient 'capital' of Ulster. A tranect of five cores a analyzed from the edge of Loughnashade for pollen and loss-on-ignition . Submerged Pinus stumps from a number of lakes were collected and dated by 14c. Major episodes of low lake-level were identified between c 8400-7000 cal BC (9300-8000 BP), c 5400-4000 cal BC (6500-5200 BP), c 3600-2500 cal BC (4800-4000 BP) and c 2200-1000 cal BC (3800-2800 BP). The Alnus-rise at Loughnashade was associated with colonization of an exposed lake-edge area, along with Pinus, the Pinus-decline was associated with rising lake­ levels. A period of high lake-level was identified between c 4000-3600 cal BC (5200-4800 BP), this occurred before the Ulmus-decline, suggesting climatic deterioration was not a direct cause.

The major emphasis of this study was on the agricultural history of the area. It was demonstrated that the soils and climate of the area were particularly suited to arable agriculture. During the Bronze Age an expansion of arable agriculture is evident, culminating in the Late Bronze Age hillfort at Haughey's Fort, which yielded the largest prehistoric carbonized grain assemblage known from Ireland. Woodland resurgence between c 1000-900 cal BC was associated with climatic deterioration. Renewed activity from c 600-100 cal BC associated with Navan Fort, largely pastoral. Major woodland regeneration between c 100 cal BC to 200/300 cal AD was followed by a major arable episode, with the highest cereal pollen values from Ireland. An influx of people from northern Britain is proposed. Subsequent periods demonstrate fluctuations in cereal pollen values associated with climatic variations. Evidence for cultivation of flax and hemp is compared with the historical record. Finally four major Ulmus-declines were identified clearly associated with episodes of human activity.

Date of AwardJul 1993
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJames Mallory (Supervisor)

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