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Examining the relationships between Holocene climate change, hydrology, and human society in Ireland

Stastney, P. (2015) Examining the relationships between Holocene climate change, hydrology, and human society in Ireland. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This thesis explores human-environment interactions during the Mid-Late Holocene in raised bogs in central Ireland. The raised bogs of central Ireland are widely-recognised for their considerable palaeoenvironmental and archaeological resources: research over the past few decades has established the potential for such sites to preserve sensitive records of Holocene climatic variability expressed as changes in bog surface wetness (BSW); meanwhile archaeological investigations over the past century have uncovered hundreds of peatland archaeological features dating from the Neolithic through to the Post-Medieval period including wooden trackways, platforms, and deposits of high-status metalwork. Previous studies have attempted to explore the relationship between records of past environmental change and the occurrence of peatland archaeological sites reaching varying conclusions. More recently, environmentally-deterministic models of human-environment interaction in Irish raised bogs at the regional scale have been explicitly tested leading to the conclusion that there is no relationship between BSW and past human activity. These relationships are examined in more detail on a site-by-site basis in this thesis. To that end, testate amoebae-derived BSW records from nine milled former raised bogs in central Ireland were produced from sites with known and dated archaeological records. Relationships between BSW records and environmental conditions within the study area were explored through both the development of a new central Ireland testate amoebae transfer function and through comparisons between recent BSW records and instrumental weather data. Compilation of BSW records from the nine fossil study sites show evidence both for climate forcing, particularly during 3200-2400 cal BP, as well as considerable inter-site variability. Considerable inter-site variability was also evident in the archaeological records of the same sites. Whilst comparisons between BSW and archaeological records do not show a consistent linear relationship, examination of records on a site-by-site basis were shown to reveal interpretatively important contingent relationships. It is concluded therefore, that future research on human-environment interactions should focus on individual sites and should utilise theoretical approaches from the humanities in order to avoid the twin pitfalls of masking important local patterns of change, and of environmental determinism.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Branch, N. and Black, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:48052
Date on Title Page:2014


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