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Archaeological and Palaeo-environmental Investigations of the Upper Allen Valley, Cranborne Chase, Dorset (1998–2000): a New Model of Earlier Holocene Landscape Development

  • Charles French (a1), Helen Lewis (a2), Michael J. Allen (a3), Robert G. Scaife (a4), Martin Green (a5), Julie Gardiner and Kasia Gdaniec...

Abstract

A combination of on- and off-site palaeo-environmental and archaeological investigations of the upper Allen valley of Dorset conducted in 1998–2000 has begun to reveal a different model of landscape development than those previously put forward. A combination of off-site geoarchaeological and aerial photographic survey and palynological analyses of two relict palaeochannel systems, and sample investigations of four Bronze Age round barrows and a Neolithic enclosure, have been combined with inter-regional summaries of the archaeological and molluscan records to re-examine the prehistoric landscape dynamics in the study area. Preliminary results suggest that woodland development in the earlier Holocene appears to have been more patchy than the presumed model of full climax deciduous woodland. With open areas still present in the Mesolithic, the area witnessed its first exploitation of the chalk downs, thus slowing and altering soil development of the downlands. Consequently, many areas perhaps never developed thick, well structured, clay-enriched soils (or argillic brown earths), but rather thin brown earths. By the later Neolithic these under-developed soils had become thin rendzinas, largely as a consequence of human exploitation. The presence of thinner and less well-developed soils over large areas of downland removes the necessity for envisaging extensive soil erosion and thick aggraded deposits in the valley bottom in later prehistory. The investigations have suggested that, if there were major changes in vegetation and soil complexes, these had already occurred by the Neolithic rather than in the Bronze Age as suggested by previous researchers, and the area has remained relatively stable since.

Une combinaison d'investigations archéologiques et paléoenvironnementales du site de la vallée supérieure de l'Allen, dans le Dorset, effectuées sur place et ailleurs entre 1998 et 2000 a commencé à révéler un modèle de développement du paysage qui diffère de ceux mis en avant précédemment. Une combinaison de prospection géo¬-archéologique et de photographie aérienne et d'analyses palynologiques de deux systèmes de paléocanaux abandonnés, et des investigations partielles de quatre tertres arrondis de l'âge du bronze et d'une enceinte néolithique, ont été associés à des résumés interrégionaux des données archéologiques et de mollusques pour réexaminer la dynamique du paysage préhistorique dans la région étudiée. Les premiers résultats donnent à penser que le développement de la forêt au début de l'holocène semble avoir été plus parsemé que le modèle présumé d'une forêt d'espèces à feuilles caduques à son apogée. Avec des zones de campagne ouverte toujours présentes au mésolithique, la région a vu sa première exploitation des collines crayeuses, qui a ralenti et modifié l'évolution du sol des terrains. Par conséquent, de nombreuses zones n'ont peut-être jamais formé de sols épais, bien structurés et riches en argiles (ou terres brunes argileuses), mais seulement des terres brunes plutôt minces. Au néolithique tardif, ces sols sous-développés étaient devenus de minces ‘rendzinas’, en grande partie à la suite de leur exploitation par l'homme. Du fait de la présence de ces sols plus minces et moins bien développés sur de vastes zones des terrains, il n'a pas été nécessaire d'envisager l'hypothèse d'une érosion extensive des sols et de l'accumulation de riches dépôts dans le fond de la vallée à la préhistoire récente. Des recherches ont donné à penser que, s'il y avait eu des changements majeurs dans les complexes de la végétation et des sols, ceux-ci avaient eu lieu avant la fin du néolithique plutôt qu'à l'âge du bronze comme l'avaient suggéré de précédents chercheurs, et la région est restée relativement stable depuis lors.

Durch eine Kombination umweltarchäologischer und archäologischer Untersuchungen im oberen Allen Valley von Dorset, die 1998–2000 in und um die Fundstelle herum durchgeführt wurden, zeigte sich ein neues Modell der Landschaftsentwicklung. Weiterhin wurden geoarchäologische und pollenkundliche Analysen und ein luftbildarchäologischer Survey der Überreste zweier Paläokanalsysteme in der Umgebung der Fundstelle und ausgewählte Analysen vier bronzezeitlicher Rundhügelgräber und einer neolithischen Grabenanlage mit interregionalen archäologischen und Mollusken Daten kombiniert, um erneut die Dynamik prähistorischer Landschaften im Bearbeitungsgebiet zu untersuchen. Vorläufige Ergebnisse deuten an, dass im frühen Holozän die Entwicklung der Waldlandschaft wesentlich uneinheitlicher gewesen zu sein scheint, als es das bisher angenommene Modell eines Höhepunktes einer laubwechselnden Waldlandschaft nahegelegt hat. Während des Mesolithikums gab es in diesem Raum immer noch offene Gebiete und es wurde zum ersten Mal Kalkstein ausgebeutet, was somit die Bodenentwicklung der Auenlandschaft verlangsamte und veränderte. Demzufolge entwickelten sich in vielen Gebieten wahrscheinlich keine dicken, gut strukturierten und lehmreichen Böden (oder lessivierte Braunerdeböden), sondern eher dünne Braunerdeböden. Bis zum Späten Neolithikum waren diese unterentwickelten Böden größtenteils durch menschliche Ausbeutung zu dünnen Rendzinaböden geworden. Das Vorkommen von dünneren und weniger gut entwickelten Böden über weite Bereiche des Tieflandes verhindert aber auch extensive Bodenerosion und dicke Ablagerungen schlechter Qualität in den Talsohlen in der späteren Vorgeschichte. Die Untersuchungen haben gezeigt, dass mögliche größere Veränderungen in der Vegetation und den Böden bereits im Neolithikum und nicht erst in der Bronzezeit aufgetreten sind, wie es von einigen Forschern vorgeschlagen worden ist, und dass seit dem Neolithikum der Raum relativ stabil geblieben ist.

Una combinación de investigaciones paleo-ambientales y arqueológicas in situ y fuera de situ efectuadas en el Upper Alien Valley de Dorset entre 1998–2000, ha comenzado a revelar un modelo de evolución del paisaje diferente de los antes contemplados. La combinación de prospección geo-arqueológica fuera de situ junto con fotografía aérea y análisis palinológico de dos sistemas abandonados de paleocanales, e investigaciones de toma de muestras en cuatro túmulos redondos de la Edad del Bronce y de un recinto del Neolítico, se han combinado con resúmenes inter-regionales de la información arqueológica y de los moluscos para re-examinar la dinámica del paisaje prehistórico en la zona de estudio. Los resultados preliminares sugieren que el desarrollo de bosques durante el Primer Holoceno fue más irregular de lo que se suponía en el modelo de pleno desarrollo de los bosques de hoja caduca. Con parajes abiertos todavía durante el Mesolítico, la zona vio la primera explotación de sus depósitos de creta, lo cual retrasó y transformó el desarrollo de los suelos en las tierras bajas. Consecuentemente, muchas zonas quizá nunca llegaron a desarrollar suelos ricos en arcilla de tipo denso y bien estructurado (o tierra de arcilla marrón), sino más bien finos suelos marrones. Hacia finales del Neolítico estos suelos poco desarrollados se habían transformado en delgados suelos de rendzina, sobre todo a raíz de la explotación humana. La presencia de suelos más finos y menos desarrollados en grandes zonas de los valles elimina la necesidad de suponer la existencia de una erosión de suelo extensiva y de gruesos depósitos de material erosionado en los valles en la tarda prehistoria. Las investigaciones han indicado que si se dieron grandes cambios en la vegetación y suelos, éstos ya habían ocurrido en el Neolítico y no en la Edad del Bronce como habían sugerido investigadores anteriores, y que la zona ha permanecido relativamente estable desde aquel entonces.

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Archaeological and Palaeo-environmental Investigations of the Upper Allen Valley, Cranborne Chase, Dorset (1998–2000): a New Model of Earlier Holocene Landscape Development

  • Charles French (a1), Helen Lewis (a2), Michael J. Allen (a3), Robert G. Scaife (a4), Martin Green (a5), Julie Gardiner and Kasia Gdaniec...

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