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Durham e-Theses
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Natural environment and human settlement in later prehistoric central Europe

Michael, Bruce (2004) Natural environment and human settlement in later prehistoric central Europe. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

This work analyses the adaptive relationship between early farming settlement and natural environment in Central Europe between 3500 (cal.) BC and AD 400. The primary data-base consists of fourteen alluvial and archaeological pollen sites from the Czech and Slovak Republics. Primary analyses trace divergent vegetation histories in temperate (Hercynian) and continental (Pannonian) bio-geographic zones, and focus on human impact on these biomes. Syn-anthropic impact is registered in agricultural floral expansion, eforestation and dry-steppe formation, vectors which are equated with higher farming population densities. A methodological review allows for an assessment of land-areas represented at the fom1een pollen sites, while the understanding of pollen taphonomy on alluvial accretion surfaces is advanced at the principal site of Vranskỳ potok. Secondary analyses then reconstruct a comparative settlement and climate history in the later Holocene of Central Europe. Importantly, settlement reconstructions exhibit a cyclical pattern of growth and decline at century-level time-scales. When compared to the primary geobotanicalrecord, an alignment of settlement maxima with high levels of human impact on t1ora and soils affirms the reality of this archaeologically perceived settlement cycle. A similar alignment of agricultural maxima with favorable agro-climate furthermore implies that food production is generally limited by secular climate change, while an anthropogenic limitation of agriculture through dry-steppe formation is supported in the Pannonian geo-botanical database. Ultimately, a theoretical treatment of the adaptation concept is attempted after cultural ecologic data presented. Beyond subsistence, this treatment incorporates the ecologic constructs of direct competition (after evidence for warfare) and mean mating-distance (after populationreconstructions). Dia-chronic patterns of cultural distributions suggest that an early linkage of archaeological cultures with distinctive environmental zones is reduced as evidence for warfare and socio-political complexity becomes pervasive. Cultural adaptation thus becomes less a function of optimising subsistence and more one of group defense-population integration.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:03

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