Rebecca Turner



The Eastern Mediterranean has a long history of human occupation, which spans the transition from hunter-gatherers to the establishment of early agro-pastoralist communities, coinciding with the Last Glacial: Interglacial transition. Over the same timeframe a delay in post glacial woodland recolonisation in the region has been identified. Fire has long been used by people to manage and manipulate the landscape, and has been hypothesised to have played a role in this delay. This thesis employed lacustrine microcharcoal (particles less than 180 µm) remains to reconstruct Late Quaternary fire histories for Central Turkey and the Levant, and examine the possible role that fire may have played in retarding woodland development in the region. Microcharcoals were analysed in cores taken from four sites in Central Turkey (Akgol, Eski Acigol, Catalhoyuk and Nar Golu) and one site in Israel (Lake Hula) that cover varying time intervals from the Last Glacial through to the Late Holocene. In order to develop a standardised analytical procedure for microcharcoals, a series of published extraction and quantification techniques along with a new approach using heavy liquid separation were rigorously tested on "control" samples that contained a known volume of microscopic charcoal. As a result of this investigation a novel, two step extraction procedure based on the use of heavy liquid separation was developed and applied alongside a contiguous high resolution sampling strategy. Using this approach, fire activity was reconstructed based on cores from each of the sites and these data were compared with existing multi-proxy data (stable oxygen isotopes, pollen and archaeological data). Results show clear links between climate, biomass, people and fire, although these relationships changed over time. Regional fire activity during the Last Glacial: Holocene transition was apparently controlled by climate through the influence it exerted on biomass availability, whereas links between people and fire activity are most evident during the Late Holocene. Humans do not seem to have retarded the Early Holocene spread of woodland through the use of fires, although it is possible that natural fire activity served to maintain the open parkland vegetation communities may have played a role. During the Mid Holocene a mixture of climatic and anthropogenic controls apparently influenced regional fire activity. Evidence was also identified of a ca.l,500 year periodicity in fire history from Central Turkey which may reflect teleconnections to climatic changes in the North Atlantic. This research also highlighted the potential of using microscopic charcoal to infer the spatial resolution of fire history reconstructions from lake basins of different sizes and types through comparisons of influx values.

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