VEGETATION AND LAND-USE CHANGE IN NORTHERN EUROPE DURING LATE ANTIQUITY: A REGIONAL-SCALE POLLEN-BASED RECONSTRUCTION
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This chapter presents an overview of land cover and land use change in northern Europe, particularly during Late Antiquity (ca. 2nd-8th c. A.D.) based on fossil pollen preserved in sediments. We have transformed fossil pollen datasets from 462 sites into eight major land-cover classes using the pseudobiomization method (PBM). Through using pollen-vegetation evidence, we show that north-central Europe, lying outside the Roman frontier (the so-called ‘Barbaricum’ region), remained predominantly forested until Medieval times, with the main clearance phase only starting from ca. A.D. 750. This stands in contrast to north-west Europe, both inside (France/England) and outside (Scotland/Ireland) the Roman imperial frontier; here a majority of forested land was already cleared prior to antiquity. The implications of this are that Roman expansion into the periphery of the empire largely took over existing intensive agrarian regions in the case of ‘Gaul’ (France) and ‘Britannia’ (England and Wales). Pre-existing land-use systems and levels of landscape openness may have played a role in directing the expansion of the Roman empire northwards into Gaul and Britannia, rather than eastwards into Germania. After the period of Roman occupation, partial reforestation is evident in some areas.
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