University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series > *CANCELLED* Lives in the landscape: translating pollen records into understandings of land cover and landscape resources in the British Neolithic

*CANCELLED* Lives in the landscape: translating pollen records into understandings of land cover and landscape resources in the British Neolithic

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Canceled

Pollen records are a key tool for understanding past environments, but pollen diagrams are dense and confusing to the uninitiated, and often interpreted simply in terms of a narrative of landscape evolution. Because pollen is small and designed for dispersal in the environment, sedimentary archives of pollen record not just the story of the local sediments, but also the changing patterns of plants growing in the wider landscape, allowing us to reconstruct the movement of biomes in response to changing climates and the evolution of cultural landscapes as humans interact with and modify the world around them. But because the transport of small particles into sedimentary systems is complex and plant reproduction strategies highly varied, translating pollen diagrams into more quantitative measures of past land cover is not a trivial problem, and indeed has been an ongoing concern for palynologists since the start of the discipline. Advances in both concepts and computing over the last couple of decades, and the engagement of a small and active research community through international networks from PolLandCal (2001-2005) to the current PAGES Landcover6k working group (2015-2021), have led to the development of several methods for translating pollen data into different, accessible formats – numerical estimates of different aspects of land cover (e.g. % of woodland versus open land) or maps of probable land cover. These approaches open up new opportunities for true multidisciplinary collaboration and hypothesis testing with climate modellers, archaeologists and ecologists. In this talk, I’ll introduce some of the new ways we can translate pollen diagrams into past landcover, using examples from the Neolithic in Britain and Ireland to look at what we can – and can’t – do, and where the research might go next.

This talk is part of the Pitt-Rivers Archaeological Science Seminar Series series.

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