Resolving complexities of pollen data to improve interpretation of past human activity and natural processes
Michael J. Grant, Martyn Waller, 2017. "Resolving complexities of pollen data to improve interpretation of past human activity and natural processes", The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History, M. Williams, T. Hill, I. Boomer, I. P. Wilkinson
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Pollen analysis provides a powerful tool for understanding past human activity and its impact on the environment. This is due to pollen being preserved in a wide range of sedimentary environments and pollen being derived from, and therefore providing a record of, vegetation beyond the sampling location. While the basic premise of pollen analysis has remained constant since the pioneering work of Lennart von Post 100 years ago, methodological approaches for interpretation of pollen records have continued to evolve. Large datasets can now be compiled for identifying and exploring the complexities of pollen data temporally and spatially. Here two Holocene pollen stratigraphic changes in the British Isles are focused upon: the Ulmus and Tilia declines. Methodologies for examining the chronological controls on the timing of these changes and disentangling the processes recorded in pollen data are presented. Of particular note are the complexities of separating human impacts from natural processes in coastal wetland records, which have been one of the main sources of pollen data from lowland England. We argue that it is only by unravelling the complexities of both the chronological and pollen data that extant theories on the interaction between past human activity and vegetation change can be rigorously tested.