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The Holocene


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Table of Contents

Technical boxes viii Preface to the third edition ix Acknowledgements xi About the companion website xii 1 Introduction 1 Sources of information on past environments 2 Nature and society 5 The significance of the Holocene 6 References 7 2 Reconstructing Holocene environments 10 Dating the past 10 Historical and archaeological dating 11 Radiometric dating methods 13 Dendrochronology and radiocarbon calibration 19 Other dating methods 25 Conclusion 28 Palaeoecological techniques 32 Pollen analysis 33 Plant remains 40 Creatures great and small 44 Freshwater and marine organisms 46 Geological techniques 47 Ice and ocean 51 Stable isotope analysis 53 Geomorphology and climate 55 Geo-archaeology 59 Modelling the past 61 Models of environmental reconstruction 61 Computer model simulations 64 Conclusion 66 References 66 3 The Pleistocene prelude (>11 700 Cal. yr bp) 83 Ice Age environments 83 The glacial?interglacial cycle 83 Understanding the causes of long-term climatic change 88 The Last Glacial Maximum and after 92 The terminal Pleistocene (15 000?11 700 Cal. yr bp) 96 The Late Glacial in the North Atlantic region 96 Terminal Pleistocene climatic oscillation: a globally synchronous event? 102 Adjustment of geomorphic systems 105 Human ecology at the end of the Pleistocene 107 Megafaunal extinctions 110 References 115 4 Early Holocene adaptations (11 700?6000 Cal. yr bp) 128 Changes in the physical environment 128 Ice sheets and sea levels 128 Human adaptations to coastal environments 131 Lake ontogeny and soil development 135 The return of the forests 140 Europe 140 Eastern North America 142 Dry Mediterranean woodland 144 Tropical forests 145 Factors affecting forest re-advance 146 The ecology of Mesolithic Europe 151 The early Holocene in the tropics 154 Saharan palaeoecology 155 Early Holocene climates: Pattern and process 158 Conclusion 165 References 167 5 The first farmers 178 Agricultural origins 178 Southwest Asia 179 China and South Asia 184 Mesoamerica 186 Tropical domesticates 190 Independent innovation or diffusion? 193 The role of environmental change in early agriculture 194 Early agricultural impacts 199 European agricultural dispersals 201 Ecological consequences of early European agriculture 204 Conclusion 207 References 208 6 The taming of nature (6000?1000 Cal. yr bp) 217 Introduction 217 Changes in the natural environment 219 Climate and vegetation 219 The origin and development of blanket mires 228 Coasts and rivers 232 Cultural evolution 235 Hydraulic civilisation in Mesopotamia 236 Environmental impact in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica 239 Pastoral nomadism 241 Mediterranean ecosystems 242 The making of the landscape: The British Isles 249 The primaeval forest 250 Shaugh Moor ? a Bronze Age landscape 254 The environmental impact of permanent agricultural clearance 256 Conclusion 261 References 262 7 The impact of modern times (1000?0 Cal. yr bp) 277 Introduction 277 Climatic changes in historical times 280 Climate history and global warming 282 Consequences of medieval and Little Ice Age climate change 288 Expansion at the periphery 291 Conquest of the Northlands 291 The Pacific 295 Ecological imperialism 300 Land-use history and soil erosion 303 Pollution histories 312 Eutrophication: natural or cultural? 312 Acidification and atmospheric pollution 318 References 323 8 The environmental future: A Holocene perspective 336 Holocene environmental crises 340 Environmental conservation and Holocene Environmental history 343 References 347 Appendix: Calibration table for radiocarbon ages 352 Glossary 353 Index 358

About the Author

Neil Roberts is Professor of Geography at Plymouth University in the UK and has been Visiting Senior Researcher at Stanford University, CA. His main research interests are in Holocene environmental change, especially lake sediment records of climate and human impact in Mediterranean regions. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and served on the US National Academies Committee on climate changes of the last 2,000 Years.


The text makes enjoyable reading, and although the authorintroduces many technical terms, they are all covered in a glossaryat the end and included in the index. Summing Up: Highlyrecommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; generalreaders. (Choice, 1 October 2014) This excellent book should be mandatory reading for anystudent taking a palaeobased environmental change module, andacademics will also very much enjoy reading Neil Roberts fine prose. (The Holocene, 1 October 2014)

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