Long-term human impact and environmental change in mid-western Ireland, with particular reference to Céide Fields – an overview
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O Connell, M.; Molloy, K.; Jennings, E. (2020) 'Long-term human impact and environmental change in mid-western Ireland, with particular reference to Céide Fields an overview'. E&G Quaternary Science Journal, 70 :1-32, DOI: 10.5194/egqsj-69-1-2020
This paper presents new palaeoecological data from north Co. Mayo, western Ireland, and reviews published data with a view to achieving a better understanding of the timing and nature of early farming in the region, its impact on the natural environment, and the factors, including climate change, that influenced mid- and late-Holocene vegetation dynamics and farming in the region. A long pollen profile from Glenulra, a deep basin situated within Céide Fields, and short profiles from blanket peat that overlies the prehistoric stone-wall field system, provide unambiguous evidence for substantial farming, including widespread woodland clearance, in the early British/Irish Neolithic (beginning ca. 3800 BC). This was followed by a distinct lull that lasted several centuries with farming activity resuming again, at first modestly (at ca. 2700 BC), and more markedly at 2350 BC, i.e. at the Neolithic/Chalcolithic transition. It is argued, on the basis of this and other palaeoecological evidence, including pollen analytical investigations at nearby Garrynagran, that, contrary to recent suggestions, there is no reason to doubt the widely held view that the stone-wall field system unique in a western European Neolithic context is correctly ascribable to the earlier part of the British/Irish Neolithic. The history of pine growing in bog contexts (mainly blanket bog) in the region is considered in the light of 14C dates derived from pine timbers, and the results of dendrochronological investigations at Garrynagran, that have enabled two floating pine chronologies to be constructed, are presented. The climatic implications of these data are discussed within local and wider regional contexts.