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Prehistoric vegetation reconstruction of the archaeological site of Swifterbant: A pilot study based on macro-remains

Scheepens, J.F. (2007) Prehistoric vegetation reconstruction of the archaeological site of Swifterbant: A pilot study based on macro-remains. Master's Thesis / Essay, Biology.

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Between 6300 and 6000 years before present Mesolithic people inhabited the sand dunes and creek levees in the Swifterbant area, The Netherlands. They had domesticated animals and probably started to grow cereal crops. The aim of this pilot study is to reconstruct the prehistoric vegetation in the area around the settlements by means of different analytical approaches released on a list of plant species occurring in the Swifterbant area. The list of species has been derived from macro-remains found in driftline material which was deposited on slopes of creeks. This species list has been used for several analyses in order to reconstruct the former vegetation of the Swifterbant area. An environmental characterisation, using average Ellenberg values of the archaeological species, indicated a division between a wet, brackish, nitrogenpoor habitat and a drier, sweet, nitrogenous habitat. Phytosociological analyses, based on the SynBioSys database using fidelity values, coexistence values and the results of the built-in Associa program, indicated the presence of several distinct vegetation types, the drier ones also differing in successional stage. After a discussion of the results of the analyses, the community types Ruppion maritimae, Atriplicion littoralis, Arction, Echinochloo-Setarietum mops, Charetum canescentis and Chenopodio- Oxalidetum fontanae resulted as good candidates for the former vegetation. A gradient analysis, performed with seed bank data of reference vegetation types, positioned the archaeological species generally between brackish grassland and dry heathland/forest edge vegetation. Furthermore, species response curves, showing the relationship between seed bank and standing vegetation, did not result in useful information for vegetation reconstruction here but may be helpful as a method in future research. Seed trait analysis showed that most archaeological species had either one or two large-distance dispersal adaptations. The final vegetational picture of the Swifterbant area is one including brackish wetland communities in the wet areas as well as mesic to dry, ruderal vegetation types on the higher, human-influenced elevations. The most important critique on this work is that the comparison between driftline material and seed bank or vegetation data to reconstruct the former vegetation is subject to errors because the way driftline material builds up is distinct from the way seed banks or standing vegetation builds up. Better would be to take archaeological seed bank samples and compare them with present day seed bank samples with their vegetation recordings.

Item Type: Thesis (Master's Thesis / Essay)
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Master's Thesis / Essay
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 07:31
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 07:31

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