Pollen in England

England has benefited from pollen analytical studies since the seminal work of the Swedish palynologist Gunnar Erdtman in the 1920s.  Sir Harry Godwin produced the first anthropogenic contribution on English vegetation history on Shapwick Heath (Somerset Levels) in 1941.  His 1944 paper on the Hockam Mere (Norfolk) was the first to use notions of woodland clearance, echoing Johannes Iversen’s classic 1941 paper on landnam.  Since then many 1000s of pollen diagrams have been produced and at a broad scale there is no problem finding data covering much of the Holocene.  Good dating control has always remained an issue and severely hampered the integration of data with the archaeological record.

Blanket bog on Dartmoor

Blanket bog on Dartmoor

This study aims to address this issue by using recent advances in age-depth modelling of stratigraphic sequences to understand the Neolithic biosphere and in particular to focus on the reliability of the identification of pre-elm decline agriculture, the synchronicity of the elm decline and the earliest Neolithic, and the role of woodland in the biography of the landscape.

The dimension of landscape clearance and associated vegetation changes during the Neolithic and their spatio‐temporal dimensions will be determined by means of a re‐evaluation of palaeoenvironmental and radiocarbon data for the Neolithic of southern England.


UK Team: Peter Marshall, Alex Bayliss and Alasdair Whittle