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Innes, J.B., Blackford, J.J. & Davey, P.J. (2003). Dating the introduction of cereal cultivation to the British Isles: early palaeoecological evidence from the Isle of Man. Journal of Quaternary Science 18(7): 603-613.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The adoption of cereal cultivation is a key benchmark in the transition from Mesolithic hunter-gatherer foraging to Neolithic farming economies, but the nature, timing and ecological-cultural context of the earliest cereal use in the British Isles and northwest Europe is still uncertain. We present AMS radiocarbon dating and fine-resolution pollen evidence from the Isle of Man for cereal growing in the latter stages of a distinct episode of forest disturbance at almost 6000 yr BP (uncalibrated). The coherent ecological structure of this phase at the fine resolution level suggests that it records cereal cultivation well before the Ulmus decline, rather than wild grass pollen grains. This example is one of a cluster of early dates for cereal-type pollen near the start of the sixth millenium BP, including several around the Irish Sea, which indicate that the introduction of cereal agriculture probably occurred as early in the central British Isles as in the northern European plain. This early cereal phase is followed later by a probable phase of pre-Ulmus decline pastoral activity. We also report Mesolithic age woodland disturbance around 7000 yr BP (uncalibrated) and the first radiocarbon dates for mid-Holocene forest history of the Isle of Man.

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