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The economy of the Norse settlement of the North Atlantic Islands and its environmental impact : an archaeobotanical assessment.

Bending, Joanna Mary (2007) The economy of the Norse settlement of the North Atlantic Islands and its environmental impact : an archaeobotanical assessment. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The objective of the archaeobotanical research presented here is to assess the introduction of Norse agricultural economies to Iceland and the-Faroe Islands during the 9`h and 10`h centuries AD, and the impact of the settlers' behaviour on plant communities until AD 1500. The major themes concern the presettlement landscape and environmental conditions, the impact of human activity on these landscapes, the non-native plant taxa introduced, the short and long-term change in local environments, and the adaptation of the Norse economic system and living conditions to the new environments. These themes are approached through the comparison of two datasets, one based on material from monoliths taken from peat sequences ('off-site' samples) and the other on the analysis of samples of deposits from archaeological sites ('on-site' samples). Pre-settlement conditions consisted of a mosaic of acidic, nutrient-poor wetland, grassland or heath in the valley bottoms. Woodland cover was dominated by Betula and Salix, which was denser in Iceland than in the Faroe Islands. PreNorse changes in the Faroese landscape are evident, which relate to an increasing body of material that has been interpreted as evidence for pre-Norse settlement. At the time of landnäm, there is evidence for woodland clearance, although this does not happen uniformly across the landscape. Clearance can be interpreted as a change in the landscape due to the introduction of an economy based on animal grazing, and the collection of wood and twigs for fuel and fodder. Crop and wild plant taxa were introduced, although the range of plants is not as broad as in Scandinavia and the British Isles. Fuel collection and building construction were determined by the lack of suitable wood sources in the newly settled areas. In the longer term, there is evidence for soil enrichment in the areas around settlements, continuing deforestation and erosion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Archaeology (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Archaeology (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.443877
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2016 13:33
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12794

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