Archaeology and Palaeoecology
School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK
+44 (0)28 9097 5287
Landuse, secular settlement patterns and climate change in first millennium AD Ireland
The archaeology of first millennium AD Ireland is characterized by a sparse settlement record in its opening centuries, followed by a profusion of settlement types (raths, crannogs and raised raths) from the fifth century AD. Settlement patterns during this millennium are poorly understood, but theories that have been propounded include changes in population dynamics, socio-political structure or environment. Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of former landscapes through pollen analysis have the potential to add significantly to our understanding of past settlement patterns. Using the level and nature of past land use as a proxy for settlement patterns, it is possible to look more objectively at the possible factors that contributed to the changes observed in the archaeological record. Significantly, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions can provide a long-term perspective of land-use, allowing the appearance and abandonment of settlements to be understood within the broader context of settlement development. These reconstructions can also be well-correlated through tephrochronology and 14C dating with palaeoclimate records from Ireland and NW Europe, enabling the role of past climate change to be evaluated. The results will be considered in the light of literary evidence for socio-political developments during this period.
Through pollen analysis, the research will reconstruct land-use patterns in the vicinity of several well-dated archaeological sites spanning the 1st millennium AD. The reconstructions will provide a context for understanding the construction and abandonment of the sites, and will enable changes in land-use patterns over time to be identified. Tephrochronology and 14C dating will allow the reconstructions to be correlated with each other, with the aim of identifying the existence or otherwise of wide-scale patterns of land-use and settlement patterns. The results will also be correlated, again with the aid of tephrochronology and 14C dating, with climate records from Ireland and surrounding areas to evaluate the role of climate change in prompting changes in land-use and settlement patterns.
Coyle, L. and Ruffle, A. (forthcoming) Geology and Landscape Character Assessment: How a Public Information Leaflet Develops Student Research, Writing and Presentation Skills. Geoscience Educational.
My undergraduate degree was Environmental Archaeology BSc (1st class hons) in 2007, I then went on to complete an MSc in Landscape, heritage and the environment in 2008 before starting my postgraduate research.