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Fire and stone clearance in Iron Age agriculture: new insights inferred from the analysis of terrestrial macroscopic charcoal in clearance cairns in Hamneda, southern Sweden

Per Lagerås and Thomas Bartholin
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Vol. 12, No. 2 (September, 2003), pp. 83-92
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23418622
Page Count: 10
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Fire and stone clearance in Iron Age agriculture: new insights inferred from the analysis of terrestrial macroscopic charcoal in clearance cairns in Hamneda, southern Sweden
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Abstract

Areas with ancient clearance cairns have been studied in Hamneda, Småland Uplands, southern Sweden, by archaeological and palaeoecological methods. Based on numerous radiocarbon dates and stratigraphical analyses, the local introduction of stone clearance is dated to the first century A.D. The clearance cairns reflect a system of semi-mobile cultivation that lasted until c. A.D. 900. Pollen and macrofossil analyses provide information on cereal growing and pastures in these clearance cairn areas, while charcoal analyses reveal details on the agrarian expansion dynamics and the use of fire in vegetation clearance. In the expansion phase, Quercus (oak) woodlands were cleared and transformed to open pastures and arable land, partly by the use of fire. A secondary succession of Betula (birch) and Corylus (hazel) was dealt with by fire clearances to keep pastures open and to prepare new arable plots. In the long run, Betula in particular was favoured by the land-use system. The mobility of the cultivation system is discussed together with the causes behind the introduction of stone clearance. A possible causal relationship with the introduction of hay mowing is also discussed.

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