Urban and rural environments from Iron Age to Medieval time in northern Europe : Evidence from fossil insect remains from South-Eastern Sweden and Novgorod, Russia

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis presents and discusses results from studies in of subfossil insect remains of natural and cultural origin. Samples were obtained by coring in sediments or by collection during archaeological excavations. The aim was to reconstruct local environment and climate in rural and early urban situations from Iron Age to medieval time. A taphonomic. study, from a modem farm settlement, is also presented.The palaeoentomological results from the Iron Age environment in south-central and south-eastern Sweden, indicate a mosaic and species diverse cultural landscape, including open land with pastures, cultivated fields, meadows and probably also grazed forests. In spite of the rather sparse insect assemblages from Gamla Uppsala the continuos records of dung beetles well indicate that the dominating land use in the area from the beginning of the Vendel period to at least the 17th century was grazing.Two investigated early towns, the medieval towns Uppsala and Novgorod, show transport to thetowns of supplies and building material from the areas surrounding the town The medieval townUppsala was of a more rural than urban character, which is in agreement with results from similar sites in other parts of southern Sweden. In comparison, Novgorod was probably more of an urban character.The studies on subrecent insect assemblages from farm and house environments has shown thateven if suitable habitats and food substrates are available, it is not evident that beetles confined to these habitats turn up in the well deposits. In the investigation particularly beetles found in dung and dead wood. The substrates were probably deliberately dumped into a covered well, or the species entered during local flight if the wells are open to the air. Moreover, climatic reconstructions tested on the same material, suggest that microclimates generated by buildings and decaying substrates may well attract species that normally prefer warmer conditions that are available in the surrounding natural environmentClimatic reconstructions are tested on subfossil insects obtained from settlement deposits insome of the prehistoric material through the Mutual Climatic Range Method (MCR). Based on theexperiences by applying the MCR method, it is concluded that climate reconstructions carried out in an archaeological context may not be useful or should even be avoided. Ancient settlements provided much of favourable habitats where some species may linger on in an area generally unsuitable for their continuance.Insect analysis carried out in prehistoric or historic deposits may often provide finds of species that today are rare or even regionally extinct, which could contribute to a better understanding of changes in forest environments and the cultural landscape.

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