Landnam

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A Danish word meaning 'land taking', used to describe a common form of early agriculture in which an area of woodland was cleared and cultivated (which has been identified in the pollen record). The land was later abandoned and was taken over by weeds, finally reverting to woodland. Its regeneration began with the birch, a rapid colonizer of areas cleared by fire. Landnam has been recognized in pollen analysis by changes in the pollen spectra: the drop in tree pollen, the appearance of grass and plantain pollens, a subsequent increase in the latter, and an eventual reappearance of the tree pollen. Landnam range in date from Neolithic to Bronze Age.

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Term introduced by the Danish palynologist J. Iversen in 1941, meaning ‘landtaking’. It describes fluctuations seen in Danish pollen diagrams, just above the elm decline. Associated with charcoal layers in lake-edge deposits, there is a fall in the pollen of forest trees, a rise in herbaceous plants and a rise in birch and hazel, followed by a return of forest tree pollen to normal levels. Cereals and weeds of arable agriculture may be present. Iversen suggested that such fluctuations represented temporary clearance of the forest, a period of agriculture (usually pastoral, but with some arable) lasting some 100 years or more, followed by regeneration of the forest. The landnam phases were associated with Neolithic artefacts, but seemed to be of varying date, representing a kind of shifting agriculture. Clearances of landnam type are also seen in the British Isles, again mostly characterized by grasses and weeds of pasture. Some pollen diagrams show several such phases. They range in date from Neolithic to Bronze Age.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied

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