Did prehistoric and Roman mining and metallurgy have a significant impact on vegetation?

T. Mighall, S. Timberlake, Antonio Martínez Cortizas, Noemí Silva-Sánchez, I.D.L. Foster

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To develop our understanding of the relationship between vegetation change and past mining and metallurgy new approaches and further studies are required to ascertain the significance of the environmental impacts of the metallurgical industry. Using new pollen and geochemical data from Cors Fochno (Borth Bog), Wales, we examine whether prehistoric and Roman mining and metallurgy had a significant impact on the development of vegetation and compare the findings with previous studies across Europe on contamination and vegetation change to develop a conceptual model. The evidence suggests that early mining and metallurgy had a minimal impact on vegetation, especially woodlands, with small-scale, non-permanent phases of woodland clearance. The impact was more severe during Roman times, normally characterised by woodland clearance followed by regeneration. Records do suggest that woodlands underwent compositional changes in tandem with increased atmospheric pollution, possibly in part as a result of demands for wood fuel for mining and metallurgy, but otherwise woodlands show a degree of resilience. The results from Cors Fochno suggest that vegetation changes that occurred during periods of mining and metallurgy, as inferred from changepoint analysis, were insignificant compared to later periods, including Roman times.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-625
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date12 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Toby Driver kindly provided information about the archaeology of
the region. Jenny Johnson and Jamie Bowie drew the figures. Ed Scho-
field commented upon on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Permission
to core Cors Fochno was provided by Mike Bailey (CCW). This project
was funded by The Leverhulme Trust, grant number F/00/732/C and
support from Cambria Archaeology. The comments from two reviewers
helped to improve the manuscript.


  • mining
  • metallurgy
  • pollen
  • changepoint analysis
  • Bronze Age
  • Roman
  • woodlands


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