SALT OF THE EARTH: DISENTANGLING NATURAL AND ANTHROPOGENIC LANDSCAPES IN THE POOLE HARBOUR CATCHMENT USING DEPOSIT MODELLING
Conference: Association of Environmental Archaeology
Dates: 2 December 2022-5 March 2023Abstract:
Poole Harbour and its wider catchment is internationally renowned for its natural beauty and biodiversity. Land to the north and east of the harbour form the urban areas of Poole and Bournemouth while the southern and western sides are regarded as undeveloped natural landscapes, consisting of heath, marsh and forested land. Such is the capital placed on this natural landscape that in 2021, over 3,000 hectares was designated as a ‘super’ National Nature Reserve (NNR). Operationally, the NNR has the overarching aim to restore ‘natural’ processes across the landscape making it more resilient to climate change and other pressures, yet the fundamental character of the Poole harbour catchment is arguably the product of millennia of human interaction and modification.
In order to assess the impact of past human activities on modern landscapes, deposit modelling using geochemical and magnetic susceptibility analysis was undertaken at the site of Wytch Farm, Dorset. This project excavated a large-scale industrial complex that included salt production and metal working evidence. The programme of deposit modelling explored the wider landscape impact of these processes, mapping their extent and intensity, identifying a heavily modified, anthropogenically influenced landscape.
The natural character of the Poole Harbour catchment, as visible today, is therefore the result of complex relationship between past coastal communities and natural resources. This study shows that the extent of the impact of human activity is often greater than the focal points of activities themselves and highlights the value of mid-scale landscape studies.