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The Holocene: An Environmental History

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The Holocene

The Holocene refers to the period since the end of the last Ice Age some...

NHBS Price: £86.50 $115/€98 approx

By: Neil Roberts(Author)

316 pages, colour & b/w photos, 75 illustrations, maps, 24 tables


Paperback | May 1998 | Edition: 2 | #72740 | ISBN: 0631186387
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Dec 1998 | Edition: 2 | #72739 | ISBN: 0631186379
Out of Print Details

About this book

An account of the changing climate and environment of the last 10 000 years – the Holocene – with particular emphasis on man's role in these changes. Substantially revised for the new edition.

"By comprehensively covering the interaction between the human and natural environment over the last 11 500 years, Neil Roberts has provided a stimulating and entertaining overview of an important topic which will prove useful to the lay-person as well as the experienced geographer. This is a book that is not only technically good, it is also extremely readable. I thoroughly recommend it, not only to those with a special interest in the Quaternary, but to all with a general interest in either natural science or human history."
- James Shulmeister, Victoria University of Wellington

"Neil Roberts' book on the Holocene is already a classic. All the additions and changes of the second edition may be sumarized as positive improvements to what was already an excellent book. Most importantly, the science has been updated without changing its distinctive character. At the same time, the book has been brightened up, which makes it all the more attractive to handle and read. More power to Neil Roberts' already considerable elbow as he takes up the Chair in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth!"
- John Matthews, The Holocene

"Roberts, by background a geographer, has obviously immersed himself in the other disciplines, and he has turned out a wonderful and very up-to-date synthesis of the present state of knowledge about the history of the Holocene. Although this is the second edition. It is in many places a complete rewrite of the original, integrating most of the new discoveries and reinterpretations in this field. One of the surprising pleasures is that the author combines excellent scholarship with a very enjoyable writing style. For those who wish to learn more, the 48-page bibliography is a comprehensive source to the relevant primary literature. Highly recommended to general readers and students and scholars at all levels."
- C. W. Dimmick, Central Connecticut State University

"Here is a book at once erudite and understandable (there is a helpful glossary, a thorough bibliography and an appendix concerning radiocarbon ages), necessary reading for students, and those with an interest in our hapless history."
- Ecology

"As a readable and attractive introduction suitable for non-specialists, illustrated with a good selection of colour photographs and some excellent diagrams and maps, The Holocene should attract a wide readership."
- Danny Yee, University of Sydney

"This text, now as a second edition, is without doubt one of the finest efforts to comprehensively examine the earth's changing surface over the past 15 000 years. Above all what is learned from The Holocene is that change frequently is revolutionary not evolutionary. The 10 000-year perspective provides stimulating and fascinating reading for all environmental professionals."
- Constantine N. Raphael, Eastern Michigan University

"With its global coverage, The Holocene provides an excellent introduction to the late Quaternary. I have used the new edition, and previously the first edition, to launch an upper-level seminar in paleoecology and paleoclimatology. The students enjoy the broad overview that it gives with abundant mention of human activities. With over 900 references of which a third are from the 1990s, the book gives readers a good sense of the vast literature available; and, with further updating from GeoRef and other on-line sources, readers can investigate research topics with a sense of the many issues involved."
- Thompson Webb III, Brown University

"The first edition was comprehensive and well received, and this edition builds on that basis, employing many of these recent advances to refine and expand the picture Roberts painted in the first edition."
- Peter Gell, University of Adelaide

"The attraction of the book lies in its geographical scope and the reader is treated to well illustrated examples from the Near East, North and Meso America, and South East Asia, drawing upon the author's research experience. His enthusiasm for his subject is conveyed in a lucid and lively text and in his catholic interests."
- Scottish Geographical Review


List of Technical Boxes
Preface to the Second Edition

1. Introduction: Sources of Information on Past Environments. Nature and Society. The Significance of the Holocene
2. Reconstructing Holocene Environments: Dating the Past. Historical Dating. Radiometric Dating Methods. Dendrochronology and Radiocarbon Calibration. Other Incremental Dating Methods. Palaeomagnetic Dating. Conclusion. Palaeoecological Techniques. Principles of Pollen Analysis. Pollen, Climate and Human Impact. Plant Macrofossils and Charcoal. Geological Techniques. Stable Isotope Analysis. Geomorphology and Climate. Geo-Archaeology. Models of Environmental Reconstruction
3. The Pleistocene Prelude (>11 500 Cal. yr BP): Ice-Age Environments. The Glacial-Interglacial Cycle. Understanding the Causes of Long-Term Climatic Change. The Last Glacial Maximum and After. The Terminal Pleistocene (16 000 - 11 500 Cal. yr BP). The Late-Glacial in the British Isles. Terminal Pleistocene Climatic Oscillation: Global or Regional? Adjustment of Geomorphic Systems. Human Ecology at the End of the Pleistocene. Megafaunal Extinctions
4. Early Holocene Adaptations (11 500 - 5 000 Cal. yr BP): Changes in the Physical Environment. Ice Sheets and Sea Levels. Human Adaptations to Coastal Environments. Lake Ontogeny and Soil Development. The Return of the Forests. Europe. Eastern North America. Dry Mediterranean Woodland. Tropical Forests. Factors Affecting Forest Re-Advance. The Ecology of Mesolithic Europe. The Early Holocene in the Tropics. Saharan Palaeoecology. Early Holocene Climates: Pattern and Process. Conclusion
5. The First Farmers: Agricultural Origins. Near East. Mesoamerica. China and Southeast Asia. Tropical Domesticates. Independent Innovation or Diffusion? The Role of Environmental Change in Early Agriculture. Case Study: Ain Mallaha Catalhoyuk. Early Agricultural Impacts. European Agricultural Dispersals. Ecological Consequences of Early European Agriculture
6. The Taming of Nature (5 000-500 Cal. yr BP): Introduction. Changes in the Natural Environment. Climate and Vegetation. The Origin and Development of Blanket Mires. Coasts and Rivers. Cultural Evolution. Hydraulic Civilization in Mesopotamia. Environmental Impact in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. Pastoral Nomadism. Expansion at the Periphery. Conquest of the Northlands. The Pacific. Mediterranean Ecosystems. The Making of the Landscape: the British Isles. The Primaeval Forest. Shaugh Moor: a Bronze Age Landscape. The Environmental Impact of Permanent Agricultural Clearance. Conclusion
7. The Impact of Modern Times (500-0 Cal. yr BP): Introduction. Climatic Changes in Historical Times. Land Use History and Soil Erosion. Pollution Histories. Eutrophication: Natural or Cultural? Acidification and Atmospheric Pollution
8. The Environmental Future: A Holocene Perspective: Holocene Environmental Crises. Environmental Conservation and Holocene History

Appendix: Calibration Table for Radiocarbon Ages

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Neil Roberts is Professor at the University of Plymouth. His main research interests are in Holocene environmental change, especially the lake sediment record of climate and human impact in low latitude regions such as East Africa and the Mediterranean. His previous books include The Changing Global Environment (1994) and Ecological Relations in Historical Times (with Robin Butlin, 1995).

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