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FW: Book Review - The Holocene

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  • Ann Popplestone
    ... From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Sunday, March 07, 1999 7:47 AM To: ANTHRO-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU Subject: Book Review - The
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@...]
      Sent: Sunday, March 07, 1999 7:47 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: Book Review - The Holocene

      An HTML version of this book review can be found at
      along with more than 450 other reviews

      title: The Holocene
      : An Environmental History
      by: Neil Roberts
      publisher: Blackwell 1998
      other: 314 pages, 2nd edition, colour photographs, bibliography, index

      As an environmental history of the last twelve thousand years,
      _The Holocene_ is fundamentally inter-disciplinary, situated where
      paleontology, meteorology, geology, ecology, archaeology, history,
      and many other disciplines meet (Roberts himself is a geographer).
      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.
      Rather than trying to be comprehensive, it presents brief overviews of
      selected themes in particular regions (there is a general focus on
      western Europe and Britain).

      Roberts begins with an introduction to relevant scientific techniques,
      especially those for dating. This covers dendrochronology (tree rings)
      and sedimentation layer studies, radiocarbon and other radiometric dating
      systems, palaeoecological methods such as palynology (pollen analysis),
      and geological ones such as isotope analysis and lake level tracking.
      A dozen side-boxes scattered throughout the book cover additional
      technical topics: ice cores, limnology (the study of lakes), erosion
      rates, and mollusc, diatom, and insect analysis, among others.

      A chapter on the late Pleistocene takes us down to 11500 years before the
      present, where Roberts places the beginning of the Holocene. This covers
      Milankovitch and other long-term climatic cycles, processes of forest
      succession, and debates over the extent to which changes in northwest
      Europe reflected global events. It also touches on early human ecology,
      notably human involvement in megafauna extinctions.

      A central event during the first half of the Holocene was the retreat
      of the ice sheets. Roberts looks at some of the consequences of this:
      changing sea levels and climatic patterns, the northward forest
      advance in Eurasia and North America, the creation of new lakes,
      and ecological changes in Europe and the Sahara. A separate chapter
      covers early agriculture: its origins in various areas of the world,
      two more detailed site studies from the Middle East, and its effects on
      the ecology of Europe.

      Moving on to the later Holocene, Roberts looks at the effects of volcanos
      on climate, changes in rivers and coastlines, and the origin of blanket
      mires. But the dominant feature of this period has been increasing human
      influence on and control over nature: the development of large scale
      states, pastoral nomadism, human expansion into the Pacific and the far
      north, Mediterranean ecosystems, and the making of the British landscape.
      A chapter on the last five hundred covers the controversial topics of
      anthropogenic climatic change, land-use and soil erosion, and pollution.
      And the final chapter considers environmental conservation in the light
      of Holocene history.


      %T The Holocene
      %S An Environmental History
      %A Neil Roberts
      %I Blackwell
      %C Oxford
      %D 1998
      %O paperback, 2nd edition, colour photographs, bibliography, index
      %G ISBN 0-631-18638-7
      %P xii,314pp
      %K geography, geology, ecology, agriculture, meteorology

      7 March 1999

      Copyright (c) 1999 Danny Yee (danny@...)

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