Beavers in Britain's Past [Paperback]

Bryony Coles (Author)

ISBN: 9781842172261 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: WARP Occasional Papers | Volume: 19 | Year of Publication: 2006 | Language: English 240p, H277 x W210 (mm) b/w and col illus

Beavers in Britain's Past


Part ecology, part archaeology and part history, Beavers in Britain's Past explores the evidence for Castor fiber , the European beaver from late in the last ice age to the time of its extinction from Britain's native fauna. The first chapters introduce the beaver and its habitats in western Europe, where it is now flourishing. Based on original field survey in Brittany and southeastern France, the characteristic structures and features of three contrasting beaver territories are documented and analysed, with a view to identifying beaver activity in the archaeological record. Beavers are a keystone ecological species, modifying their waterside surroundings to the benefit of many other species, both plant and animal, including humans. The book then focuses on the archaeological and historical record, from the return of beavers after the severe cold of the last glaciation through 13000 years of living alongside humans, to their disappearance from the record. In the light of the field survey results, beaver influence is identified at a number of well-known wetland sites of prehistoric date, while the evidence for human exploitation of beavers becomes increasingly diverse through time. In the post-Roman period it expands to include place-names, carvings and illuminated manuscripts, written records and oral traditions. Analysing the record in the light of the field survey results and increasing knowledge of the behaviour of European beavers, it is argued that beavers vanished from human perception but did not become extinct until the later second millennium AD. Beavers in Britain's Past provides a new perspective on the archaeology and history of Britain and demonstrates the significance of beavers to the environment of Britain.

Table of Contents

Why Beaver?
An Introduction to the European Beaver
Fieldwork in Beaver Territories
Fieldwork Results and the Potential Archaeological Record for Beavers
Human Exploitation of Beaver Resources
Studying Beavers in Britain: Somerset as a case study
From Tundra to Temperate Forest: glacial retreat and the return of the beaver
The Fourth and Third Millennia BC: expanding wetlands, increasing predation?
The Second and First Millennium AD: further diversification
The First Millennium AD: retreat and resurgence?
Beaver Place-Names
The Earlier Second Millennium AD: food for feasting and food for thought
The Later Second Millennium AD: from extinction to re-introduction
Beavers in Britain's past: reflections

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