Cover image for The Holocene : an environmental history
The Holocene : an environmental history
Roberts, Neil, 1953-
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers, 1998.
Physical Description:
xii, 316 pages : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 26 cm
Reconstructing holocene environments -- The Pleistocene prelude (>11 500 cal. yr. BP) -- Early holocene adaptations (11 500-5000 cal. yr BP) -- The first farmers -- The taming of nature (5000-500 cal. yr BP) -- The impact of modern times (500-0 cal. yr. BP) -- The environmental future: a holocene perspective -- Calibration table for radiocarbon ages

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GF13 .R6 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In its first edition, The Holocene provided undergraduates with a much-needed coherent scientific account of the great transformation of nature that had taken place during the Holocene, the last 10,000 years in the history of the planet and the period in which we are all now living. This period has included major shifts in climate and human culture, and in the natural environment at every level.

Completely revised and updated to take full account of the most recent advances, the new edition of this established text includes substantial material on scientific progress in the understanding of climate change and abrupt climatic events, of disturbance effects on the landscape, and of ice core records. Not only have improved dating methods, such as luminescence, been included but the timescale for the book has been moved to calendar (i.e. real) years. Coverage and supporting case study material have also been broadened and extended.

Author Notes

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 (Blackwell Publishers, 1994) and Ecological Relations in Historical Times (with Robin Butlin, Blackwell Publishers, 1995).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A superb overview, with gratifying professional detail, of environmental, climatic, and human changes over the last 10,000 years. After an introduction to dating techniques and methods of vegetation and climatic reconstruction, Roberts presents six self-contained but interrelated chapters. "The Pleistocene Prelude" sets the stage by outlining Last Ice Age boundary conditions. "Early Holocene Adaptations" covers environmental change from 10,000 to 5,000 years BP (before the present). "The First Farmers" discusses the impacts of social conversions from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture. "The Taming of Nature (5,000-500 yr. B.P.)" details cultural evolution, with emphasis on the landscapes of the Mediterranean and British Isles. "The Impact of Modern Times (500-0 yr B.P.)" links climatic change, the Industrial Revolution, present pollution, and soil erosion. The last chapter discusses environmental crisis and the future. The book is well written, splendidly illustrated, and has a good bibliography and index-glossary. Roberts displays an excellent command of a wide interdisciplinary field tied to a sound geographical perspective. The book is of special value for upper-division and graduate students and the informed general reader. J. D. Ives University of California, Davis

Table of Contents

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
Palaeoecological Techniques
Principles of Pollen Analysis
Pollen, Climate and Human Impact
Plant Macrofossils and Charcoal
Geological Techniques
Stable Isotope Analysis
Geomorphology and Climate
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 (16,000-11,5000 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 (11,500-5000 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
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
5 The First Farmers:.Agricultural Origins
Near East
China and Southeast Asia
Tropical Domesticates
Independent Innovation or Diffusion?
The Role of Environmental Change in Early Agriculture
Case Study: Ain Mallaha Catalh?y8k
Early Agricultural Impacts
European Agricultural Dispersals
Ecological Consequences of Early European Agriculture
6 The Taming of Nature (5000-500 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
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