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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses how people in late prehistory worked both dry lands and wetlands. In the pre-modern farming regime before 1700 AD, cultivated, ploughed farmland would have been in the minority, taking up from 10 to 70 per cent of land depending on soil fertility and the farming system. Most land was used for common grazing, including heath land, and also included large tracts of low-lying water meadows and fens for hay production, but also large tracts of bog used for peat cutting. In this system the outfield fed the infield with manure through the grazing of stalled animals, but productivity was low. Thus, the system was based upon an integration of infields and outfields, including wetlands as a productive resource, whose importance increased over time. When this system was established in the Bronze Age, and intensified during the Iron Age, and again during the medieval period, it was the most productive farming regime possible under the technological constraints of the time. However, it ran through three cycles of transformation and improvement: at the transition between Bronze and Iron Age, at the transition between early and late Iron Age, and finally at the transition to the medieval period.

Keywords: wetland use, wetland archaeology, land use, prehistoric societies, Bronze Age, Iron Age, medieval period

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