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Whilst many archaeological features are important in their own right, their value or interpretation may be enhanced when looking at them and their setting within the wider landscape. Many archaeological sites/features are directly related to adjacent archaeological evidence, or natural features such as rivers. For example, areas of woodland may contain indicators of past woodland management (such as pollarded veteran trees), but also contain a Roman farmstead, suggesting that whilst the woodland may be of considerable age, it post-dates the farmstead which would have been in a more open setting. This argument could be strengthened by the remains of other nearby farmsteads located in surrounding agricultural fields. Thus looking not just at a single feature, but at the wider landscape with a holistic approach can tell you more about the feature in question and itsrole in the landscape, but also the history and evolution of the surrounding environment. In addition to using archaeological features to understand a past landscape, techniques such as geoarchaeology and environmental archaeology can also be employed.
One exampleusing palynology (pollen analysis) is the woodland history of Glen Affric. The Forestry Commission (jointly with the University of Stirling) is funding a PhD study into the woodland history of Glen Affric National Nature Reserve using palynology. Pollen grains are surprisingly tough microscopic particles that can often be identified to an individual plant species. When preserved in a sediment sequence, they can provide snapshots of past floral diversity. Analysing a range of sediment samples from different areas and depths allows the changes in floral diversity to be plotted over time. Obtaining a better understanding of past floral diversity will help current management planning for the restoration of native woodland in Glen Affric forest.
Other examples of Historic Environment projects with Forestry Commission involvement include:
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