chapter  6
38 Pages

Towards a Wider World

The remarkably stable prehistoric communities established in the second millennium were increasingly subject to change after 1000 b c . The upland settlements were progressively abandoned and the material record in general alters markedly, becoming in several respects poorer than that of the preceding thousand years. Since the Neolithic, the economic progress of south-western communities had been steady. Now came interruption, probably recession, certainly change. Why this should have occurred is matter for debate. Climatic deterioration after 1000, reaching a peak about 600-500, could have had serious effects on the upland settlements in particular. Variation of a few degrees in temperature or a modest increase in rainfall, or both, is likely to have reduced drastically the quality and extent of grassland on the higher ground. The increase of peat-growth in some areas well before 1000 has already been noted (above, p. 125). The relatively high population density may further have led to over-grazing on the hills, leading in turn to gradual depopulation or displacement. In consequence, more intensive exploitation of the lowland areas may have ensued, one eventual result being perhaps the emergence of a new range of enclosed settlements in most parts of the region (below, p. 157). What does seem clear is that the late Bronze Age in the peninsula did not see the same degree of material advance registered elsewhere in southern England. The artifact record is rather limited and it reveals little that is truly innovatory.