Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) in Britain: a multi-proxy approach to determine its origins and cultural significance

Jarman, Rob ORCID: 0000-0002-3560-1266 (2019) Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) in Britain: a multi-proxy approach to determine its origins and cultural significance. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa has been regarded as a Roman archaeophyte in Britain since the eighteenth-century AD. This research re-examined that thesis, collecting new evidence from genetic, dendrochronological, archaeological and historical analyses, using archived specimens, published reports, peer review and novel fieldwork. The main research and original fieldwork focused on England and Wales, within a British, Irish and continental European context. Sweet chestnut landscapes were identified as ancient inclosures, ancient coppice woods, historic boundaries, historic gardens, historic deer parks and designed parklands, historic formal avenues, and more recent high forest and production coppice. Genetic analysis determined that the oldest British sweet chestnut trees/stools derived from parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania. Some of these sources were refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum for sweet chestnut and other nut-bearing trees (oak, hazel, beech). Innovative clonal analysis verified individual tree and stool antiquity for the first time. Modern (post-AD 1800) trees and coppice in Britain were genetically differentiated from ancient trees and coppice; historic garden trees (from the 12th.–13th. centuries AD) originated in N Portugal and N Spain; and Welsh sites differentiated from Irish and English sites. Dendrochronological analysis discovered that sweet chestnut tree ring series replicate oak reference chronologies, so archaeological specimens of sweet chestnut wood can now be precisely dated. Several iconic ancient trees were dated accurately for the first time, the oldest from AD 1640. Archived specimens purported as ‘Roman’ ‘sweet chestnut’ were re-examined and rejected as neither. No pre-AD 650 sweet chestnut finds could be verified as grown in Britain. The earliest written record of sweet chestnut growing in Britain was from AD 1113. Other 12th. century AD records evinced nut growing and coppicing: these sites pre-date their written record, possibly by several centuries. Overall, no evidence was found for the ‘Roman introduction’ thesis. Further research should focus on finding sweet chestnut pollen and wood specimens amenable to dating.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Chambers, Frankfchambers@glos.ac.ukhttps://www.glos.ac.uk/staff/profile/frank-chambers/
Webb, Juliajwebb@glos.ac.ukhttps://www.glos.ac.uk/staff/profile/julia-webb/
Additional Information: PhD by publication. Related publications that were removed from the thesis for copyright reasons can be accessed via related records links below (subject to publisher's embargoes).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sweet chestnut; Castanea sativa; Woodland; Britain; PhD by publication
Related records:
Subjects: S Agriculture > SD Forestry
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2019 10:08
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2023 15:02
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/7484

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