Amongst those institutions which are currently active, palynologists at the Universities of Aberdeen and Stirling have long-standing research interests within Scotland, whilst the focus at the University of Edinburgh is upon vegetation reconstruction in Neotropical environments. This makes them suitable for assessment using optimising techniques that involve the rapid scanning of pollen residues at low magnification (x100), ©J Schofield." border="0" height="241" src="/sites/default/files/u12/sci_fig008.jpg" title="" width="285" / In the foreseeable future, the main applications of pollen analysis will (and should) be to continue to provide the environmental context from which discussion of the archaeological record may begin.
Studies of modern analogues can help address this, and research into modern pollen-vegetation relationships in the Outer Hebrides (Brayshay 2000) and northwest Scotland (Bunting 2003) have proved useful in furnishing information on treeless landscapes (e.g. Software for simulating landscape scenarios from pollen data is being developed and refined (e.g.
Middleton and Bunting 2004; Bunting and Middleton 2005), and this approach could provide answers to questions often posed about the past vegetation mosaic and land use in the areas immediately surrounding prehistoric monuments and settlements.
Pollen-based studies which consider the impact of people - and their domestic livestock - on past landscapes may now also include the analysis of coprophilous fungal spores, such as Podospora-type (Hd V-368, pictured here), ©J Schofield.
Oldfield (1993, 16) comments that ‘interpreting palaeoecological data is rarely a matter of unambiguous, objective certainty’.
Pollen analysis, or Palynology, is a type of environmental archaeology in which microscopes are used to analyse the range of plant pollens present in archaeological layers: these can tell us what crops, vegetation or ground cover were likely to have been present when a layer was deposited.