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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the environmental history of the London region, based on changes in beetle faunal assemblages from the Mesolithic to Late Bronze Age. Eight sites were studied, all but one of which are within 2 km of the modern course of the Thames. The sites produced 128 faunal assemblages that yielded 218 identified species in 41 families of Coleoptera (beetles). Beetle faunas of Mesolithic age indicate extensive wetlands near the Thames, bordered by rich deciduous woodlands. The proportion of woodland species declined in the Neolithic, apparently because of the expansion of wetlands, rather than because of human activities. The Early Bronze Age faunas contained a greater proportion of coniferous woodland and aquatic (standing water) species. An increase in the dung beetle fauna indicates the presence of sheep, cattle and horses, and various beetles associated with crop lands demonstrate the local rise of agriculture, albeit several centuries after the beginnings of farming in other regions of Britain. Late Bronze Age faunas show the continued development of agriculture and animal husbandry along the lower Thames. About 33% of the total identified beetle fauna from the London area sites have limited modern distributions or are extinct in the U.K. Some of these species are associated with the dead wood found in primeval forests; others are wetland species whose habitat has been severely reduced in recent centuries. The third group is stream-dwelling beetles that require clean, clear waters and river bottoms. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.