Stratigraphically precise AMS-radiocarbon-dated plant remains, pollen, charcoal, and microtephra analyses from the Faroe Islands were used to establish the timing and effects of the first human settlement. The first occurrence of cultivated crops from three locations dated from as early as the sixth century A.D. and was older than implied from previous archaeological and historical studies, but consistent with earlier palaeoecological investigations. The effects of settlement on the vegetation were rapid and widespread. The transformation of the flora of this fragile ecosystem was best expressed by the large assemblage of ruderal, postsettlement plants recorded as macrofossils. The earliest known introduction of domestic animals (sheep/goat) was ca. A.D. 700. Their arrival on these relatively small islands probably contributed to the widespread change in vegetation and the loss of restricted native woody cover. Settlement was the critical disturbance that transformed an ecosystem that was already stressed by climatic change, as sensed by regional marine sediments. The settlement dates conform to a pattern of older dates developing from throughout the north Atlantic region.
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