[…] Chapter 4 focuses upon the human exploitation of beaver resources or beaver modified landscapes. Here it is evident that beavers were not just a potential source of food or fur but also that their territories could in addition have provided human populations with readily available kindling, firewood, ‘coppice’ poles and ponds stocked with fish and waterfowl. Dams could also have been used as ‘natural’ crossing points. An interesting observation is that beaver ‘canals’ just might have inspired later human engineering works on floodplains.
Chapters 5 to 12 look at the possible archaeological evidence of beaver activity in the British Isles over the last 15 000 years. Using the modern structures and plans as a guide, the case for features at sites such as at Thatcham (Mesolithic) and West Cotton (Neolithic) being possible beaver structures is carefully and fully explored. It is apparent that from the Neolithic to the Iron Age the evidence for beaver shifts away from beaver ‘structures’ and toward beaver remains, particularly their striking incisors, as tools or ornamentation. Throughout the possibility that archaeological excavation might have created a bias is fully acknowledged.
Can it be that the Romans weren't interested in beaver?
Interestingly evidence for beaver is scant during the Roman period. The possibility is raised that this may actually be due to the relative invisibility of beaver at that time, rather than actual decline. As is also discussed elsewhere in the volume beaver are adaptive, and will only build lodges and dams when stream or river conditions require deepening of water. […]
Beavers in Britain’s Past by Bryony Coles (WARP Occasional Paper 19). x+242 pages, 158 illustrations. 2006. Oxford: Oxbow; 978-1-84217-2261
reviewed at: http://antiquity.ac.uk/reviews/davies.html