This is a continuation of the previewable portion of "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" by Prieto-Martinez and Salanova.
|Burning the Brushwood (Eero Järnefelt, 1893)|
Nevertheless, these authors see a fairly dramatic acceleration of soil erosion and clear evidence of slash and burn indicators in the soil. The Beaker Period marks an intense increase in land use (in this area) for agricultural activities.* It's during this time that many rock surfaces at high elevations became exposed, creating the canvass of Bronze Age rock art.
We already know from multiple isotopic studies that Beakerfolk had a diet rich in meats and dairy. Aside from diet, loom weights suggest that much of their clothing was made of wool, so it follows that more pasture would have been required.
In addition to needing more room for animals, some crops like barley might have needed sandier soil at a higher and cooler elevation. During the Beaker period many places experienced a cooler and wetter trend and this may have partly caused the shifting of preference between the varieties of barley and wheat grown, or maybe even where they were grown.
One thing that has been common in the United States is to use goats to clear lush underbrush in a deciduous landscape. It'd be interesting to know if there was a relationship between the goat population and deforestation/defoliation during the Beaker period.
* I seem to recall in other areas of Europe, older fields are no longer maintained. I'm not sure how the population size is estimated (concerning the population crash of the Late Neolithic), however erosion and drainage may have required seeking out previously unused land.