The geoarchaeology of Paleolithic rivers of southwest Britain

Laura S. Basell, Antony G. Brown, Robert T. Hosfield, Phillip S. Toms

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In Britain, the majority of Lower and Middle Paleolithic archaeological finds come from river terrace deposits. The impressive “staircase” terrace sequences of southeast England, and research facilitated by aggregate extraction have provided a considerable body of knowledge about the terrace chronology and associated archaeology in that area. Such research has been essential in considering rates of uplift, climatic cycles, archaeological chronologies, and the landscapes in which hominins lived. It has also promoted the view that southeast England was a major hominin route into Britain. By contrast, the terrace deposits of the southwest have been little studied. The Palaeolithic Rivers of South West Britain (PRoSWEB) project employed a range of geoarchaeological methodologies to address similar questions at different scales, focusing on the rivers Exe, Axe, Otter, and the paleo-Doniford, all of which were located south of the maximum Pleistocene glacial limit (marine oxygen isotope stage [MIS] 4–2). Preliminary analysis of the fieldwork results suggests that although the evolution of these catchments is complex, most conform to a standard staircase-type model, with the exception of the Axe, and, to a lesser extent, the paleo-Doniford, which are anomalous. Although the terrace deposits are less extensive than in southeast Britain, differentiation between terraces does exist, and new dates show that some of these terraces are of great antiquity (MIS 10+). The project also reexamined the distribution of artifacts in the region and confirms the distributional bias to the river valleys, and particularly the rivers draining southward to the paleo–Channel River system. This distribution is consistent with a model of periodic occupation of the British peninsula along and up the major river valleys from the paleo–Channel River corridor. These data have a direct impact on our understanding of the paleolandscapes of the southwest region, and therefore our interpretations of the Paleolithic occupation of the edge of the continental landmass.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-36
    Number of pages14
    JournalGeological Society of America Special Papers
    Volume476
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Fingerprint

    Dive into the research topics of 'The geoarchaeology of Paleolithic rivers of southwest Britain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this