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The Great Fossil Mine of the southern North Sea: exploring the potential of submerged Palaeolithic archaeology

The Great Fossil Mine of the southern North Sea: exploring the potential of submerged Palaeolithic archaeology
The Great Fossil Mine of the southern North Sea: exploring the potential of submerged Palaeolithic archaeology
This research explores the potential of the submerged Palaeolithic archaeology of the southern North Sea for answering questions about how hominins occupied and adapted within their environments in these northerly latitudes throughout the Pleistocene. Recent coastal discoveries in East Anglia have demonstrated occupation as far back as ~1 million years, and yet our appreciation of the how, why and who of this occupation is missing a crucial piece of its puzzle; excluding these now-submerged landscapes is an active bias on our understanding, truncating the archaeological record.



Having been subjected to repeated glaciations, trans- and regressions, the very processes that led to the terrestrial exposure of these areas have subsequently led to their neglect: the assumption that pre-LGM deposits will have been eroded or re-worked has prevailed. Recent work, however, has demonstrated the inaccuracy of this assumption, with evidence for extant Pleistocene-age deposits, landscape features and archaeology. Unlocking the clear potential of these submerged landscapes now relies on the approaches that we take to their investigation as, to-date, all archaeological finds have been entirely by chance. In order to move beyond this reactive style of archaeology, methodologies must be developed which tackle these areas in a more focused and reasoned way.



The research undertaken throughout this PhD makes steps towards this. Starting from no baseline understanding of the nature of the existing resource, this work located, collated and analysed a prolific collection of 1,019 faunal specimens. Recovered by the 19th and 20th Century UK trawling industry, the development of historical methods has elucidated their locations and conditions of collection. Combining this locational information with species taxonomic evolution, the emergent spatio-temporal patterns provide a fresh understanding of the integrity of the extant deposits and unique opportunities for locating them on the seabed. These results are presented at a range of scales:



• First, a broad-scale understanding of offshore regions across the southern North Sea which have demonstrated a dominance of cold-stage species from MIS 8-MIS 2.

• Secondly, a local scale: linking faunal remains with seabed features in the near shore area off Happisburgh, identifying Early and early Middle Pleistocene assemblages related to exposures of the CFbF.

• Finally, a discrete, high resolution area of seabed off the coast of Clacton has been identified. Through the collection of swath bathymetry, this area has shown the exciting correlation of Pleistocene seabed deposits and faunal remains.



This research presents a significant move towards a proactive approach to these submerged landscapes and represents a step-change in our ability to understand, locate and engage with this undervalued archaeological resource.




University of Southampton
Bynoe, Rachel
21c246e1-0fa1-48ba-acdc-d29cac364027
Bynoe, Rachel
21c246e1-0fa1-48ba-acdc-d29cac364027
Sturt, Fraser
442e14e1-136f-4159-bd8e-b002bf6b95f6
Dix, Justin
efbb0b6e-7dfd-47e1-ae96-92412bd45628
Parfitt, Simon
5206f2e4-d059-4fbf-bd68-efe87b30ecb3

Bynoe, Rachel (2014) The Great Fossil Mine of the southern North Sea: exploring the potential of submerged Palaeolithic archaeology. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 392pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This research explores the potential of the submerged Palaeolithic archaeology of the southern North Sea for answering questions about how hominins occupied and adapted within their environments in these northerly latitudes throughout the Pleistocene. Recent coastal discoveries in East Anglia have demonstrated occupation as far back as ~1 million years, and yet our appreciation of the how, why and who of this occupation is missing a crucial piece of its puzzle; excluding these now-submerged landscapes is an active bias on our understanding, truncating the archaeological record.



Having been subjected to repeated glaciations, trans- and regressions, the very processes that led to the terrestrial exposure of these areas have subsequently led to their neglect: the assumption that pre-LGM deposits will have been eroded or re-worked has prevailed. Recent work, however, has demonstrated the inaccuracy of this assumption, with evidence for extant Pleistocene-age deposits, landscape features and archaeology. Unlocking the clear potential of these submerged landscapes now relies on the approaches that we take to their investigation as, to-date, all archaeological finds have been entirely by chance. In order to move beyond this reactive style of archaeology, methodologies must be developed which tackle these areas in a more focused and reasoned way.



The research undertaken throughout this PhD makes steps towards this. Starting from no baseline understanding of the nature of the existing resource, this work located, collated and analysed a prolific collection of 1,019 faunal specimens. Recovered by the 19th and 20th Century UK trawling industry, the development of historical methods has elucidated their locations and conditions of collection. Combining this locational information with species taxonomic evolution, the emergent spatio-temporal patterns provide a fresh understanding of the integrity of the extant deposits and unique opportunities for locating them on the seabed. These results are presented at a range of scales:



• First, a broad-scale understanding of offshore regions across the southern North Sea which have demonstrated a dominance of cold-stage species from MIS 8-MIS 2.

• Secondly, a local scale: linking faunal remains with seabed features in the near shore area off Happisburgh, identifying Early and early Middle Pleistocene assemblages related to exposures of the CFbF.

• Finally, a discrete, high resolution area of seabed off the coast of Clacton has been identified. Through the collection of swath bathymetry, this area has shown the exciting correlation of Pleistocene seabed deposits and faunal remains.



This research presents a significant move towards a proactive approach to these submerged landscapes and represents a step-change in our ability to understand, locate and engage with this undervalued archaeological resource.




Text
PhD final Bynoe - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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More information

Published date: June 2014
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 366437
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/366437
PURE UUID: 2b9e30f7-626e-4e82-8e05-026c622bb56d

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 15 Jul 2014 09:59
Last modified: 23 May 2019 16:30

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Contributors

Author: Rachel Bynoe
Thesis advisor: Fraser Sturt
Thesis advisor: Justin Dix
Thesis advisor: Simon Parfitt

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