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Chronology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in the sub-tidal zone: a case study from Hinkley Point

Chronology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in the sub-tidal zone: a case study from Hinkley Point
Chronology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in the sub-tidal zone: a case study from Hinkley Point
Evidence from the Severn Estuary demonstrates that this region was exploited by Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fishers (Bell 2007). The potential for future archaeological discoveries (Bell 2007; Webster 2007, 273; Bell and Warren 2013, 39), and the well-preserved palaeoenvironmental evidence in the fine-grained and organic sediments of the Somerset, Avon and Gwent Levels (Hosfield et al., 2007a, 40) makes the area of importance for archaeological study. Small quantities of worked flint have been recovered from the foreshore around Stolford, Porlock and Minehead Bay (Mullin et al., 2009; Canti et al., 1995) implying human activity in the present intertidal zone, which is further enhanced by the suggestion of possible deliberate burning of reed swamps (Jones et al., 2005) similar to that postulated in the Severn Estuary (Brown 2005; Timpany 2005; Bell 2007).

While considerable research has been carried out within terrestrial and intertidal contexts, remarkably little archaeological work has been undertaken below the mean low water mark (Webster 2007, 273). The Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary has seen considerable change in sea-level since the Last Glacial Maximum (Long et al., 2002; Philips and Crips 2010). Extending our knowledge beyond the intertidal zone is therefore of key importance for understanding the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic palaeogeography of the region (Hosfield et al., 2007b).

Developments in the recovery of offshore Holocene peat and sediment sequences now permit the production of multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental datasets and landscape reconstructions from submerged sample sites. This paper uses evidence from three cores, recovered from submarine peat deposits at Hinkley Point, Bristol Channel, UK, to explore the issues and challenges associated with producing radiocarbon chronologies from deeply submerged peat sequences within a marine environment. We emphasise the importance of analysis of multiple sequences to construct robust chronologies for local hydrological change and landscape reconstruction (Edwards 2006). The need for local evidence is critical if we are to move beyond generalised and potentially misleading models of human-environment interaction (Scaife 2011), because as this case study demonstrates, complex processes and landscape variability might have been features of even highly-localised palaeoenvironments.
marine, peat, radiocarbon, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, bayesian
0305-4403
237-253
Griffiths, Seren
fdec5dc5-11b7-44f1-8f9f-ad61b378e751
Sturt, Fraser
442e14e1-136f-4159-bd8e-b002bf6b95f6
Dix, Justin K.
efbb0b6e-7dfd-47e1-ae96-92412bd45628
Gearey, Benjamin
13a5eaf5-26fb-41cf-bcae-ade399021ad2
Grant, Michael J.
56dae074-d54a-4da8-858a-2bf364a5a550
Griffiths, Seren
fdec5dc5-11b7-44f1-8f9f-ad61b378e751
Sturt, Fraser
442e14e1-136f-4159-bd8e-b002bf6b95f6
Dix, Justin K.
efbb0b6e-7dfd-47e1-ae96-92412bd45628
Gearey, Benjamin
13a5eaf5-26fb-41cf-bcae-ade399021ad2
Grant, Michael J.
56dae074-d54a-4da8-858a-2bf364a5a550

Griffiths, Seren, Sturt, Fraser, Dix, Justin K., Gearey, Benjamin and Grant, Michael J. (2015) Chronology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in the sub-tidal zone: a case study from Hinkley Point. Journal of Archaeological Science, 54, 237-253. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.12.008).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Evidence from the Severn Estuary demonstrates that this region was exploited by Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fishers (Bell 2007). The potential for future archaeological discoveries (Bell 2007; Webster 2007, 273; Bell and Warren 2013, 39), and the well-preserved palaeoenvironmental evidence in the fine-grained and organic sediments of the Somerset, Avon and Gwent Levels (Hosfield et al., 2007a, 40) makes the area of importance for archaeological study. Small quantities of worked flint have been recovered from the foreshore around Stolford, Porlock and Minehead Bay (Mullin et al., 2009; Canti et al., 1995) implying human activity in the present intertidal zone, which is further enhanced by the suggestion of possible deliberate burning of reed swamps (Jones et al., 2005) similar to that postulated in the Severn Estuary (Brown 2005; Timpany 2005; Bell 2007).

While considerable research has been carried out within terrestrial and intertidal contexts, remarkably little archaeological work has been undertaken below the mean low water mark (Webster 2007, 273). The Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary has seen considerable change in sea-level since the Last Glacial Maximum (Long et al., 2002; Philips and Crips 2010). Extending our knowledge beyond the intertidal zone is therefore of key importance for understanding the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic palaeogeography of the region (Hosfield et al., 2007b).

Developments in the recovery of offshore Holocene peat and sediment sequences now permit the production of multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental datasets and landscape reconstructions from submerged sample sites. This paper uses evidence from three cores, recovered from submarine peat deposits at Hinkley Point, Bristol Channel, UK, to explore the issues and challenges associated with producing radiocarbon chronologies from deeply submerged peat sequences within a marine environment. We emphasise the importance of analysis of multiple sequences to construct robust chronologies for local hydrological change and landscape reconstruction (Edwards 2006). The need for local evidence is critical if we are to move beyond generalised and potentially misleading models of human-environment interaction (Scaife 2011), because as this case study demonstrates, complex processes and landscape variability might have been features of even highly-localised palaeoenvironments.

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e-pub ahead of print date: 18 December 2014
Published date: February 2015
Keywords: marine, peat, radiocarbon, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, bayesian
Organisations: Geology & Geophysics, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 372907
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/372907
ISSN: 0305-4403
PURE UUID: 71ff3958-063a-4208-9365-3fbd3d2317d9
ORCID for Michael J. Grant: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4766-6913

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Date deposited: 22 Dec 2014 17:08
Last modified: 17 Jul 2019 00:36

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