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Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: A chronstratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology

Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: A chronstratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology
Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: A chronstratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology
This paper presents the first systematic chronostratigraphic study of the river terraces of the Exe catchment in South West England and a new conceptual model for terrace formation in unglaciated basins with applicability to terrace staircase sequences elsewhere. The Exe catchment lay beyond the maximum extent of Pleistocene ice sheets and the drainage pattern evolved from the Tertiary to the Middle Pleistocene, by which time the major valley systems were in place and downcutting began to create a staircase of strath terraces. The higher terraces (8-6) typically exhibit altitudinal overlap or appear to be draped over the landscape, whilst the middle terraces show greater altitudinal separation and the lowest terraces are of a cut and fill form. The terrace deposits investigated in this study were deposited in cold phases of the glacial-interglacial Milankovitch climatic cycles with the lowest four being deposited in the Devensian Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 4-2. A new cascade process-response model is proposed of basin terrace evolution in the Exe valley, which emphasises the role of lateral erosion in the creation of strath terraces and the reworking of inherited resistant lithological components down through the staircase. The resultant emergent valley topography and the reworking of artefacts along with gravel clasts, have important implications for the dating of hominin presence and the local landscapes they inhabited. Whilst the terrace chronology suggested here is still not as detailed as that for the Thames or the Solent System it does indicate a Middle Palaeolithic hominin presence in the region, probably prior to the late Wolstonian Complex or MIS 6. This supports existing data from cave sites in South West England.
0277-3791
897-912
Brown, A.G.
c51f9d3e-02b0-47da-a483-41c354e78fab
Basell, L.S.
aa4d5810-d867-4c42-95c8-c54cea30b161
Toms, P.S.
323a4b9c-2e67-4dce-b0fe-f966ada75b99
Bennett, J.A.
98529a75-0f78-49ac-bd34-4a249e0fdd0a
Hosfield, R.T.
79ae1ff0-2e0c-46e3-bf41-e81d06cc927c
Scrivner, R.C.
d9774c70-c6d1-4724-8bce-94ca409591bf
Brown, A.G.
c51f9d3e-02b0-47da-a483-41c354e78fab
Basell, L.S.
aa4d5810-d867-4c42-95c8-c54cea30b161
Toms, P.S.
323a4b9c-2e67-4dce-b0fe-f966ada75b99
Bennett, J.A.
98529a75-0f78-49ac-bd34-4a249e0fdd0a
Hosfield, R.T.
79ae1ff0-2e0c-46e3-bf41-e81d06cc927c
Scrivner, R.C.
d9774c70-c6d1-4724-8bce-94ca409591bf

Brown, A.G., Basell, L.S., Toms, P.S., Bennett, J.A., Hosfield, R.T. and Scrivner, R.C. (2010) Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: A chronstratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29 (7-8), 897-912. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2009.12.007).

Record type: Article

Abstract

This paper presents the first systematic chronostratigraphic study of the river terraces of the Exe catchment in South West England and a new conceptual model for terrace formation in unglaciated basins with applicability to terrace staircase sequences elsewhere. The Exe catchment lay beyond the maximum extent of Pleistocene ice sheets and the drainage pattern evolved from the Tertiary to the Middle Pleistocene, by which time the major valley systems were in place and downcutting began to create a staircase of strath terraces. The higher terraces (8-6) typically exhibit altitudinal overlap or appear to be draped over the landscape, whilst the middle terraces show greater altitudinal separation and the lowest terraces are of a cut and fill form. The terrace deposits investigated in this study were deposited in cold phases of the glacial-interglacial Milankovitch climatic cycles with the lowest four being deposited in the Devensian Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 4-2. A new cascade process-response model is proposed of basin terrace evolution in the Exe valley, which emphasises the role of lateral erosion in the creation of strath terraces and the reworking of inherited resistant lithological components down through the staircase. The resultant emergent valley topography and the reworking of artefacts along with gravel clasts, have important implications for the dating of hominin presence and the local landscapes they inhabited. Whilst the terrace chronology suggested here is still not as detailed as that for the Thames or the Solent System it does indicate a Middle Palaeolithic hominin presence in the region, probably prior to the late Wolstonian Complex or MIS 6. This supports existing data from cave sites in South West England.

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Published date: April 2010
Organisations: Environmental Processes & Change

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 79912
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/79912
ISSN: 0277-3791
PURE UUID: 5ff703b5-b63c-4656-a8b0-3713987e83c5
ORCID for A.G. Brown: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1990-4654

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Date deposited: 22 Mar 2010
Last modified: 07 Aug 2019 00:40

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