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The Palaeolithic Rivers of South-West Britain: Phases I & II

 

SW Palaeolithic Rivers > Project summary


SW Palaeolithic Rivers
== Introduction
=Project Summary
== Module 1
== Module 2
== Module 3
== Module 4
== Module 5
== Module 6
== Module 7
== Current Work
== News & Events
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This research project is funded by English Heritage, through the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), announced in April 2002 and extended in 2004. Further details of the Fund and of other projects can be found at the English Heritage web-site.

This project will synthesise the archaeological evidence for the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupation of south-west Britain (c. 500,000Ė40,000 BP), with a principal focus upon the archaeological and geological potential of the regionís Middle Pleistocene fluvial environments. In assessing the Palaeolithic archaeology associated with the Pleistocene sand and gravel deposits of the river systems in the south-west region, the project will: (i) meet the ALSF criteria and objectives in providing archaeological guidelines for the current and future management and mitigation of sand and gravel aggregates extraction in the region; (ii) provide an up-to-date statement of the known Palaeolithic archaeological materials associated with the regionís fluvial aggregate deposits; and (iii) assess the archaeological and geological potential of the fluvial aggregate deposits.

The Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund has highlighted the critical importance of mitigating both current and future aggregates extraction, and the need for appropriately structured data in achieving that goal. This project will facilitate the mitigation process in the south-west region by providing new sources of accessible data documenting the distributions, extents, types (including degree of disturbance and/or modification) and ages of: (i) the regionís Pleistocene fluvial sand and gravel (aggregates) resources; and (ii) the regionís Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeology associated with those aggregates resources. Data access and interrogation will be facilitated through the existing Historic Environment Records (HERs) and new GIS (Geographical Information Systems) models and databases.

For the purposes of this project, south-west Britain is defined as the region west of the headwaters of the River Frome and River Piddle (tributaries of the now-extinct Solent River system) and south-west of the River Avon. This definition reflects: (i) the relative wealth of Palaeolithic archaeological and Pleistocene geological research associated with the Avon valley and Bristol region and the Solent River, in comparison with the river systems to the south and west, and the resultant need for focused research into the management of the aggregates-based Palaeolithic archaeological / Pleistocene geological resources in the south-west region, as defined here.

The provision of archaeological guidelines meeting the ALSF criteria for the current and future management of the south-west regionís aggregates resources is a critical requirement in light of the presence in the south-west of: (i) small-scale sand and gravel extraction, which in some instances are not even recorded on county minerals plans; (ii) sites at which secondary production of sands and gravels is occurring; and (iii) the destruction of small, former pits through development activity.

An ALSF-funded assessment of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupation of south-west Britain is both important and appropriate at the current time in light of: (i) the paucity of Palaeolithic studies undertaken in the south-west region, particularly during the last twenty years; (ii) the limited understanding of the Palaeolithic archaeology of this marginal region at the north-western fringes of the Acheulean world; (iii) the development of complementary regional studies and national studies of the British Quaternary and Palaeolithic archaeology (The National Ice Age Network, The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Occupation of the Middle and Lower Trent Catchment, and the Medway Valley Palaeolithic Project), creating a dynamic, national research framework to which this project will fully contribute; (iv) recent advances in the understanding of the evolution of the English Channel, particularly with respect to the palaeogeography of the Channel River and its tributaries, and their relevance to the processes of hominid colonisation and movement in the northern France/English Channel Ďlandscapeí/southern Britain region; and (v) recent recognition of the archaeological potential of secondary contexts, and the importance of assessing the fluvial, secondary context component of the south-westís Palaeolithic archaeological record (i.e. assemblages of derived stone tools occurring in fluvial sands and gravels, which at a national level represent 80Ė90% of Britainís known Palaeolithic heritage, alongside its better known cave deposits.

The primary academic goal of the project is the production of a regional synthesis of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeology of south-west Britain. The synthesis will raise the profile of this regionís Palaeolithic archaeological heritage, and support the informed current and future management and mitigation of regional aggregates extraction. The synthesis will be produced as a draft text for publication, pending referees comments. The project will also develop applications in the fields of public outreach and future academic research.

Extant studies of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeology of the south-west region have predominantly emphasised the cave and rock shelter archaeology over the artefact findspots associated with fragmented fluvial landscapes and upland areas. There is therefore a need for an up-to-date assessment of the Palaeolithic archaeological resources associated with fluvial landscapes, including: (i) well documented material (e.g. referred to in the major recent literature), where categories of information (e.g. artefact typology data) are missing or incomplete; (ii) the Ďinvisibleí resource, held in local museums and collections, but not recorded in the recent major syntheses; and, critically, (iii) the potential for future discoveries and/or the destruction of undocumented archaeology, as a result of small-scale sand and gravel extraction, the secondary production of sand and gravel, and the destruction of former pits through development. The resulting data sets will provide an up-to-date assessment of the archaeological resource and therefore support management of the aggregates resource and its archaeological component in the south-west region. These data will also support future, integrated explorations of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic landscapes of this region, combining evidence for upland and lowland environments, and cave and open-air site behaviours. This project also aims to enhance current levels of academic knowledge and awareness with respect to:

1) The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeological findspots associated with the Middle Pleistocene fluvial landscapes of the south-west region.

2) The Middle Pleistocene fluvial landscapes of the south-west, with respect to: (i) the age of the deposits; (ii) models of terrace formation and sediment preservation; and (iii) the formation and modification of secondary context assemblages within fluvial deposits.

3) The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupation of the south-west region, with respect to: (i) the archaeology of fluvial landscapes; and (ii) models of colonisation, emphasising different routes of access into, and out of, the south-west region.

The project will collaborate closely with both new and existing ALSF-funded projects. New projects include The National Ice Age Network, the Medway Valley Palaeolithic Project, and The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Occupation of the Middle and Lower Trent Catchment. Previous projects include the Palaeolithic Archaeology of the Sussex/Hampshire Coastal Corridor and The Archaeological Potential of Secondary Contexts. These collaborations will particularly stress: (i) the development of compatible methodological approaches (e.g. with regard to artefact recording and geological mapping); (ii) the dissemination of project results and the development of outreach components (e.g. the production of information leaflets); (iii) the development of GIS resources (with particular emphasis upon data types, standards and import/export issues); and (iv) the enhancement of HER resources and the National HER forum. These collaborations will ensure data sharing and resource savings as appropriate, and avoid unnecessary data duplication. In this regard, data from this project and the National Ice Age Networks project will be fed into the south-west regionís HERs through The Palaeolithic Rivers of South-West Britain project.

The project is proposed as a three phase project, divided into three, self-contained, phases. Each phase will successively build upon the results of the previous phases.

Within the south-west region, field studies will be focused upon a series of river valley systems. Intensive investigations will be undertaken in the River Axe valley (phase two of the project), and extensive investigations will be undertaken in a sample of two, key river valley systems within the south-west region (also during phase two of the project). These two river valley systems will be identified during phase one of the project, as a result of desktop analyses of appropriate geological data and records.

Project aims
Project objectives
Project methods
Project design references
Project conclusions
Project outputs

Timetable
The project aims and objectives are structured into three phases, summarised below.

Phase 1. Desktop assessment of past/current/future aggregates extraction sites; desktop assessment of the geoarchaeological potential and geology of the south-west regionís river valley systems; collation of the extant Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeological records; visual assessment of the extant Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeological stone tool assemblages; identification of two key river valley systems for focused fieldwork enquiry in phase 2; enhancement of the county HERs and development of GIS model resources; project dissemination through workshops and web-site resources. Completion date: 20/08/05.

Phase 2. Fieldwork evaluation (mapping and sampling) of the 2 key river valley systems identified in phase 1; involvement of school groups and local archaeological/historical societies in fieldwork projects; enhancement of the county HERs and development of GIS model resources; project dissemination through mobile information and museum resources, local media, seminars and workshops, and web-site resources.

Phase 3. Analysis of fieldwork data; modelling of archaeological assemblage formation processes; synthesis of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeology and hominid occupation of the south-west Britain region; enhancement of the county HERs and development of GIS model resources; project dissemination through mobile information and museum resources, local media, conferences, seminars and workshops, and web-site resources; production of the final project report; submission of academic papers to appropriate national and international journals.

 

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