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Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Artefacts and Other Results from River Gravels at Dunbridge: Important New Discoveries

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This report describes important new findings relating to the sequence and dating of Palaeolithic activity, using the typology of artefacts and their context in Quaternary deposits laid down by the River Test, from a geoarchaeological watching brief at Kimbridge Farm Quarry, Dunbridge. This work involved detailed recording and sampling of pit sections at intervals during the life of the quarry. An addi- tional 198 artefacts, principally hand axes, have supplemented what was already the richest Lower and Middle Palaeolithic (800,000–35,000) assem- blage from Hampshire and helped place it into its geological context. Post-excavation analysis of this material and its context has been funded through English Heritage under the Aggregates Levy Sustain- ability Fund (ALSF), and included digital terrain modelling and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of the terrace deposits. Digital terrain modelling, compiled from borehole logs and recorded sections, has confirmed the three-dimensional form of two gravel terraces: an upper deposit defined as the Belbin Formation, which contained most of the artefacts, and a lower Mottisfont Formation. Most importantly artefacts demonstrating elements of Levallois technology, a sophisticated controlled- core technique, were recovered from the deposits. These discoveries provide the most detailed record of Levallois technology to be identified in the River Test valley. They suggest correlation with the deposits at Warsash, in the lower reaches of the river, from which Levallois material was found in the 1930s. Previ- ously published OSL dating, supplemented by the first results from Dunbridge, has been combined with uplift modelling to suggest dates of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 9 (340–280 ka) and MIS 8 (280–250 ka), respectively, for the two gravels at Dunbridge, which is contemporary with the onset of the Middle Palaeolithic in Britain, as demonstrated in the Thames, particularly at Purfleet. These results have demonstrated that a watching brief, supplemented by scientific dating techniques, can provide a relatively cost-effective method by which important scientific data can be salvaged from commercial quarrying.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2014

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