View of long section within excavation trench
Section showing the important late Middle Pleistocene Temperate Bed deposits at Baker's Hole, Kent. © Historic England: Photo by J Last
Section showing the important late Middle Pleistocene Temperate Bed deposits at Baker's Hole, Kent. © Historic England: Photo by J Last

Mapping Palaeolithic Potential

Most Palaeolithic sites are encountered by chance during quarrying, large-scale development or coastal erosion. Improving their protection primarily involves developing better understanding of the location and character of potentially artefact-bearing deposits. This allows resources for evaluation and monitoring to be focused on areas of high potential and threat.

The Palaeolithic Archaeological Potential of Pleistocene Deposits in England

This project, funded by and in collaboration with Historic England, aims to enhance the resources available to planning authorities in their consideration of the Palaeolithic period by the provision easily accessible assessments of the archaeological potential of all Pleistocene geological layers in England via an online Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tool for curators. More information can be found at the University of Winchester website.

Coastal Exposures Project

The cliffs of the East Anglian coast, especially around Happisburgh in Norfolk, preserve a unique record of sediments. Some of these, known as the Cromer Forest-Bed, have produced flint artefacts that document the earliest known occupation of northern Europe.

This internationally important resource is both complex and fragile, located on one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Britain and spanning terrestrial, intertidal and marine contexts. In order to manage it effectively we need better understanding of the potential of the deposits and of the threats posed by the coastal environment.

A consortium led by the British Museum is using coring, geophysical survey and diving to map and model deposits across the present intertidal zone, as well developing a finds reporting network to ensure that discoveries made on beaches are recorded appropriately.

Find out more about the work at Happisburgh from the Cromer Forest-Bed Fossil Project website.

The Lower Palaeolithic in the East Midlands

Deposits associated with the lost river Bytham were encountered during quarrying at Brooksby, Leicestershire. Archaeologists recognised they might contain remains associated with the earliest humans in Britain.

A team led by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) investigated the channel using the geophysical survey technique of Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), followed up by borehole sampling. The work provided important information on the character and date of the channel. Further information can be accessed at the Archaeology Data Service archives.

Stour Basin Palaeolithic Project

The Stour Basin in north-east Kent is an area under high development pressure. It contains a rich Palaeolithic resource which has not been investigated in detail but may include exceptionally early evidence as well as nationally rare remains associated with Neanderthal occupation during the last Ice Age.

The project, which has been carried out by Kent County Council, aims to help local curators respond to development proposals by:

  • Enhancing the Historic Environment Record with a GIS layer which identifies areas of different character
  • Producing a predictive model which will identify areas of high potential, and an improved dating framework for key geological deposits
  • Investigating sub-surface deposits using a combination of techniques, including test pits and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)