Regional Review of Environmental Archaeology in the Southern Region: Molluscs

Author(s): Keith Wilkinson

Analysis of sub-fossil Mollusca has been a standard component of the investigation of prehistoric sites on chalk and limestone geologies since the late-1960s, but a rather less common on later sites or on different geological substrates. The approaches and methodologies used were developed and published by Evans (1972). However, the origins of Evans’ methods lie in work undertaken within Quaternary geology. Indeed some of the most important molluscan studies have been of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites, while Mollusca have also proven to be of use for relatively dating Middle Pleistocene sites either by biostratigraphic approaches or amino acid epimerisation. Molluscan studies on prehistoric sites in the Wessex and South Downs demonstrate that the earliest Neolithic monuments were built in forest clearings, but that most later structures were constructed on land that had been used for either arable or pastoral purposes. Studies have has also been undertaken in off-site locations in order to address archaeological questions. The data demonstrate that Neolithic palaeosols formed in forested or long grassland environments, but that shells from the colluvial fills that developed from the Bronze Age onwards attest to arable environments that were found on the valley sides. The few molluscan studies carried out of historic period sites suggest relatively open landcapes, but that arable was not ubiquitous. There have been relatively few studies of marine Mollusca in the southern region. However, two middens have been studied, while marine Mollusca have been recovered from a number of Romano-British sites and later sites.

Report Number:
Research Department Reports
Environmental Studies Mollusca Prehistoric Research Strategy


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