Regional Review of Geoarchaeology in the Southern Region: Colluvium

Author(s): Keith Wilkinson

Colluvium is the sedimentary product that results from Newtonian transport of weathered soil, sediment and rock. If small-scale archaeological features such as pits, ditches and post holes are excluded, colluvial sediments in southern England are most commonly found within dry valleys and solution features such as dolines, and behind lynchets and other field boundaries. The first two of these have been investigated by physical geographers and all three have been studied by archaeologists since the 1960s. Although dry valley colluvium was originally interpreted as a sediment resulting from supposedly adverse climates of the Middle and Late Holocene (e.g. Sparks and Lewis 1957), the consensus since 1980 is that such deposits are the result of human manipulation of the landscape (e.g. Bell 1982). Consequently there is a strong link between the human past and the colluvial stratigraphic record. Previous reviews commissioned by English Heritage (i.e. Bell et al 1984; Macphail 1987) have examined archaeological studies of colluvium that were published before 1982. The present text reviews archaeological and physical geographic work undertaken in southern England since that date. However, in addition to simply reviewing the literature relating to sites where colluvial stratigraphy has been investigated, this document also discusses the sedimentary properties of colluvium, formation and modification processes that impact the colluvial record and the biological proxies that are commonly associated with colluvial sequences. The final section provides a chronological summary of patterns of colluvial deposition within dry valleys in southern England for the Middle and Late Holocene.

Report Number:
Research Department Reports
Environmental Studies Geoarchaeology Radiocarbon Dating Soil/Sediment


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