Multi-proxy palaeoecological approaches to submerged landscapes: A case study from ‘Doggerland’, in the southern North Sea
Published:January 01, 2017
Benjamin R. Gearey, Emma-J. Hopla, Ian Boomer, David Smith, Peter Marshall, Simon Fitch, Seren Griffiths, David R. Tappin, 2017. "Multi-proxy palaeoecological approaches to submerged landscapes: A case study from ‘Doggerland’, in the southern North Sea", The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History, M. Williams, T. Hill, I. Boomer, I. P. Wilkinson
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This paper focuses on the submerged landscapes of the southern North Sea, an area often referred to as Doggerland, which was inundated as a result of relative sea-level rise at the start of the Holocene. The timing, pattern and process of environmental changes and the implications for prehistoric (Mesolithic) human communities living in this area have long been a subject of debate and discussion. Recent developments in marine geophysics have permitted the mapping of the pre-submergence landscape, leading to the identification of landforms including river channels and other contexts suitable for the preservation of palaeoecological records. The paper describes multi-proxy (pollen, foraminifera, plant macrofossil and insect) palaeoenvironmental analyses of a vibrocore sequence recovered from a palaeochannel feature c. 80 km off the coast of eastern England. The palaeochannel preserves sediments of Late Pleistocene and Holocene age (MIS2/1); the record suggests that channel incision, probably during the early Holocene, was followed by a phase of peat formation (c. 9–10 cal ka BP) indicating paludification and the subsequent reactivation of the channel (c. 9–6 cal ka BP), initially under freshwater and increasingly brackish/saline conditions, and a final transition to full marine conditions (6–5 cal ka BP). The pollen, macrofossil and beetle records indicate the presence of pre-submergence deciduous woodland, but detailed interpretation of the data is hindered by taphonomic complications. The paper concludes with a discussion of the problems and potentials of using palaeoenvironmental data to reconstruct complex patterns of environmental change across Doggerland in four dimensions, and considers specific questions concerning the implications of such processes for Mesolithic human communities.
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The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History
Microfossils are an abundant component of the sedimentary rock record. Their analysis can reveal not only the environments in which the rocks were deposited, but also their age. When combined, the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of microfossils offer enormous utility for archaeological and forensic investigations. Their presence can act as a geological ‘fingerprint’ and the tiniest fragment of material, such as a broken Iron Age potsherd, can contain a microfossil signature that reveals the geographical source of the materials under investigation. This book explores how microfossils are employed as tools to interpret human society and habitation throughout history. Examples include microfossil evidence associated with Palaeolithic human occupation at Boxgrove in Sussex, alongside investigations into human-induced landscape change during the Holocene. Further examples include the use of microfossils to provenance the source materials of Iron Age ceramics, Roman mosaics and Minoan pottery, in addition to their application to help solve modern murder cases, highlighting the diverse applications of microfossils to improving our understanding of human history.