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Abstract

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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