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Multi-proxy palaeoecological approaches to submerged landscapes: A case study from ‘Doggerland’, in the southern North Sea

By
Benjamin R. Gearey
Benjamin R. Gearey
Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Connolly Building, Dyke Parade, Cork City, Ireland
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Emma-J. Hopla
Emma-J. Hopla
Atkins, AXIS, Birmingham B1 1TF, UK
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Ian Boomer
Ian Boomer
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
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David Smith
David Smith
Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
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Peter Marshall
Peter Marshall
Historic England, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138–142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST, UK
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Simon Fitch
Simon Fitch
School of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, Richmond Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD7 1DP, UK
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Seren Griffiths
Seren Griffiths
Archaeology, School of Forensic and Applied Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, UK
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David R. Tappin
David R. Tappin
British Geological Survey, Kingsley Durham Centre, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
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Published:
January 01, 2017

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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Contents

The Micropalaeontological Society, Special Publications

The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History

M. Williams
M. Williams
University of Leicester, UK
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T. Hill
T. Hill
The Natural History Museum, UK
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I. Boomer
I. Boomer
University of Birmingham, UK
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I. P. Wilkinson
I. P. Wilkinson
British Geological Survey, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
7
ISBN electronic:
9781786203069
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

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