Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society


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The Survey and Excavation of a Bronze Age Timber Circle at Holme-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, 1998–9
by Mark Brennand & Maisie Taylor

In 1998 a circle of timber posts within the intertidal zone on the north Norfolk coast was brought to the attention of the Norfolk County Council Archaeological Service. A subsequent programme of archaeological recording and dating revealed that the structure was constructed in the spring or early summer of 2049 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Because of the perceived threat of damage and erosion from the sea a rescue excavation was undertaken during the summer months of 1999. The structure was entirely excavated, involving the removal of the timbers and a programme of stratigraphic recording and environmental analysis. A survey was also undertaken within the environs of the site which has identified further timber structures dating from the Bronze Age. Detailed examination of the timber from the circle has produced a wealth of unexpected information which has added greatly to our understanding of Early Bronze Age woodworking, organisation of labour and the layout and construction of timber ritual monuments.

Beyond Star Carr: The Vale of Pickering in the 10th Millennium BP
by Chantal Conneller & Tim Schadla-Hall

For the last 50 years the site of Star Carr has retained a role of considerable importance within Mesolithic studies. Recent archaeological and palaeoenvironmental survey of the Vale of Pickering (Schadla-Hall 1987; 1988; 1989; Lane & Schadla-Hall forthcoming) permits an understanding of the regional context of Star Carr and indicates the site itself now needs to be re-evaluated. This paper will focus on the lithic evidence recovered during the recent excavations and field survey in order to explore the nature of peoples’ engagement with the landscape of the Vale of Pickering during the Early Mesolithic.

A Cup-marked Stone from Dan-y-garn, Mynachlog-Ddu, Pembrokeshire, and the Prehistoric Rock-art from Wales
by Timothy Darvill & Geoffrey Wainwright

A small panel of mobiliary rock art containing two cup-mark motifs discovered in north Pembrokeshire in August 2002 is described and compared with other finds of rock art from Wales. Although the sites with passage-grave style rock art in north Wales are well-known, the more widespread yet less impressive cup-mark dominated panels found mainly around the upland fringes of the country have received relatively little attention. A provisional corpus of 33 rock-art sites comprising more than 37 panels is provided.

An Early Mesolithic Seasonal Hunting Site in the Kennet Valley, Southern England
by C.J. Ellis, Michael J. Allen, Julie Gardiner, Phil Harding, Claire Ingrem, Adrienne Powell & Robert G. Scaife

A small-scale exacavation, undertaken in advance of building works at Faraday Road, Newbury, Berkshire, encountered an apparently intact Early Mesolithic layer containing abundant worked flint directly associated with animal bones. The site lay on the floodplain of the River Kennet in an area already well-known for Mesolithic remains and certainly represents an extension of the site found at nearby Greenham Dairy Farm in 1963. The flint asemblage was dominated by obliquely-blunted microlithic forms accompanied by a restricted range of other items. The animal bones were, unusually, dominated by wild pig with clear evidence of both primary butchery and food waste. Spatial analysis of the bone and flint assemblages indicated discrete activity areas, possibly associated with hearths. Both pollen and molluscan data were recovered which, together with the results of soil micromorphological examination, confirmed an Early Holocene date for the formation of the Mesolithic layer. Radiocarbon dates place the site in the late 10th–early 9th millennium BP. The paper re-examines the nature of known Early Mesolithic activity in this part of the Kennet valley, with particular reference to the specific environmental conditions that seem to have prevailed. It is concluded that the Faraday Road site represents one part of a continuum of Early Mesolithic occupation that stretches along a considerable length of the floodplain, with each focus of activity witnessing repeated, but intermittent, occupation spanning a period of more than a millennium.

Archaeological and Palaeo-environmental Investigations of the Upper Allen Valley, Cranborne Chase, Dorset (1998–2000): a New Model of Earlier Holocene Landscape Development
by Charles French, Helen Lewis, Michael J. Allen, Robert G. Scaife & Martin Green

A combination of on- and off-site palaeo-environmental and archaeological investigations of the upper Allen valley of Dorset conducted in 1998–2000 has begun to reveal a different model of landscape development than those previously put forward. A combination of off-site geoarchaeological and aerial photographic survey and palynological analyses of two relict palaeochannel systems, and sample investigations of four Bronze Age round barrows and a Neolithic enclosure, have been combined with inter-regional summaries of the archaeological and molluscan records to re-examine the prehistoric landscape dynamics in the study area. Preliminary results suggest that woodland development in the earlier Holocene appears to have been more patchy than the presumed model of full climax deciduous woodland. With open areas still present in the Mesolithic, the area witnessed its first exploitation of the chalk downs, thus slowing and altering soil development of the downlands. Consequently, many areas perhaps never developed thick, well structured, clay-enriched soils (or argillic brown earths), but rather thin brown earths. By the later Neolithic these under-developed soils had become thin rendzinas, largely as a consequence of human exploitation. The presence of thinner and less well-developed soils over large areas of downland removes the necessity for envisaging extensive soil erosion and thick aggraded deposits in the valley bottom in later prehistory. The investigations have suggested that, if there were major changes in vegetation and soil complexes, these had already occurred by the Neolithic rather than in the Bronze Age as suggested by previous researchers, and the area has remained relatively stable since.

Mesolithic to Bronze Age Vegetation Change and Human Activity in the Exe Valley, Devon
by R.M. Fyfe, A.G. Brown & B J. Coles

This paper presents the results of the first investigation of vegetation change and human activity from a river valley west of the Somerset Levels. The record is contrasted with the pollen and archaeological record from South West uplands (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and the Somerset Levels. Vegetation change and archaeological evidence are shown to be generally consistent, with evidence from the middle valley of Mesolithic vegetation disturbance (with nearby lithics), Neolithic clearance of terraces and slopes in the lower valley and Neolithic-Bronze Age ceremonial and domestic activity, but in the upper reach the maintenance of wooded valley floor conditions probably with management until historic times. The valley floor and surrounding slope vegetation history is found to be significantly different to that of the uplands with lime and elm being significant components of the prehistoric woodland record. The data suggest that lime is restricted to terraces and lowlands below 200 metres OD throughout the prehistoric period. The pollen data from the valley suggests the lowlands had a rich and mixed ecology providing a wide range of resources and that, despite less visible archaeological remains, human activity is manifest through palynological evidence from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. The largest expanse of valley-floor terrace, the Nether Exe Basin, which was at least partially deforested in the early Neolithic contains a rich assemblage of Neolithic-Bronze Age ceremonial, funerary and domestic archaeology associated with an early and clear palynological record of woodland clearance, arable and pastoral activity.

A Middle Bronze Age House and Burnt Mound at Bestwall, Wareham, Dorset: an Interim Report
by Lilian Ladle & Ann Woodward

Within the large scale prehistoric landscape under investigation at Bestwall Quarry, Wareham, a Middle Bronze Age house and burnt mound were excavated in 2001. The house was succeeded by the burnt mound which was associated with two large pits. All the structures were associated with a substantial and well-preserved assemblage of Deverel-Rimbury pottery. Most of this pottery, and two copper alloy bracelets, also of Middle Bronze Age date, comprised remarkable closing deposits that marked the abandonment of the structures.

Ceramic Petrology and Prehistoric Pottery in the UK
by Elaine L. Morris & Ann Woodward

Initial compilation of a digital record of petrological thin-sections prepared from ceramics found in the United Kingdom, the English Heritage UKTS database, was completed in 1994. This paper was commissioned by English Heritage as one of a series of period studies designed to synthesise and review the contents of the database. From the total of c. 20,000 thin-sections recorded, c. 5500 (28%) relate to prehistoric pottery. Within the prehistoric entries, coverage varies both by period and by region. The main results are summarised by region, and a series of general discussion points are highlighted. The themes of technology, production, and exchange, the movement of pottery in the earlier prehistoric period, and the potential symbolic significance of inclusions such as rock, bone, and grog are all considered. Finally, recommendations for the minimum standardisation of petrological reports on prehistoric ceramics, and for further research, are outlined.

Long Mounds and Megalithic Origins in Western France: Recent Excavations at Prissé-la-Charrière
by Chris Scarre, Luc Laporte & Roger Joussaume

The ancestry of the long mound has long been a key focus in debates on the origins of monumental and megalithic architectures in western France. Typological schemes and absolute dates have alike been invoked in support of different models of monument development, but with limited success. Recent excavations at Prissé-la-Charrière, a 100-metre long mound in the Poitou-Charentes region, have emphasised the importance of internal structure and the complex process of modification and accretion by which many long mounds achieved their final form and dimensions. Excavations have revealed an early megalithic chamber in a dry-stone rotunda, that was progressively incorporated in a short long mound, then in the 100 m long mound we see today, which contains at least two further chamber tombs. The wide range of monument forms present in western and northern France during the 5th millennium BC suggests that the issue of monument origins must be viewed in a broad inter-regional perspective, within which a number of individual elements could be combined in a variety of different ways. Consideration of seven specific elements, including the shape of the mound, the position and accessibility of the chamber, and the significance of above-ground tomb chambers as opposed to graves or pits leads us to propose a polygenic model for the origins of the long mounds and related monuments of western France.

The Middle Palaeolithic Site of Karabi Tamchin (Crimea, Ukraine): 1999–2001 Excavation Seasons
by A. Yevtushenko, A. Burke, C.R. Ferring, V. Chabai & K. Monigal

The Middle Palaeolithic site of Karabi Tamchin is presented here for the first time. Karabi Tamchin is a collapsed rock-shelter in Eastern Crimea (Ukraine), and is the only known, stratified Palaeolithic site in the highland regions of the First Crimean mountain range. Preliminary results of three excavation seasons indicate that the site differs fundamentally from Middle Palaeolithic sites excavated at lower altitudes, in terms of both lithic and faunal exploitation. The site, therefore, provides essential information regarding regional land-use patterns in Crimea. Karabi Tamchin was probably repeatedly occupied by relatively small, mobile groups during short-term, possibly seasonal hunting forays into upland regions.

Another Look at the Cuxton Handaxe Assemblage
by Andrew D. Shaw & Mark J. White

The well-known Palaeolithic site at Cuxton, Kent is situated on a remnant of Pleistocene terrace deposits of the Medway that have been known as a source of Palaeolithic artefacts since at least 1889, and have been the subject of two controlled excavations. The excavations produced a total of 878 stratified artefacts, including 206 handaxes, whose character was described by Tester (1965, 38) as being dominated by 'roughly made, pointed hand-axes with thick, crust covered butts', with some ovates and cleavers, and by Roe (1968), who placed the assemblage in his Pointed Tradition, Group I (with cleavers). The character of the Cuxton handaxe assemblage is therefore well established, but recently it has gained new importance in relation to a debate concerning the significance of variation in handaxe form (eg, Ashton & McNabb 1994; White 1998; Wenban-Smith et al., 2000).

This paper re-examines the handaxe assemblage in the light of this debate by testing the raw material model as to how far it explains the fossilised acts and decisions of hominid agents in specific, concrete situations. When the model is applied to Cuxton we find that it contradicts the clearly over-simplified prediction regarding raw material sources, but that they conform to the more important principle that nodule form influenced human technological choices and practices. Ecological variables such as raw materials, while not actually determining human actions, certainly imposed a set of boundaries within which hominids could reasonably act and which left a very real mark on assemblage level variation in the landscape.

A Middle Palaeolithic Site at Lynford Quarry, Mundford, Norfolk: Interim Statement
by W.A. Boismier

In late February and early March 2002, an archaeological watching brief at Lynford Quarry, Mundford, Norfolk revealed a palaeochannel with a dark organic fill containing in situ mammoth remains and associated Mousterian stone tools and debitage buried under 2–3 m of bedded sands and gravels. Well-preserved in situ Middle Palaeolithic open air sites are very unusal in Europe and exceedingly rare within a British context. As such, the site was identified as being of national and international importance, and was subsequently excavated by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit. Full analysis of the results are pending and this report presents some of the initial results of the excavation. It sets out how the site was excavated, outlines the stratigraphic sequence for the site, and presents some provisional findings of the excavation based on the results of the assessment work carried out to date.


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