Terrestrial environments during MIS 11: evidence from the Palaeolithic site at West Stow, Suffolk, UK

Preece, R. C., Parfitt, S. A., Bridgland, D. R., Lewis, S. G., Rowe, P. J., Atkinson, T. C., Candy, I., Debenham, N. C., Penkman, K. E. H., Rhodes, E. J., Schwenninger, J.-L., Griffiths, H. I., Whittaker, J. E. and Gleed-Owen, C. (2007) Terrestrial environments during MIS 11: evidence from the Palaeolithic site at West Stow, Suffolk, UK. Quaternary Science Reviews, 26 (9-10). pp. 1236-1300. ISSN 1873-457X

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Multidisciplinary investigations of the sequence at Beeches Pit, West Stow (Suffolk, UK), have a direct bearing the age of the Hoxnian Interglacial and its correlation with the continental Holsteinian and with the global marine record. At this site, glacial deposits (till and outwash gravels) referable to the Anglian Lowestoft Formation fill a subglacial channel cut in Chalk bedrock. Above these glacial deposits a series of interglacial sediments occurs, consisting of limnic, tufaceous and colluvial silts, lacking pollen but rich in shells, ostracods and vertebrates. Lower Palaeolithic flint artefacts of Acheulian character have also been recovered, including refitting examples. Charred material is abundant at certain horizons and many of the bones have been burned. Several discrete areas of burnt sediment are interpreted as hearths. The molluscan fauna comprises some 78 taxa and includes species of considerable zoogeographical and biostratigraphical importance. The land snail assemblage from the tufa consists of woodland taxa with no modern analogue, including species that are either extinct (e.g. Zonitoides sepultus) or which no longer live in Britain (e.g. Platyla polita, P. similis, Neniatlanta pauli). This is also the type locality of Retinella (Lyrodiscus) skertchlyi, which belongs to a subgenus of zonitid land snail now living only on the Canary Islands. There are indications from this fauna (‘the Lyrodiscus biome’) that the climate was wetter and perhaps warmer than the present day. The vertebrate fauna is also noteworthy with species of open habitats, such as rabbit (Oryctolagus cf. cuniculus), and of closed forest, such as squirrel (Sciurus sp.) and garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) present at different times. The occurrence of southern thermophiles, such as Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus), indicates temperatures warmer than those of eastern England today. The upper levels include much material reworked from the interglacial sediments, although there is clear faunal evidence for climatic deterioration. Both the molluscan and vertebrate faunas suggest correlation of the interglacial sediments with the Hoxnian. Uranium series dates from the tufa (∼455 ka BP), TL dates from burnt flints (414±30 ka BP) and a range of amino acid racemization data all support correlation of this interglacial with MIS 11. However, four OSL dates from sand beneath the interglacial sequence yield a mean age of 261±31 ka BP, far younger than all other age determinations and far younger than implied by the biostratigraphy. Archaeologically the site is unusual in showing prolonged human occupation within closed deciduous forest and evidence for controlled use of fire in a Lower Palaeolithic context. Biostratigraphical correlations with other Lower Palaeolithic sites support the suggestion that Acheulian and Clactonian industries both occurred in southern Britain during the same substage of the Hoxnian, although not necessarily at precisely the same time. The characteristics of the MIS 11 interglacial in Britain are discussed in the light of evidence from Beeches Pit and elsewhere.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Rosie Cullington
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2011 11:18
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 01:34
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/25140
DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.11.016

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