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Durrington Walls to West Amesbury by way of Stonehenge: a major transformation of the Holocene landscape

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 October 2012

Charles French
Affiliation:
Charles French, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK. Email: caif2@cam.ac.uk
Rob Scaife
Affiliation:
Rob Scaife, School of Geography, Building 44, University of Southampton, University Road, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK. Email: r.scaife@soton.ac.uk
Michael J Allen
Affiliation:
Michael J Allen, FSA, Allen Environmental Archaeology, Redroof, Green Road, Codford, Wiltshire BA12 0NW, UK. Email: aea.escargots@gmail.com
Mike Parker Pearson
Affiliation:
Mike Parker Pearson, FSA, Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0LQ, UK. Email: m.parker-pearson@ucl.ac.uk
Josh Pollard
Affiliation:
Josh Pollard, FSA, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK. Email: c.j.pollard@soton.ac.uk
Colin Richards
Affiliation:
Colin Richards, School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. Email: colin.richards@manchester.ac.uk
Julian Thomas
Affiliation:
Julian Thomas, FSA, School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. Email: julian.thomas@manchester.ac.uk
Kate Welham
Affiliation:
Kate Welham, School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK. Email: kwelham@bournemouth.ac.uk

Abstract

A new sequence of Holocene landscape change has been discovered through an investigation of sediment sequences, palaeosols, pollen and molluscan data discovered during the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The early post-glacial vegetational succession in the Avon valley at Durrington Walls was apparently slow and partial, with intermittent woodland modification and the opening-up of this landscape in the later Mesolithic and earlier Neolithic, though a strong element of pine lingered into the third millennium bc. There appears to have been a major hiatus around 2900 cal bc, coincident with the beginnings of demonstrable human activities at Durrington Walls, but slightly after activity started at Stonehenge. This was reflected in episodic increases in channel sedimentation and tree and shrub clearance, leading to a more open downland, with greater indications of anthropogenic activity, and an increasingly wet floodplain with sedges and alder along the river's edge. Nonetheless, a localized woodland cover remained in the vicinity of Durrington Walls throughout the third and second millennia bc, perhaps on the higher parts of the downs, while stable grassland, with rendzina soils, predominated on the downland slopes, and alder–hazel carr woodland and sedges continued to fringe the wet floodplain. This evidence is strongly indicative of a stable and managed landscape in Neolithic and Bronze Age times. It is not until c 800–500 cal bc that this landscape was completely cleared, except for the marshy-sedge fringe of the floodplain, and that colluvial sedimentation began in earnest associated with increased arable agriculture, a situation that continued through Roman and historic times.

Résumé

Une nouvelle séquence de changements du paysage holocène a été découverte grâce à une étude de séquences de sédiments, de paléosols, de pollens et de données relatives aux mollusques découverts lors du Stonehenge Riverside Project. La succession végétale du début de l’ère postglaciaire de la vallée de l'Avon, à Durrington Walls, semble avoir été lente et partielle, avec une modification intermittente des zones boisées et l'ouverture de ce paysage à la fin du mésolithique et au début du néolithique, bien qu'un élément important de conifères ait persisté au troisième millénaire av. J.-C. Il semble y avoir un hiatus majeur vers 2900 av. J.-C., qui coïncide avec les débuts des activités humaines démontrables à Durrington Walls, mais légèrement après le début d'activité à Stonehenge. Ceci s'est reflété dans les augmentations épisodiques de sédimentation de bras de mer et de déforestation, produisant des terres plus ouvertes, avec de plus grandes indications d'activité anthropogénique, et une plaine inondable de plus en plus remplie, avec des carex et des aunes de long de la rive. Néanmoins, une couverture boisée localisée s'est maintenue à proximité de Durrington Walls, tout au long des troisième et deuxième millénaires av. J.-C., peut-être sur les parties supérieures de la région des Downs, tandis que des prairies stables, avec un rendosol, ont prédominé sur les pentes des Downs, et que des marais où poussaient des aunes, des noisetiers et des carex ont continué à border la plaine inondable. Ceci est une indication forte d'un paysage stable et travaillé au Néolithique et à l’âge du bronze. Ce n'est que vers 800–500 av. J.-C. que ce paysage a été entièrement déboisé, à l'exception de la frange de marais et de carex de la plaine inondable, et que cette sédimentation colluviale a commencé sérieusement, associée à une agriculture arable croissante, situation qui s'est poursuivie tout au long des périodes romaines et historiques.

Zusammenfassung

Eine neue Abfolge landschaftlicher Veränderungen im Holozän konnte durch ein Studium der im Rahmen des Stonehenge Riverside Projekts gelieferten Daten zu Sedimentfolgen, Paläoböden, Pollen- und Weichtierdaten festgestellt werden. Die frühe postglaziale Vegetationsentwicklung im Avon-Tal bei Durrington Walls erfolgte scheinbar nur langsam und teilweise, bei einer zeitweiligen Veränderung der Waldbestände und einer Aufschließung der Landschaft im Spätmesolithikum und Frühneolithikum, wobei jedoch ein starkes Element von Kieferbeständen bis ins dritte Jahrtausend v.Chr. zu verzeichnen ist. Um 2900 v.Chr. ist scheinbar ein größerer Hiat aufgetreten, der mit den Anfängen nachweislicher menschlicher Aktivitäten bei Durrington Walls zusammentrifft, allerdings etwas später als der Beginn der Aktivitäten bei Stonehenge. Ersichtlich ist dies aus episodischen Zunahmen in den Flussbettablagerungen sowie von Baum- und Gebüschrodungen, die ein offeneres Hügelland zur Folge hatten, mit erhöhten Nachweisen von anthropogener Aktivität, sowie eine zunehmend feuchte Schwemmebene mit Riedgras und Erlen am Flussufer. In der Nähe von Durrington Walls gab es jedoch während des dritten und zweiten Jahrtausends v.Chr. weiterhin örtlich begrenzte Waldungen, möglicherweise auf den oberen Hügelabschnitten, während auf den unteren Abhängen fest etabliertes Grasland auf Rendzinaboden vorherrschte, und an den Rändern der feuchten Flussniederung weiterhin ein Bruchwald von Hasel-Erlen und Riedgras zu finden waren. Dies ist ein starker Hinweis auf eine gefestigte und bewirtschaftete Landschaft in Neolithikum und Bronzezeit. Erst um 800–500 v.Chr. war diese Landschaft bis auf die Sumpfsegge an Rand der Flussniederung völlig gerodet und mit dem zunehmenden Ackerbau setzten nun auch zunehmend die Ablagerungen von Kolluvium ein, was sich dann in römischer Zeit und im Altertum weiterhin fortsetzte.

Type
Research papers
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2012

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