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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Research project: Stour Basin Palaeolithic Project

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This new project is a collaboration with English Heritage and Kent County Council. The project is focused on the Palaeolithic resource of the Stour Basin of northeast Kent, covering the planning districts of Swale, Ashford, Thanet, Dover and Canterbury. The Stour Basin is relatively uninvestigated compared to other parts of Kent, such as the Lower Thames and Medway valleys, and the Thames Gateway, which have been the focus of previous Aggregates Levy projects and large-scale commercial investigations such as in advance of High Speed 1.

The project is in an area of high development pressure, which also contains a rich and extensive Palaeolithic resource, some immediately threatened parts of which are known to be of high potential, and other parts of which are of uncertain potential. The area also contains threatened remains of potentially unappreciated significance, with (1) Stour terrace deposits that may contain exceptionally early evidence, and (2) brickearth deposits in Thanet, Dover and Canterbury that seem to contain an unparalleled quantity of nationally rare British Mousterian remains associated with Neanderthal occupation in the last ice age.

The ultimate goals of the project are:

  • to enhance the Palaeolithic HER in the study area, by improving understanding and characterisation of the resource, and by overhauling and improving the structure and representation of Palaeolithic data within the HER
  • to develop a predictive model identifying areas of high Palaeolithic potential within the study area, parts of which are under high development pressure
  • to provide an improved dating framework and sub-surface deposit model for river terrace and "Head/Brickearth" deposits in the study area, particularly in areas of immediate high development threat and with known concentrations of Palaeolithic finds
  • to resolve current uncertainties over the Palaeolithic potential of the widespread deposits mapped as "Head/Brickearth" that occur in the study region, parts of which are both associated with clusters of Palaeolithic finds and also under high development threat
  • to facilitate and expedite the curatorial response to development proposals, providing rapid feedback of Palaeolithic archaeological implications, along with suitable approaches to evaluation and mitigation
  • to develop and provide an exemplary template for other projects aimed at achieving these desirable goals in other parts of the country
  • to work with the English Heritage geophysics team to develop/test the use of Ground Penetrating Radar to investigate the depth/nature of sub-surface Pleistocene deposits in areas of varying bedrock geology.
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