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The earliest Lower Palaeolithic of the Middle Thames: Re-assessing the chronology and distribution of the high-level ancient river terraces

Project Description

The majority of Britain’s earliest Palaeolithic sites are associated with estuaries and/or the lower reaches of major rivers. This distribution of sites suggests that the earliest colonisers may have been restricted to coastal habitats, with their milder micro-climates and distinctive resources. However it is also possible that this pattern is an artifice of research history, e.g. recent coastal erosion exposing key sites in East Anglia, contrasting with a reduction in the investigation of older inland sites. The pre-500,000 year old Middle Thames’ landscapes and archaeology between Reading and Henley offer an opportunity to test whether or not this apparent paucity of early, interior occupation is correct. This project will re-assess the chronology and distribution of the high-level ancient river terraces (through fieldwork and desktop analysis of mapping data), and re-evaluate the contexts and technological characteristics of the stone tool assemblages from those high-level terraces (recording museum collections and archives).

This thesis will therefore provide a key perspective on the timing and character of the earliest human occupations of Britain. The student will work closely with both Archaeology and Geography & Environmental Science staff within SAGES.

Funding Notes

Masters-level qualification in Archaeology (Merit or Distinction) or BA or BSc degree in Archaeology (1st or 2.1 classification).


"Morigi, A., Schreve, D. & White, M. 2011. Chapter 1 - Introduction and the pre-Anglian Geological, Palaeoenvironmental and Archaeological Records. In A. Morigi et al. (eds.) The Thames Through Time: The Archaeology of the Gravel Terraces of the Upper and Middle Thames (Early Prehistory to 1500 BC): 1-40. Oxford Archaeology: Oxford.

Wymer, J.J. 1968. Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology in Britain: As Represented by the Thames Valley. John Baker: London. Pp. 129-134 & 187-198."

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