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Early Neolithic Trackways in the Thames Floodplain at Belmarsh, London Borough of Greenwich

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2015

Diccon Hart
Affiliation:
Archaeology South-East, Units 1 and 2, 2 Chapel Place, Portslade, BN41 1DRd.hart@ucl.ac.uk
Lucy Allott
Affiliation:
Archaeology South-East, Units 1 and 2, 2 Chapel Place, Portslade, BN41 1DRd.hart@ucl.ac.uk
Michael Bamforth
Affiliation:
Dept of Archaeology, University of York, The King’s Manor, York YO1 7EP
Martin Bates
Affiliation:
UWLAS Archaeological Services, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, CeredigionSA48 7ED
Sarah Jones
Affiliation:
UWLAS Archaeological Services, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, CeredigionSA48 7ED
Peter Marshall
Affiliation:
Historic England, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138–142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST
Mike Walker
Affiliation:
UWLAS Archaeological Services, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, CeredigionSA48 7ED
Alison Weisskopf
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31–34 Gordon Square, LondonWC1H 0PY

Abstract

Excavations in 2008 on the site of a proposed new prison at Belmarsh West, London Borough of Greenwich, found the heavily decayed remains of two superimposed Early Neolithic trackways. These structures, which are radiocarbon dated to the first quarter of the 4th millennium cal BC comprise some of the earliest structures yet encountered in the London Basin. The trackways were found towards the base of a peat sequence, immediately above the underlying Devensian gravels. The associated palaeoenvironmental record suggests that they were constructed in response to rising base levels, within a local floodplain environment dominated by alder carr, in order to maintain mobility across an expanding wetland landscape. The archaeological and geomorphological background to the excavations and a description of the results of the excavations are presented, with a particular emphasis on the Neolithic structures. The significance and wider context of the structures are examined through a consideration of their construction, wider palaeoenvironmental context, and the ways in which the structures can shed light on the nature of Early Neolithic subsistence strategies and land-use within the Thames floodplain.

Résumé

Chemins du néolithique ancien dans la plaine alluviale de la Tamise à Belmarsh ouest, circonscription de Greenwich, Londres, de Diccon Hart

En 2008 des excavations sur le site proposé pour la nouvelle prison de Belmarsh ouest, arrondissement de Greenwich, Londres, ont révélé les restes extrèmement pourris de deux voies surimposées du néolithique ancien. Ces structures, que l’on a datées au radiocarbone du premier quart du quatrième millénaire avant J.-C. en années calibrées comprennent certaines des plus anciennes structures jamais rencontrées dans le bassin londonien. Les chemins ont été découverts près de la base d’une séquence de tourbe, immédiatement au-dessus des graviers devensiens sous-jacents. Les paramètres paléoenvironnementaux associés donnent à penser qu’ils avaient été construits en réaction à une montée des niveaux de base à l’intérieur d’un environnement local de plaine alluviale dominée par des aulnaies, de manière à maintenir la mobilité à travers un paysage de terres humides en expansion. Nous présentons l’arrière-plan archéologique et géomorphologique de ces excavations et une description de leurs résultats en insistant particulièrement sur les structures néolithiques. Nous examinons la signification et le contexte plus vaste à travers une étude de leur construction, leur contexte paléoenvironnemental plus étendu et les diverses manières dont ces structures peuvent nous éclairer sur la nature des stratégies de subsistance et d’utilisation des terres au néolithique ancien dans la plaine alluviale de la Tamise.

Zussamenfassung

Frühneolithische Bohlenwege in der Flussaue der Themse bei Belmarsh, London Borough of Greenwich, von Diccon Hart

Ausgrabungen im Jahr 2008 auf dem Gelände eines geplanten neuen Gefängnisses bei Belmarsh West, London Borough of Greenwich, legten die stark zersetzten Überreste zwei übereinander liegender Bohlenwege aus dem Frühneolithikum frei. Diese Strukturen, die in das erste Viertel des 4. Jahrtausends cal bc radiokarbondatiert werden können, bilden nahezu die ältesten bislang im Londoner Becken freigelegten Strukturen. Die Wege wurden nahe der Basis einer Sequenz von Torfschichten gefunden, unmittelbar oberhalb einer gewachsenen Schicht aus weichselzeitlichem (Devensisan) Kies. Die damit verknüpften Paläoumweltdaten legen nahe, dass sie als Reaktion auf die steigende Erosionsbasis innerhalb einer lokalen Talaue, die von Erlenbruchwald dominiert wurde, angelegt worden waren um die Mobilität in der sich ausbreitenden Feuchtbodenlandschaft aufrecht zu erhalten. Dieser Beitrag stellt die archäologischen und geomorphologischen Hintergrunddaten zur Ausgrabung vor und präsentiert die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabung mit einem besonderen Augenmerk auf den neolithischen Strukturen. Die Bedeutung und der weitere Kontext der Strukturen werden diskutiert anhand einer Betrachtung ihrer Konstruktionsweise, des größeren neolithischen landschaftlichen Zusammenhangs und der neuen Einblicke, die die Strukturen auf die Art und Weise der frühneolithischen Subsistenzstrategien und der Landnutzung innerhalb der Themseaue geben.

Resumen

Pavimentos del Neolítico inicial en los aluviones del Támesis en Belmarsh, distrito de Greenwich, Londres, por Diccon Hart.

Las excavaciones realizadas en el 2008 en el emplazamiento de la nueva prisión de Belmarsh West, en el distrito de Greenwich en Londres, localizaron los restos muy deteriorados de dos pistas de madera superpuestas del Neolítico inicial. Estas estructuras, datadas en el primer cuarto del IV milenio cal bc, se encuentran entre las más tempranas identificadas en la cuenca de Londres. Los pavimentos se documentaron en la base de una secuencia de turbera, inmediatamente sobre gravas devensienses. El registro paleoambiental asociado sugiere que fueron construidos como respuesta a la crecida de los niveles basales, en un ambiente aluvial dominado por del aliso, con la finalidad de garantizar la movilidad en un terreno de humedal en expansión. Se presentan la información arqueológica y geomorfológica y una descripción de los resultados de las excavaciones, con un particular énfasis en las estructuras neolíticas. Se examina el significado y el contexto general incidiendo en su construcción, el contexto paleoambiental amplio, y las formas en las que estas estructuras pueden arrojar luz sobre la naturaleza de las estrategias de subsistencia y lo usos de la tierra en el Neolítico Inicial dentro de la zona de aluvión del Támesis.

Type
Articles
Copyright
© The Prehistoric Society 2015 

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