This paper reports on the recovery of Palaeolithic flint artefacts and faunal remains from fluvial gravels at the base of a sequence of Pleistocene sediments revealed during construction works at two sites to the south of Swanscombe village, Kent. Although outside the mapped extent of the Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath Formation, the newly discovered deposits can be firmly correlated with the Middle Gravels and Upper Loam from the Barnfield Pit sequence dating to c. 400,000–380,000 BP. This increases greatly the known extent of these deposits, one horizon of which produced the Swanscombe Skull, and has provided more information on their upper part.
Comparison of the lithic assemblages from volume-controlled sieving with those from general monitoring demonstrated that artefact collections formed without controlled methods of recovery, such as form the majority of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeological record, are likely to be disproportionately dominated by larger, more visible, and more collectable neatly-made handaxes to the detriment of more poorly made, asymmetrical handaxes and cores, flakes, and percussors. The lithic assemblage from the fluvial gravel was confirmed as dominated by pointed handaxes, supporting previous studies of artefacts front the equivalent Lower Middle Gravel at Barnfield Pit. The raw material characteristics of the assemblage were investigated, and it was concluded that there was no indication that the preference for pointed shapes could be related to either the shape or source of raw material.
This paper also reviews the significance of lithic assemblages from disturbed fluvial contexts, and concludes that, contrary to some current perspectives, they have a valuable role to play complementing less disturbed evidence in developing understanding of the Palaeolithic.