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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Publication details

Bailiff, I, Lewis, S, Drinkall, H. & White, M (2013). Luminescence dating of sediments from a Palaeolithic site associated with a solution feature on the North Downs of Kent, UK. Quaternary Geochronology 18: 135-148.

Author(s) from Durham


Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating has been applied to determine the burial age of sediment horizons within a sequence containing Lower Palaeolithic artefacts on an upland site associated with a solution feature (doline) at West Cliffe, located on the North Downs in Kent, UK. The study makes use of a novel extension of the single aliquot OSL measurement procedure to investigate the nature of significant overdispersion in equivalent dose values with very small aliquots of quartz inclusions, enabling single grain resolution to be approached with ∼90 μm diameter quartz extracted from the relatively fine-grained brickearth. A detailed examination of the uniformity of the distribution of radionuclide sources in the sampled volumes was also performed and this included the application of a spatially-resolved technique for beta dose rate measurement. The OSL ages, obtained for the burial of brickearth positioned stratigraphically below and above a clay and flint clast layer containing the artefacts and debitage, place the deposition of the artefacts to between ca 140 and 80 ka ago. This is significantly later than indicated by the artefact typology (>300 ka) and contrary to the expectation of in situ burial indicated by earlier research in this region. If displacement occurred on other upland sites this finding has important implications for establishing the timing of hominin use of the upland areas which, beyond broad attribution to Lower or Middle Palaeolithic origin, is uncertain and similar doubts apply to the interpretation of the environments that prevailed.

Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China