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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Bridgland, D.R & White, M.J Fluvial archives as a framework for the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic: patterns of British artefact distribution and potential chronological implications. Boreas. 2014;43:543-555.

Author(s) from Durham


With the adoption of an ‘expanded chronology’ for the Middle Pleistocene, based on the greater number of warm and cold episodes evident in the marine oxygen isotope record from deep ocean cores, has come the recognition of a meaningful progression of artefact types, something that could not be achieved with reference to the previous ‘compressed chronology’. In Britain, at least, it has been established that Levallois knapping techniques appeared in MIS 9–8, that bout coupé handaxes are indicative of MIS 3 and, rather more tentatively, that assemblages with twisted ovate handaxes in significant numbers represent MIS 11 occupation. Added to these key markers, it is now possible to suggest that further tool types occur preferentially in deposits of particular age: assemblages with significant proportions of cleavers and ‘ficron’ handaxes appear to be correlated with deposits formed at around the time of the MIS 9 interglacial. This newly recognized patterning within the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic record differs markedly from the previous use, in the mid-20th century, of archaeological typology as a means of dating Pleistocene sequences, which was based on a relative refinement of tool making that is now recognized to be unrelated to age. Indeed, the authors would wish to emphasize that, even with reference to the new scheme presented here, the archaeological record should only be seen as dating evidence ‘of last resort’.

Department of Geography