Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: a chronostratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology
Brown, A. G., Basell, L. S., Toms, P. S., Bennett, J. A., Hosfield, R. T. and Scrivener, R. C. (2010) Later Pleistocene evolution of the Exe valley: a chronostratigraphic model of terrace formation and its implications for Palaeolithic archaeology. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29 (7-8). pp. 897-912. ISSN 0277-3791
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2009.12.007
This paper presents the first systematic chronostratigraphic study of the river terraces of the Exe catchment in South West England and a new conceptual model for terrace formation in unglaciated basins with applicability to terrace staircase sequences elsewhere. The Exe catchment lay beyond the maximum extent of Pleistocene ice sheets and the drainage pattern evolved from the Tertiary to the Middle Pleistocene, by which time the major valley systems were in place and downcutting began to create a staircase of strath terraces. The higher terraces (8-6) typically exhibit altitudinal overlap or appear to be draped over the landscape, whilst the middle terraces show greater altitudinal separation and the lowest terraces are of a cut and fill form. The terrace deposits investigated in this study were deposited in cold phases of the glacial-interglacial Milankovitch climatic cycles with the lowest four being deposited in the Devensian Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 4-2. A new cascade process-response model is proposed of basin terrace evolution in the Exe valley, which emphasises the role of lateral erosion in the creation of strath terraces and the reworking of inherited resistant lithological components down through the staircase. The resultant emergent valley topography and the reworking of artefacts along with gravel clasts, have important implications for the dating of hominin presence and the local landscapes they inhabited. Whilst the terrace chronology suggested here is still not as detailed as that for the Thames or the Solent System it does indicate a Middle Palaeolithic hominin presence in the region, probably prior to the late Wolstonian Complex or MIS 6. This supports existing data from cave sites in South West England.