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Correlating archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records using a Bayesian approach: a case study from Sutton Common, South Yorkshire, England

By B.R. Gearey, P. Marshall and D. Hamilton


This paper presents a case study aimed at correlating archaeological ‘events’ (obtained from radiocarbon measurements and dendrochronology) from the site of Sutton Common with a radiocarbon-dated pollen sequence obtained from a palaeochannel deposit adjacent to the area of the main archaeological activity. It demonstrates the use of a Bayesian approach to quantifying whether the timing of palynological ‘events’ interpreted as reflecting anthropogenic impacts are likely to be associated with archaeological ‘events’. The results suggest that Bronze Age activity in the form of a mortuary enclosure and associated cremation burials are probably not contemporary with the palynological evidence for disturbance to the oak–hazel woodland in this period. Subsequent evidence for local woodland clearance and agriculture is estimated to precede the construction of the large Iron Age enclosure in 372 BC, with increases in ‘anthropogenic indicators’ following this ‘event’. The construction of the site does not appear to have had a pronounced impact on the local vegetation, with hazel the only woody taxon to show clear reductions. Despite the use of a substantial number of oak timbers in the enclosure palisade, percentages of oak remain remarkably stable. Later farming activity on the site probably post-dates the end of activity in the enclosures. The value of the methodology is discussed in relation to quantifiable and robust correlations of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental narratives of landscape and human activity

Publisher: 'Elsevier BV'
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.03.003
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Provided by: Enlighten
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