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People and the environment: a geoarchaeological approach to the Yorkshire Wolds landscape

posted 10 Jun 2011, 10:42 by Paul Brayford   [ updated 1 Feb 2016, 15:11 ]
Dr. Cath Neal's PhD thesis "People and the environment: a geoarchaeological approach to the Yorkshire Wolds landscape" is now available for download from the Archaeology Data Service 

Note: Registration to myADS may be required 


The Yorkshire Wolds chalkland is a well-studied archaeological landscape which is of particular significance for the prehistoric to medieval periods. The approaches taken to the archaeology of this area have mainly focussed on site-based, period-based archaeological investigations or on post-processual landscape archaeology but there has been little geoarchaeological research undertaken.

Drawing on the substantial body of dry valley research from the southern English chalk this thesis characterises the nature of dry valley colluvial deposits in several locations on the High Wolds and relates them to geomorphic and human modification processes. The deep deposits on the Wolds top, which have always been assumed, may not be as widespread as once thought and the variability of deposits within short valley reaches is high. Different modes of erosion and deposition can be seen and are related to the steepness of slope, the deposit nature on interfluve slopes and land use practices. The lack of dateable material found within the colluvium has limited the opportunity for dating phases of increased erosion and accretion. A lack of preservation of land snails, which are one of the key palaeoenvironmental indicators in calcareous landscapes, may be linked to an increase in acid rain during the last few decades. A review of the past evidence for the palaeoenvironment and land use on the Yorkshire Wolds has found that this data is limited and can not be relied upon.

Although the methodological challenges of this research have been high, our ability to answer environmental questions on the Yorkshire Wolds appears to depend on a change of theoretical approach, away from a traditional culture historical account and with caution toward post-processual landscape archaeology. A multidisciplinary landscape archaeological approach, with a focus on geomorphology and the currently uncharted palaeofeatures of the region, offers significant scope for future work.

copyright © Dr Cath Neal