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Monday 20th November 2017 - Professor Simon Lewis
Monday 20th November 2017 - Professor Simon Lewis
New light on old sites: the earlier Palaeolithic of the Breckland

The Breckland of East Anglia has a rich concentration of earlier Palaeolithic sites and a diverse stone tool record spanning some 600,000 years. It also has a prominent place in studies of the British Palaeolithic, from the early discoveries of thousands of handaxes from the gravel pits at Warren Hill during the formative years of the discipline, to more recent discoveries such as the first evidence for human fire use in Europe. The Breckland’s important geological sequence and rich archaeological and environmental records enable the relationships between people, culture and technology to be explored within this distinctive landscape.

Major landscape changes have been wrought by rivers and ice, these provide a framework to consider the record of human presence. The early Middle Pleistocene Bytham River flowed eastwards across the region into the southern North Sea basin and there are a number of Palaeolithic sites associated with this river indicating human occupation of the region from approximately 600,000 years ago. This drainage system was destroyed by glaciation during the Anglian Stage, some 450,000 years ago. The retreat of the Anglian glaciers left a landscape of lakes, ponds and new rivers in which sediments accumulated during the following warm period, the Hoxnian Interglacial, about 400,000 years ago. These contain a rich record of fauna and flora with evidence of human occupation around their margins. The modern drainage network including rivers such as the Lark and Little Ouse also became established, comprising a series of river terraces containing stone tools that chart changes in technology from 400,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Profile - Professor Simon Lewis
My research focus is in Quaternary science, in particular geoarchaeology and the Palaeolithic record in Britain. I have been involved in a number of major UK Palaeolithic archaeological research projects including the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) Project (2001-12), the Pathways to Ancient Britain Project and the Happisburgh Palaeolithic Project. I am Principal Investigator on the Breckland Palaeolithic Project (2016-19), funded by the Leverhulme Trust and a Co-director of the Barnham Palaeolithic Excavation. I was a Co-Investigator on the Mapping Palaeolithic Britain Project (2014-17), also funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The recent discovery of ancient human footprints at Happisburgh received the Current Archaeology 2015 “Rescue Dig of the Year” award. I was awarded the Henry Stopes Medal by the Geologists’ Association in 2015.