The recent discovery of one of the earliest Mesolithic occupation sites in northern Britain, at Howick on the Northumberland coast, in association with multiperiod archaeological evidence nearby, highlights the importance of UK coastal settings as focii of human occupation through the Holocene. Environmental evidence from a nearby river valley (8.15 m of sediment ranging in age from about 12 000 cal. BP to the present) records local and regional environmental change. Twenty-four radiocarbon dates based on plant macrofossils provide a strong chronological framework. Calcareous microfossil assemblages (foraminifera, ostracods) have been recovered from the fine-grained sediments, recording a change from marine through to brackish and eventually freshwater conditions between about 8200 and 6500 cal. BP. A preliminary pollen study of the core has permitted a reconstruction of the regional vegetation as it responded to climatic amelioration and human influence upon the landscape. Radiocarbon dating and sedimentological evidence indicates a major hiatus between approximately 11000 and 8000 years BP (including the period of Mesolithic occupation), represented by a 30 cm layer of coarse sands and sandstone pebbles, probably the result of a significant high-energy event dated to about 8300 cal. BP Although not a typical tsunami deposit, the age and context suggests that this may be associated with the Storegga Slide event, already well-documented along the eastern coast of Scotland. The sedimentary and biological remains at Howick record environmental change over much of the Holocene and are compared with other environmental change records from the region to provide an environmental framework for the archaeology of this coastline.
- coastal change
- Northumberland coast