Holocene palaeoenvironmental change and the impact of prehistoric salt production in the Seille Valley, eastern France.

Naomi Riddiford, Nicholas Branch, Christopher Green, Simon J. Armitage, Laurent Olivier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Seille Valley in eastern France was home to one of Europe’s largest Iron Age salt industries. Sedimentology, palynology and geochronology have been integrated within ongoing archaeological investigations to reconstruct the Holocene palaeoenvironmental history of the Seille Valley and to elucidate the human–environment relationship of salt production. A sedimentary model of the valley has been constructed from a borehole survey of the floodplain and pollen analyses have been undertaken to reconstruct the vegetation history. Alluvial records have been successfully dated using optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon techniques, thereby providing a robust chronological framework. The results have provided an insight into the development of favourable conditions for salt production and there is evidence in the sedimentary record to suggest that salt production may have taken place during the mid-to-late Bronze Age. The latter has yet to be identified in the archaeological record and targeted excavation is therefore underway to test this finding. The development of the Iron Age industry had a major impact on the hydrological regime of the valley and its sedimentological history, with evidence for accelerated alluviation arising from floodplain erosion at salt production sites and modification of the local fluvial regime due to briquetage accumulation on the floodplain. This research provides an important insight into the environmental implications of early industrial activities, in addition to advancing knowledge about the Holocene palaeoenvironmental and social history of this previously poorly studied region of France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-845
Number of pages15
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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