Pleistocene environments, climate, and human activity in Britain during Marine Isotope Stage 7: insights from Oak Tree Fields, Cerney Wick, Gloucestershire

Joshua Hogue, Keith Wilkinson, Enid Allison, Thomas Hill, Monika Knul, Matthew Law, Marta Perez Fernandez, Hannah Russ, Danielle Schreve, Jennifer Sherriff, Philip Toms, Daniel Young, Lisa Westcott-Wilkins, Brendon Wilkins

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Investigations at Oak Tree Fields, Cerney Wick, Gloucestershire, in western England have revealed a sequence of fluvial deposits dating from Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 7 to 5. At the base of the sequence, a series of gravel and sand facies were deposited, initially as part of a meandering river. Reductions in flow energy of the latter and avulsion led to the development of short‐lived channels and episodic backwater environments, the deposits of which are recorded as Facies Associations 1–3. Poorly sorted, probably colluvial deposits formed beyond the limit of the channel (Facies Association 4). Mollusca, Coleoptera, plant macrofossils, pollen and vertebrates recovered from the channel facies indicate broadly similar climatic conditions throughout accretion. Temperature ranges derived from mutual climatic range analysis of the Coleoptera almost completely overlap with those of Cerney Wick at the present day, albeit that winters may have been cooler when the channel was active. Further, the floral
and faunal data suggest that the meandering river flowed through an open grassland environment, the latter heavily grazed by large vertebrates, most notably mammoth. Most of the botanical and faunal remains, together with four
optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) age estimates ranging from 225 ± 23 to 187 ± 19 ka, suggest correlation of the channel deposits with MIS 7. The basal deposits (Facies Association 1) yielded the majority of vertebrate remains
and all the lithic artefacts, most of which seem likely to have travelled only a short distance. Although only a few artefacts were recovered, they add to the relatively limited evidence of human activity from the upper Thames. The channel deposits are overlain by sheet gravels (Facies Association 5) which are attributed to the Northmoor Member of the Upper Thames Formation. These were likely to have been deposited as bedload in a braided stream environment, while two OSL age estimates of 129 ± 14 and 112 ± 11 ka suggest accumulation during MIS 5.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Early online date7 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2023

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