Middle Palaeolithic artefact migration due to periglacial processes; a geological investigation into near-surface occurrence of Palaeolithic artefacts (Limburg-Eastern Brabant coversand region, the Netherlands)

J. Deeben, H. Hiddink, D.J. Huisman, A. Müller, J. Schokker, J. Wallinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The original distribution pattern of Middle-Palaeolithic artefacts may be affected by tectonic movement, sedimentation and periglacial processes. This is e.g. the case in the coversand area of Limburg and Eastern Brabant (NL), where the occurrence of numerous finds in a SW-NE trending zone across the Roer Valley Graben is considered enigmatic. In order to elucidate the processes affecting the spatial distribution and the chance of recovery of such artefacts, we investigated a site in Nederweert. At this site, several Middle-Palaeolithic artefacts had been recovered earlier from unexpectedly shallow depths. A test pit profile and grain size analyses revealed that the shallow sediments at this site have been affected by intense, multi-phase cryoturbation, which has deformed the sand and loam layers and partially mixed them thoroughly. As a result, optically stimulated luminescence dating of these sediments yielded widely scattered single-aliquot equivalent dose distributions. Using a Finite Mixture Model (FMM), it was estimated that cryoturbation caused mixing of sediments deposited between 12 and 50 ka with sediment grains deposited between 60-150 ka. The latter material is probably the original context of the Middle-Paleolithic artefacts. Apparently, cryoturbation and potentially other periglacial processes have transported artefacts closer to the surface. Based on these results, we suggest that the occurrence of MiddlePalaeolithic artefacts is caused by (1) the tectonically-induced spatial distribution of layers of this age and (2) periglacial processes having caused migration of artefacts towards the surface. Although periglacial processes may facilitate finding Middle Palaeolithic artefacts, they may severely disturb the original context to such an extent that Middle Palaeolithic sites can no longer be identified. The results of this study form a basis for improving the Indicative Map of Archaeological Values that is used to predict the presence of archaeological sites. The insights gained are also relevant to other areas where Middle-Palaeolithic sites are affected by periglacial processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalGeologie en Mijnbouw/Netherlands Journal of Geosciences
Volume89
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Archaeological heritage management
  • Boxtel formation
  • Cryoturbation
  • Middle palaeolithic
  • Optical dating
  • Periglacial conditions
  • Pleistocene
  • Roer valley graben

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