The exploitation of the East Midlands claylands in later prehistory: Aspects of settlement and land-use from the Mesolithic to the Iron-Age in Central England.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:02 authored by Patrick. Clay
This thesis examines the evidence for prehistoric human activity in a defined area of the East Midlands of England where the dominant substrata is clay. It aims to examine whether the traditional model for limited prehistoric occupation of areas of clayland is accurate in the light of recent fieldwork. Problems of visibility, interpretation and biases in the record for clayland areas which may have influenced this model are discussed. The area selected consists of 4200 sq km comprising over sixty per cent clay substrata covering areas of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and adjacent counties. The research examines the evidence at four levels: regional, sub-regional, micro-regional and at the level of the core area. The regional analysis examines the distribution of prehistoric activity based on information from Sites and Monuments Records. To test the results of this analysis four area surveys at sub-regional and micro-regional level are then examined. Evidence at the level of the core area based on excavated settlements in clayland areas is also analysed. This analysis suggests that there is no pattern of avoidance of clayland areas during the prehistoric periods but that the evidence for pre-iron Age activity is uneven. Where systematic survey has been undertaken pre-Iron Age activity is present in some clayland valleys, with lower levels of activity on the higher boulder clay plateaux areas, although by the Later Iron Age core area activity has spread into these locations. One boulder clay area examined in the Swift Valley, however, has lithic densities comparable with southern gravels and chalklands, the preferred locations for prehistoric settlement in the traditional model. The conclusion from this research is that clayland areas in the East Midlands were not actively avoided and other environmental and social factors may have had a greater influence on site selection than the substrata.