3. The Neolithic Landscape

The most important landscape change in this region happened 4789-4352 cal. BC (2 sigma) (SRR-4894) when the peat-forming freshwater wetlands of the lower Foulness Valley were inundated by a marine transgression. This established estuarine conditions and deposited intertidal clays, creating an estuarine inlet for well over a millennium on the inner Humber system (Fig. 2b and c), in the area now known as Walling Fen (Halkon and Innes 2005). The effects of this transgression were felt at more than 5km upstream from the Humber shore, for at Hawling Road, Market Weighton, alluvial clay covered a naturally felled oak (4834-4576 cal. BC (2 Sigma) (GU5001) and an alder in a layer of peat containing bones of dog and deer, which were recorded during the construction of the Market Weighton by-pass (Halkon et al. forthcoming).

The creation of the tidal inlet may have increased opportunities for maritime contact with the North Sea coast and continental Europe, facilitating the exchange of ideas, populations and commodities. It may not be coincidence that the initial indications of the transition to a Neolithic-style economy in Britain, if the cereal-type pollen grains that occur on some pollen diagrams at this time really do record early forest farming, appear during this phase of high sea level, which has been dated as starting at Sandholme Lodge at 5615 ±45 BP (Halkon and Innes 2005).

The early Neolithic vegetation of this region consisted of fen-reedswamp environments along the river banks, with fully developed deciduous forests close by, with pine on the sandier islands and alder dominating the valley bottoms. Mixed deciduous forest of oak, elm and hazel covered the dryland landscape (Turner 1987; Halkon and Innes 2005). The rising sea levels described above may have resulted in the decline of resource opportunities in the river valleys, which had previously been enjoyed by Mesolithic peoples (Halkon 2003; Halkon and Innes 2005), provoking a switch to a more active management of the wooded higher ground (Halkon and Innes 2005). This was the landscape context for the users of the stone tools reported here, who themselves became agents of environmental change.


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