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The Wykeham Project

Palaeoenvironmental and geomorphic response to rapid climatic change during the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (LGIT ca. 18-8ka BP) in the Vale of Pickering.

This research project, run conjunction with private business partners Hanson Aggregates, is tasked with exploring abrupt climate change during the Last Glacial to Interglacial transition (LGIT ca. 18-8ka BP) at Wykeham Quarry, within the Vale of Pickering, in northeast England.

The Vale of Pickering is an area of international significance in relation to archaeological, glaciological and palaeoenvironmental research throughout the LGIT. The Vale was partially glaciated at the end of the last Ice Age and the withdrawal of ice during warming produced a landscape composed of lakes and gravel ridges exploited by plants, animals and humans. One such lake (palaeolake Flixton) contains some of the earliest evidence of Mesolithic human occupation in the British Isles (Star Carr). Assessing how the landscape and environment evolved during this period of abrupt climatic change is therefore critical in order to understand the context in which early humans were able to successfully subsist.

Wykeham Quarry is situated in a key locality within the Vale, proximal to the suite of archaeological sites around palaeolake Flixton (ca. 2 miles northwest of Star Carr) and within the maximum ice limits of the Last Glacial Maximum. Thus the sediments preserved at the site are likely to provide a detailed record of variations in geomorphic processes, environmental conditions and potentially the presence of human activity throughout the LGIT.

This research project addresses several key research questions:

·          What processes have led to the formation and preservation of the LGIT sediments at Wykeham?

·        What climatic, environmental and geomorphic variations are reflected in the sediment sequences, and how do these compare regional models of the magnitude and timing of past environmental change?

·        Which geographic locations at Wykeham Quarry are most likely to preserve archaeological remains, can these be correlated with other archaeological finds in the Vale and further afield?

In order to answer these questions the following methods are being used:

·          GIS, LIDAR mapping, identifying geomorphic features (e.g. morainic features and palaeochannels) associated with the sedimentary sequences.

·          Comprehensive fieldwork utilising auger surveys, powered coring, and detailed logging of sedimentary sequences.

·          Laboratory analysis of sedimentary sequences in order to: quantitatively reconstruct past environmental conditions via: pollen, plant macrofossil, charcoal, chironomid, coleopteran, thin section micromorphology, grain size, and stable isotope analyses.

·          We aim to generate precise chronological frameworks via tephrochronology, radiocarbon dating combined using Bayesian statistics. 






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