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Climates of the early Middle Pleistocene in Britain : environments of the earliest humans in northern Europe

Candy, Ian; Silva, Barbara; Lee, Jonathan. 2011 Climates of the early Middle Pleistocene in Britain : environments of the earliest humans in northern Europe. In: Ashton, Nicholas; Lewis, Simon; Stringer, Chris, (eds.) The ancient human occupation of Britain. Elsevier, 11-22. (Development in Quaternary Science, 14).

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Abstract/Summary

Long-term climate records such as SPECMAP and EPICA imply that the early Middle Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stages 19–13, 780–450 ka) was characterised by low magnitude climate cycles relative to the extreme glacial/interglacial cycles of the last 450 ka. As the early Middle Pleistocene is the period during which the first known occupation of Britain occurred, understanding the nature of climate cycles in northwest Europe during this period is important. In order to develop a clearer understanding of the pattern of climate change during the early Middle Pleistocene, deposits of this period are divided into four groups that are based on the climatic proxy data they contain. Group 1 deposits are characterised by evidence for interglacial climates that were warmer than the present day. Group 2 deposits are characterised by evidence for interglacial climates that were consistent with the present day with respect to their degree of warmth. Group 3 deposits contain evidence for temperate climates that were cooler than the present day; such deposits possibly reflect the end of an interglacial or interstadial. Group 4 deposits record evidence for extreme climate cooling and widespread permafrost development. This categorisation indicates that during multiple glacial/interglacial cycles the climate of eastern England oscillated between periods that were warmer than the present day, sometimes ‘Mediterranean’ in character, through to periods that were characterised by extreme climate cooling and widespread periglaciation. Despite the climate patterns suggested in the SPECMAP and EPICA records, there is no recognisable difference between the pattern of climate forcing observed in Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene relative to that which occurred during the late Middle and Late Pleistocene. Early human colonisers in Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene were, therefore, subjected to the same extremes of climate as humans during the last 450 ka. Consequently, it is probable that the pattern of depopulation during glacials and recolonisation during interglacials, proposed for the last four glacial cycles, is also likely to be true for the period 780–450 ka. It is also important to recognise that lithic artefacts are found in association with all four climatic groups, indicating that the presence of humans during the early Middle Pleistocene was not restricted to the climatic peaks of interglacials.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/B978-0-444-53597-9.00002-9
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Geology and Landscape (England)
Date made live: 06 Dec 2011 15:05
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/16046

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