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The application of microfossils in assessing the provenance of chalk used in the manufacture of Roman mosaics at Silchester

Wilkinson, Ian; Williams, M.; Young, J.R.; Cook, S.R.; Fulford, M.G.; Lott, Graham. 2008 The application of microfossils in assessing the provenance of chalk used in the manufacture of Roman mosaics at Silchester. Journal of Archaeological Science, 35 (8). 2415-2422. 10.1016/j.jas.2008.03.010

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Abstract/Summary

Microfossils recovered from chalk tesserae in mosaics from the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, modern Silchester, southern England, are used to suggest a provenance for the source-rock. The microfossils include foraminifera characteristic of late Cretaceous (Campanian) foraminiferal biozone BGS20 (quadrata macrofaunal biozone) and foraminiferal subzone BGS21i (basal mucronata macrofaunal biozone). Calcareous nannofossil assemblages from the same tesserae are poorly preserved, preventing precise age determination, but confirm an age of Santonian to Campanian. As indurated chalk beds of this age are not normally present in the stratigraphically higher chalks of southern England, it is probable that calcretised chalk, formed by secondary calcification beneath Palaeogene rock cover, was used to manufacture the tesserae. This suggestion is supported by a comparative analysis of chalk tesserae from the Norden Roman site in Dorset. Although the provenance of the chalk in some of the Silchester tesserae can be placed only within a broad geographical area of downland in southern England, others may have originated in the Dorchester–Swanage area, some 100 km to the southwest of Silchester, or the Portsdown area of southern Hampshire. None of the tesserae have been constructed from chalk found near Silchester.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.jas.2008.03.010
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2008 > Geology and Landscape England
ISSN: 0305-4403
Additional Keywords: Chalk, Fossils, Berkshire, Geological map sheet 268
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 30 Sep 2008 14:19
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/4455

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