Lateglacial and Holocene fluvial dynamics in the Lower Scheldt basin (N-Belgium) and their impact on the presence, detection and preservation potential of the archaeological record

  • Meylemans E
  • Bogemans F
  • Storme A
 et al. 
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Several alluvial areas in the Lower Scheldt basin (LSB) have been subjected to geo-archaeological surveys and excavations in light of tidal restoration and nature development projects. Through the combination of a large number of radiocarbon dates and the sedimentary and geomorphological characteristics of the dated samples, several trends in the evolution of Lateglacial and Holocene fluvial activity in the LSB emerge.At the onset of the Lateglacial period the fluvial style in the LSB consisted of a meandering river system. During most of this period and the early and middle Holocene depositional processes dominated. After a first phase of gyttja deposition, organic and clastic sediments gradually filled the channels and later on this accretion also occurred outside their confines, extending laterally in the alluvial plain. The transition from the Subboreal to the Subatlantic period witnessed an intensification of fluvial activities, and a new meandering river system developed. Vertical accumulation processes continued to dominate the fluvial environment. Due to the creation of an extensive network of dikes floodplain evolution was restricted from the 11th-12th century onwards. Similar evolutions are observed in other lowland river basins in NW Europe, evolutions which have been related to climatic changes, and from the 4th millennium cal BP onwards, also to anthropogenic influences.The low-energy aggradation regime throughout the Holocene within the alluvial areas of the LSB accounts for an extensive, well-preserved, but well-hidden archaeological record. The observed geomorphological and sedimentary evolutions are of primary importance for the understanding of the presence and 'preservation potential' of archaeological structures and finds from the Final Palaeolithic up to the Medieval period. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.

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