New Historian

The Race to Save a Neanderthal Site


<![CDATA[Archaeologists are in a race against time to excavate a Neanderthal site. The Baker's Hole site at Ebbsfleet in Kent is the most important location for evidence about the first Neanderthal settlements in Britain, 250,000 years ago. Researchers from the University of Southampton are racing to excavate and examine Palaeolithic remains before the site is damaged. Erosion, animal burrows and plant roots are all threatening to destroy the important site. Dr Francis Wenban-Smith, the lead archaeologist, has been working to identify where important deposits have survived and what they can tell us about Neanderthal behaviour. A variety of objects have already been found at Baker's Hole, including stone tools, mammoth teeth and other animal remains. Dr Wenban-Smith and his team have taken sediment samples to be analysed for paleo-environmental remains, particularly animal remnants such as snail shells and the bones of small mammals. "These biological remains can tell us a lot about the environment early Neanderthals lived in," Dr Wenban-Smith told Phys Org. "We can tell if the climate was warm or cold, whether the area was wooded or marshland, and other factors that help us to see the context in which they lived. They can also help date the site accurately." Baker's Hole has the potential to be very important, as sites from this era are particularly rare. Remains dating back 400,000 years are relatively common in the Swanscombe area, but Baker's Hole is one of the few examples of Neanderthal settlement from 250,000 years ago. Baker's Hole is also unusual as it is one of the few non-cave Palaeolithic sites which is on the national list of protected ancient monuments; it is also a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest.' These protections have ensured it is safe from the adjacent developments at Ebbsfleet International Station and the High Speed 1 rail link. It is vital that the site is preserved, as it could yield important information regarding how and when Neanderthals settled in Britain. Clare Charlesworth, English Heritage Principal Adviser for Heritage at Risk in the South East, said "Baker's Hole archaeological site was added to English Heritage's Heritage at Risk Register because thick scrub and animal burrowing are endangering this significant archaeological site. Faunal remains are also decaying due to exposure to the elements. This clearance work is a step towards safeguarding this rare landscape for future generations." The dig is being supported by English Heritage, Natural England and Lafarge Tarmac, who own the land where Bakers Hole is located - an old chalk quarry next to Ebbsfleet International railway station. Dr Wenban-Smith and his team will have to work quickly to ensure the site is excavated before too much damage is done. Preservation work on the Baker's Hole site is imperative as it has the potential to reveal a great deal about the history of Neanderthals in Great Britain. "We have to examine this area and implement a new management plan to ensure its survival," Dr Wenban-Smith said, "otherwise the remains will be eroded away or otherwise damaged by plants and animals, so it is crucial work like this takes place now."]]>

Exit mobile version