Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

Stour Basin Palaeolithic Project

This important project is aimed at better realising the potential of Palaeolithic archaeology in East Kent and particularly focused on the River Stour.

The Palaeolithic period in Kent is currently seen as dating from about 400,000 to about 12,000 years ago.  The people that we hope to find traces of were few and far between over this long period, and, during the earlier millennia, were of different species to modern humans.

Hallett's St Dunstan's: elephant tuskMost of the evidence comes from stone tools. Large lumps of stone, usually flint, were worked into more useful forms such as handaxes, used for cutting and scraping meat off dead animals, but we increasingly look for environmental evidence of plants and animals too. The landscape was very different from today. For much of the time Kent was a frozen tundra with great ice sheets reaching as far south as London. During some of these cold periods humans might not have lived in or visited Britain at all. At other times Britain was warmer than today and animals like hippopotamus, monkey and elephant were common (as this recent find of a 250,000 year old tusk from St Dunstan’s in Canterbury demonstrates!).

From 2012 to 2015 Canterbury Archaeological Trust assisted Kent County Council and the University of Southampton in studying the Palaeolithic period in east Kent; the project was funded by English Heritage. By reviewing past research and carrying out new fieldwork a better understanding of the period has been reached. This has led to improved information in the Historic Environment Record, an improved geological model of the area, a predictive model that will help to predict where new archaeological materials might be found, and guidance and a toolkit for local authorities and others trying to protect archaeological remains. Two public talks were given in 2014/15, one in tandem with the Westgate Parks Project.

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