A Middle Palaeolithic to Early Upper Palaeolithic succession from an open air site at Beedings, West Sussex

Matt Pope*, Rob Dinnis, Annemieke Milks, Phil Toms, Caroline Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The collection of flintwork from the site of Beedings, West Sussex (England) contains by far the largest number of stone tools from the earliest Upper Palaeolithic of Britain, and is one of the two largest assemblages of its type in Europe. Despite its obvious importance, its analysis has been hindered by several factors resulting from its early excavation. Chief amongst these is the almost total lack of stratigraphic or contextual information: its Early Upper Palaeolithic attribution has hitherto been made largely on its typological and technological similarity to stratified archaeology elsewhere. New fieldwork in 2007 and 2008 in an area directly adjacent to the original site located further Upper Palaeolithic material, in addition to Middle Palaeolithic and Mesolithic material, situated within a series of fissures. Here we provide an overview of the excavation and details of the archaeological context within which further flint artefacts were found. By extension this work provides the first contextual information for the old, larger collection. The results of OSL analysis accord with an Early Upper Palaeolithic age for the majority of the old lithic collection from the site. Stratigraphic data support this Early Upper Palaeolithic age, and also help to validate the separation of material within the old collection into Middle Palaeolithic, Early Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. These stratigraphic data also suggest that Beedings is the only stratified Middle-Upper Palaeolithic open-air site in Britain. Taphonomic analysis indicates a mechanism for site formation, and accounts for the exceptional preservation of this Palaeolithic archaeology. In the light of this taphonomic analysis the "Sackung" hypothesis of site capture proposed previously for Beedings is upheld and further discussed. Wider implications for the preservation of open-air Palaeolithic sites in the region are also considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2013


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