The palaeogeography and Neolithic archaeology of Herm in the Channel Islands

Chris Scarre, Charles French
2013 Journal of Field Archaeology  
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more » ... full DRO policy for further details. Abstract The small Channel Island of Herm combines several distinct habitats within its restricted compass, ranging from steep rocky coasts and rolling upland plateau in the south to a dune-fringed sandy lowland in the north. Where upland and lowland meet, a line of modest megalithic tombs constitute the island's most striking archaeological feature. Four seasons of fieldwork (2008)(2009)(2010)(2011) have sought to determine the environmental history of northern Herm since the last glacial and to place the tombs within the broader context of Neolithic activity. A series of trenches and auger holes has revealed the changing morphology of the prehistoric land surface that lies buried beneath the extensive deposits of aeolian sand that cover this part of the island. Results indicate that much of the lowland plain was initially occupied by a shallow marine inlet that was cut off from the sea and progressively infilled from the 4 th millennium B.C. Pollen and soil sequences reveal how the wooded early Holocene landscape around the edges of this inlet was steadily degraded by human impact and climate. Traces of settlement and cultivation (notably plough marks) suggest the megalithic tombs were situated within an agricultural landscape, although the fragile soils required extensive manuring. This has relevance for theories that have proposed that islands were favored places for burial by communities visiting from neighboring mainlands. Herm was a locus for settlement and farming as well as for burial during the Neolithic period. The most striking feature of the Herm project has, however, been the detailed environmental history that it has revealed. 3
doi:10.1179/0093469012z.00000000033 fatcat:rtnp3waq75bvzb75gd2xg3aqda