Sunday, 26 January 2014

Happisburgh ERT Geophysical Survey, Jan 2014

Happy Days are here again!

Why happy? Well we are back in Happisburgh on the north Norfolk coast staying in the Hill House pub (of Sherlock fame – the Dancing Men, and also with a cracking set of handpump real ale) and running electrical sections across the country side. 

The site has previously yielded evidence of the UK’s oldest ancestors.  It was here in the early 2000s that artefacts and associated plant and animal remains were discovered that is the earliest evidence outside southern Europe for human activity, older than 780,000 years before present. Not only that but the biological remains suggested these people were living in an environment similar to that of present day southern Scandinavia.  These remains were found in a river channel close to the sea that was subsequently buried by thick sequences of deposits when East Anglia was covered in ice around half a million years ago.

ERT line at the big manor, Happisburgh
Over the last couple of years we have been visiting the site and using different geophysical methods to try to reconstruct the palaeo-landscapes at the key time periods in relation to the artefacts.  We have used both electric and electromagnetic surveys on the foreshore across the semi-buried channels and inland from these trying to chase the channels as they are buried beneath other sediments.  Specifically we have used a Geonics EM31 to map the lateral extent of the channels on the beach and then an Abem Terrameter to acquire 2D geo-electric sections (ERT) in a grid pattern across the fields surrounding the village in order to understand the landscape structure.  The data is processed using RES2DINV and then visualised in Fledermaus.  Ultimately, these landscape reconstructions will enable better targeting of the archaeological investigations and also allow us to try and understand where the early people were possibly living and how they were using the landscape.  

Many may know this part of the coast for its rapid and drastic erosion and retreat.  Since we have been coming here the cliffs have shot back well over 40m! Devastating for many locals, some of whom have lost their entire houses to the North Sea, but for us it comes as a mixed blessing as we get new geologic sections to investigate each time we visit with the possibility of new artefacts. Watch the press and this blog for announcements on this next month!

ERT survey line over newly exposed basal member of the Happisburgh Till

For more on this work then if any of you are down in London over the next 6 months then make sure to get to the Natural History Museum for a new exhibit on Palaeolithic Britain “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story” with a special part on Happisburgh.  Much of this work came from the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project. So finally, a blog will shortly be written on our other site in Jersey – La Cotte de St Brelade.

The Bates Brothers discuss the latest results (photo Erin Kavanagh)

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