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The Lower Palaeolithic period in the London region

J J Wymer

The London region is in the centre of one of the richest concentrations of Palaeolithic sites in Britain. In this paper it is shown that human groups have been present for some 450,000 years, though it appears that the area was something of a backwater: not regularly occupied but often a remote hunting ground on the fringe of the known world. The presence of humans is known from the flint tools and debitage they discarded, many of which were washed into various deposits along the former courses of the river Thames, at heights of up to 40 m above the present river.

The paper includes a distribution map of the major sites, discussion of their significance, and assessment of how they may have fitted into the complex sequence of climatic and geographical changes which are apparent from detailed study of the Thames sediments. It can be shown that people were coping with environments varying from interglacials as warm as the present day, to very cool, if not semi-arctic conditions, during the glacial stages. The sites are related also to chronologies obtained by studying amino-acid ratios and the fluctuation of world temperatures, such as are indicated by changes in the isotopic composition of marine micro organisms found in deep sea cores.

[Transactions 42 (1991), pp 1 – 15; published abstract, slightly modified]

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