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17 December 2006
Visualising the past in 3D: The River Arun

Archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology have completed a 3D animation that reveals a prehistoric landscape, now submerged under the English Channel, as it might have appeared 8000 years ago.
     At the end of the last ice age the River Arun in West Sussex flowed a further 8 miles out. Archaeological survey has revealed the lay of the land, and what plants and trees grew there. The complex evidence has been turned into a compelling animated tour showing how the landscape might have looked and how families made a living from the land and the sea.
     The Seabed Prehistory project was established to research ways of identifying evidence of prehistoric landscapes in and around aggregate dredging areas. This dredging provides many of the raw materials, such as gravel, needed for the buildings industry. The project was designed to see if equipment that is commonly used by the offshore industry could also identify archaeological remains. It was an opportunity for archaeologists and the aggregate industry to work together to gain a better understanding of the archaeology under the seabed. The results of this project will inform future proposals for new aggregate dredging licences.
     The picture is built up with data collected as part of the project, or inferred from other research. Geophysical survey identified the different geological layers in the study area, revealing the shape of the land. Vibrocores were used to gather evidence from the buried landscape. Vibrocores are tubes that are pushed into the seabed. The column of sediment that is caught within the tube contains layers of ancient soils.
     The researchers were able to identify a layer of sediment dating to the Mesolithic period. This deposit corresponds with a geological layer found in the geophysical survey. Trapped with those layers were seeds and pollen from the trees and plants that grew at the time. By mapping where individual species are found, scientists can plot particular habitats and so build up a detailed picture of the landscape.
     The video is available on YouTube.

Source: Wessex Archaeology news (14 December 2006)

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