Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Small Mammals in South West Britain: Environmental and Taphonomic Implications, and their role in Archaeological Research

  • Catherine R. Price

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This project examines small mammal faunas from cave sites in south-west England and south Wales.

    The aims are threefold:
    To examine the rapid environmental changes taking place in the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene:
    To understand the processes by which small mammal remains were deposited in the caves examined:
    To demonstrate the value of small mammal studies as an archaeological tool.

    All identifiable small mammal remains from twelve selected sites are listed. Ten of the sites are new material. As the species examined here are seldom exploited by humans, the small mammals provide a record of the past environment unaffected by human selection of particular species, as might be the case in larger mammal assemblages. An examination of possible agents of accumulation is provided for each site to identify any bias introduced by prey selection. Reconstructions of the environment local to each cave at the time of deposition are offered.

    The evidence provided by the small mammals is related to the archaeological findings from each cave, to demonstrate the effect of human habitation of cave sites on the depositional and post-depositional processes shown by the microfauna. The environmental evidence provided by the study reflects a wider landscape rather than merely the immediate surroundings of the cave, and so gives a basis for human exploitation patterns in the area accessible from the cave.

    Reconstructions of the ecological mosaics formed by the rapidly changing climate of the period and the topographic variation around the cave sites are provided, demonstrating the potential complexity of the environment in which the humans and other fauna of the period existed. It is hoped that this will encourage archaeologists to look beyond the general division of environmental boundaries in this period, and to examine the local variation in habitat availability and use.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish


    • Mammals
    • Fossil
    • Excavations (Archaeology)
    • Climatic changes
    • Paleontology
    • Small animal studies
    • South West Britain
    • Late Pleistocene
    • Early Holocene
    • South Wales

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