Monument record WSW 009 - Beeches Pit, West Stow, (Palaeolithic)

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Hand-axes (at least 12) and flakes & faunal remains in primary context therefore of national or international importance.


Grid reference Centred TL 797 719 (80m by 58m)
Map sheet TL77SE


Type and Period (2)

Full Description

Former brickearth pit. Evidence for controlled fire, (hearths), Hand-axes (at least 12) and flakes. Also animal bones in primary context and mollusc remains. Of Hoxnian, (MIS11) Age).

19th century, investigations by Skertchley, mammalian remains reported.
1960s: Investigations by British Museum, no further details.
1972: Visit by Wymer, site overgrown.
1976: Molluscan investigation by Kerney and Preece suggested Hoxnian date for deposits with tools.

1991: Investigation by Quaternary Research Association, Two 2m wide sections have been cut for the Q.R.A. Excursion and the most westerly one in the pit revealed dark, organic clays and silts as described by Skertchly. One hundred and thirty-two flint flakes were found in situ, in the- tufaceous marls but mainly in the organic silts and clays. Other flakes were found in a spoil heap. None of the flakes is diagnostic of any particular flint industry, but several are large, primary flakes struck with hard hammers. Most are patinated but in very sharp if not mint condition. Numerous bones of large mammals have been found in the organic sediments, mainly very fragmentary and in a very poor state of preservation, exactly as described by Skertchly, (S1, S2)

1992-1999? Excavation by Liverpool Univsersity. A Lower Palaeolithic industry at Beeches Pit, West Stow, Suffolk, occurs within an interglacial sequence that immediately overlies glacial deposits, referable to the Anglian Lowestoft Formation. There is strong biostratigraphical evidence from both vertebrates and molluscs that the interglacial represented is the Hoxnian (MIS 11). This conclusion is supported by uranium series dates from carbonate nodules (>400 kyr), TL dates from burnt flint (414 +/-30kyr) and a range of amino acid racemisation data. The archaeology consists of flint artefacts of Acheulean character, including many refitting examples. Charred material is abundant in three stratigraphical units and many bones and flints have been burnt, indicating repeated occurrence of fire. Several discrete areas of burnt sediment appear to be hearths. This interpretation is supported by: (1) the intensity of burning (600–8008C) implied by the charred and calcined bones; (2) the intersection of two of the burnt areas, implying separate burning events at slightly different, overlapping locations; (3) the discovery of two burnt flakes that refit onto an adjacent group that are unburnt, indicating that the burning was highly localised; and (4) the spatial distribution of artefacts respects the features interpreted as hearths, suggesting fireside knapping. Fossils associated with the archaeology indicate occupation within closed deciduous forest in a fully temperate climate. Attractions to this unusual environment would have included the fresh water provided by springs, a rich supply of potential food and a prolific source of good quality flint for tool manufacture. The archaeological evidence therefore suggests that the site repeatedly served as an area of focused activities (perhaps a ‘home-base’) during much of the interglacial. The upper levels of the sequence provide clear faunal evidence of climatic deterioration during which human occupation and fire use persisted. Biostratigraphical correlations with other Lower Palaeolithic sites lend support to the suggestion that Acheulian and Clactonian industries occurred in Britain during the same substage of the Hoxnian, although not necessarily at precisely the same time, (S3-S4)

2016: Topographic Survey as part of the Breckland Palaeolithic Project, results forthcoming.
2018: Excavation by British Museum/QMUL as part of the Breckland Palaeolithic Project, results forthcoming.

See also Bronze Age and Saxon records.

Scientific dating report on British Aggregates by English Heritage (S5).

2022: Excavation to resume

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Wymer, J.J.. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. 133, 351.
  • <S2> Article in serial: Martin, E.A., Pendleton, C. & Plouviez, J.. 1991. Archaeology in Suffolk 1990. XXXVII (3).
  • <S3> Excavation archive: Gowlett. 1990s. Beeches Pit.
  • <S4> Article in serial: Preece et al. 2006. Humans in the Hoxnian: habitat, context and fire use at Beeches Pit, West Stow, Suffolk, UK.
  • <S5> Bibliographic reference: English Heritage. 2008. British Aggregates Scientific Dating Report, no. 6-2008. English Heritage, British Aggregates Scientific Dating Report, no. 6-2008.
  • <S6> Digital archive: Wymer, J.J.. 1999. The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPs) The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPS). 22617.
  • <S7> Article in serial: Martin, E.A., Pendleton, C. & Plouviez, J.. 1997. Archaeology in Suffolk 1996. XXXIX (1).
  • <S8> Article in serial: Martin, E.A., Pendleton, C. & Plouviez, J.. 1998. Archaeology in Suffolk 1997. XXXIX (2).
  • <S9> Article in serial: Ashton, N. Davis, R. Kirsty E.H. Penkmane, G. Russell Coopef. 2021. Cultural Mosaics, Social Structure, and Identity: The Acheulean threshold in Europe.

Finds (8)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (8)

Record last edited

Jun 22 2021 1:54PM

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