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Roman mining on Exmoor: a geomorphological approach at Anstey's Combe, Dulverton

Brown, Antony and Bennett, Jenny and Rhodes, Edward (2009) Roman mining on Exmoor: a geomorphological approach at Anstey's Combe, Dulverton. Environmental archaeology, 14 (1). pp. 50-61. ISSN 1749-6314

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Abstract

A survey of valley fills in south-facing combes (headwater valleys) along the south side of the Exmoor massif revealed an anomalously deep infill in one valley. This infill of up to 5 m depth had been gullied revealing a complex stratigraphy. Studies of the stratigraphy, clast orientation and shape suggested several accumulation episodes under different environmental conditions commencing in a periglacial climatic regime. Later units included sandy silts which can be dated using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) of quartz grains. The OSL dates, indicate that the inter-gravel silts accumulated in two periods, the Romano-British period and the 16th-17th centuries AD. A survey of the very small valley catchment revealed a linear trench of a type associated with early iron mining. Given the anomalously high volume of accumulated sediment from such a small catchment and evidence of mining on the slope above the site, the geomorphic mechanism is almost certainly the downslope transport of mining debris from the slope to the valley floor. This study suggests that the systematic survey of headwater valleys in metalliferous uplands may be one way of locating areas of early mining activity and that such deposits could provide a chronology of working and abandonment.

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