Mid-Late Quaternary Fluvial Archives near the Margin of the MIS 12 Glaciation in Southern East Anglia, UK: Amalgamation of Multi-Disciplinary and Citizen-Science Data Sources

Peter Allen, David R. Bain, David R. Bridgland*, Paul Buisson, Jan Pieter Buylaert, Rachel Bynoe, William H. George, B. Andrew Haggart, David J. Horne, Ellen May Littlewood, Alan R. Lord, Anna C. March, Ian Mercer, Rosalind Mercer, Andrew S. Murray, Kirsty E.H. Penkman, Richard C. Preece, John Ratford, Danielle C. Schreve, Andrew J.R. SnellingKadri Sohar, John Whittaker, Mark J. White, Tom S. White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents an updated geological reconstruction of the Quaternary evolution of the River Thames at its downstream extremities, close to the North Sea coast, based on new data from multi-disciplinary and citizen-science sources. In this area, the interaction of the Thames with the MIS 12 (Anglian) glaciation is an important part of the Quaternary archive. The Anglian ice sheet, which reached parts of north and east London, was responsible for diverting the Thames southwards into its present course, although the footprint of the maximum ice sheet(s) does not reach the North Sea coast south of Hollesley, Suffolk. Further south, the coastal zone hosts pre-Anglian and early Anglian river-terrace deposits of the pre-diversion Thames system, superimposed upon which are products of later post-Anglian rivers, of both Middle and Late Pleistocene age. On the peninsula between the Stour and Blackwater–Colne estuaries, the lowest and most recent terrace of the pre-diversion Thames includes evidence directly pertaining to the glacial disruption event, for which geochronological data are reported here for the first time. The first post-diversion terrace of the Thames also reaches this peninsula, the river having essentially re-joined its original valley before crossing the alignment of the modern coastline. This terrace passes beneath Clacton-on-Sea, where it includes the type locality of the Clactonian Palaeolithic Industry. The area of interest to this paper, in NE Essex and southern Suffolk, includes a number of interglacial and Palaeolithic sites, the data from which assist in constraining the chronostratigraphy of the sequence. In some cases, there has been uncertainty as to whether these sites represent pre-Anglian environments and hominin occupations, part of the palaeo-Thames sequence, or whether they are the product of later post-Anglian streams, formed after the Thames had migrated southwards. This paper compiles evidence from a wide range of recent sources, including developer-funded archaeological appraisal and citizen-science activities, to explore and update the evidence from sites at Ipswich, Upper Dovercourt and Thorpe-le-Soken, as well as a number of localities associated with the Clacton Channel Deposits (host to the type-Clactonian), amongst others. The resulting new data are placed within the wider context of the Quaternary fluvial archives in southern Britain, with a discussion of how disparate sources of information, including the work of citizen scientists, have contributed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Number of pages38
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 by the authors


  • AAR dating
  • citizen science
  • fluvial archives
  • luminescence dating
  • MIS 12 glaciation
  • molluscs
  • ostracods
  • Palaeolithic artefacts
  • River Thames

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