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Pleistocene -Isle of Wight, UK

The entrance to Chilton Chine, SW Coast, Isle of Wight

Over most of the Isle of Wight lies a surface layer of recent sediments. These silts, gravels and flint pebble lags were deposited over the past 12,000 years or so. The Isle of Wight has a long history of habitation by people, so all sorts of remains are regularly exposed by erosion of the cliffs: Roman pottery shards, worked stone-age flints, iron-age burial pots, medieval woodworking, and my particular favourite: large Pleistocene mammals.

You can see the Pleistocene layer in the opposite photo: it's the uppermost 2m of the cliff: consisting of an upper orange band at the top with a flint layer just below.

The Pleistocene units yield a variety of material: mammoth remains, European bison.. all the typical ice-age fauna you might expect. Generally the flint congomerates and gravels (as seen in the photo) yield only fragmentary bones and isolated teeth, although occasionally more associated material turns up.




During the last ice-age, lower global sea-levels meant that the Isle of Wight was still connnected to the mainland.

The Solent valley in modern times is flooded by the sea, but up until about 12,000 years ago it hosted a large river system. The shallow waters, and variable submerged topography of the modern Solent is partly due to this ancient history, and makes it a particularly treacherous stretch of coast for large ships.

Some of the ancient drainages are still followed by modern streams and rivers, now flowing into the sea. The old Solent valley was populated by a range Pliestocene animals, even including human settlement. This makes the north Coast of the sile of Wight particularly rich in Pleistocene mammal remains.

This figure borrowed (and slightly adapted) from here

A range of mammal teeth found eroded out of Pleistocene gravels, scale diameter=27.3mm

A mammoth molar found during a fossil-hunting trip I was guiding for a mainland school

Something a bit more recent: The Isle of Wight has the highest concentration of shipwrecks per mile of coastline, anywhere in the world. This is a cannonball washed ashore from one of the many wrecks during a storm. Found by my father (pictured)