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HER Number:MDV80984
Name:Palaeoenvironmental Evidence from Seaton Marshes


A borehole survey on Seaton Marshes showed a sequence of strata from the development of terrestial peats in Middle Neolithic through to the rise of salt marsh and the development of a marine embayment in the late Prehistoric period followed by renewed saltmarsh depositon in the later medieval period.


Grid Reference:SY 253 914
Map Sheet:SY29SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishColyton
Civil ParishSeaton
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCOLYTON
Ecclesiastical ParishSEATON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PALAEOENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATION (Lower Palaeolithic to XXI - 698000 BC to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

ARCA, 2008, Axe Estuary Westlands, Seaton, Devon. Geoarchaeological Survey (Report - Scientific). SDV347891.

ARCA, 2008, Axe Estuary Wetlands, Seaton, Devon. Geoarchaeological and Bioarchaeological Assessment (Report - Scientific). SDV347895.

A borehole survey sampling five east-west transects was undertaken as part of a geoarchaeological survey on a 104 hectare area adjacent to the River Axe east of Seaton. Strata from the boreholes showed the earliest phases of Holocene sedimentation to be characterised by saltmarsh or fen to the south of Transect 4. This was suceeded by the development of terrestial peats in the southern part of the study area, perhaps as sea levels dropped. These phases are dated to the Middle Neolithic to ?Bronze/Iron Age. A subsequent rise in sea level caused renewed salt marsh deposition and the development of a marine embayment in the areas of Transects 1 and 2. This phase, dated broadly from the ?Bronze/Iron Age to the medieval period corresponds with the historically attested Axe Haven. The 14th century migration of a gravel spit across and almost sealing the mouth of the River Axe led to renewed saltmarsh sedimentation south of Transect 4. Subsequent developments can be related land management from the 17th century, in particular the construction flood defences which have allowed only a limited ingress of intertidal waters onto areas currently used for pasture.
Palynological assessment of the strata showed that the vegetation during the periods of peat formation in the Middle Neolithic to ?Bronze/Iron Age comprised fen carr woodland. However, there is little definitive stratigraphical evidence for the presence of subsequent saline vegetation communities. This is at variance with the diatom data which is suggestive of a saline habitat at this time. On dryland the pollen analysis indicates oak dominated mixed deciduous woodland with some evidence for cereal cultivation. The presence of elm, yew and lime pollen in several boreholes potentially provides an opportunity to study the decline of these species in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #107777 ]
SDV347891Report - Scientific: ARCA. 2008. Axe Estuary Westlands, Seaton, Devon. Geoarchaeological Survey. ARCA Report. 0708-14. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV347895Report - Scientific: ARCA. 2008. Axe Estuary Wetlands, Seaton, Devon. Geoarchaeological and Bioarchaeological Assessment. ARCA Report. 0809-2. A4 Stapled + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV80970Related to: Mesolithic Peat Deposits, Seaton Marshes (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5342 - Geoarchaeological Survey of the Axe Estuary Wetlands, Seaton

Date Last Edited:Sep 9 2020 7:29AM