Background

Marine Aggregates at a wharfMarine Aggregates at a wharfThe marine aggregate industry provides approximately 21% of the sand and gravel needed for construction projects around the UK. Whilst every licence area is subject to detailed archaeological study prior to the granting of the licence to dredge, industry staff regularly find archaeological material amongst aggregate loads. Wessex Archaeology implement a reporting Protocol for members of the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association through which such material can be reported and investigated.

 
In February 2008 Hanson Aggregates Marine Limited reported the discovery of 88 flint tools – including handaxes, flakes and cores – and the remains of mammoth, rhinoceros, bison, reindeer and horse. These finds were discovered at SBV Flushing wharf in Holland where material from Area 240 was discharged. Their finder was local palaeontologist Jan Meulmeester, who regularly searches the heaps at the wharf for archaeological and palaeontological material, such as animal bone. His searches were assisted by the wharf manager Henk Strijdonk.
 
Area 240 findsArea 240 findsDespite having been found on a discharge heap, the provenance of the finds is well understood. It has been possible, by comparing the dates of Mr Meulmeester’s visits and the GPS trackplot of the dredging vessel’s progress, to locate the site of the finds to within a 3 x 1 km area within licence Area 240.
 
The discoveries from Area 240 have attracted international attention and, in November 2008, were awarded a prestigious British Archaeological Award. The flint implements were the subject of a research project at the University of Leiden in Holland carried out by Dr Dimitri de Loecker, whilst the faunal remains were catalogued and analysed using radiocarbon dating by Jan Glimmerveen, also in Holland.
 
Once it was established that the material had been dredged from Area 240, the aggregate area licensee, Hanson Aggregate Marine Limited, voluntarily placed a protective exclusion zone around that part of the seabed from which the cultural material was dredged.