The collection of flintwork from the site of Beedings, West Sussex (England) contains by far the largest number of stone tools from the earliest Upper Palaeolithic of Britain, and is one of the two largest assemblages of its type in Europe. Despite its obvious importance, its analysis has been hindered by several factors resulting from its early excavation. Chief amongst these is the almost total lack of stratigraphic or contextual information: its Early Upper Palaeolithic attribution has hitherto been made largely on its typological and technological similarity to stratified archaeology elsewhere. New fieldwork in 2007 and 2008 in an area directly adjacent to the original site located further Upper Palaeolithic material, in addition to Middle Palaeolithic and Mesolithic material, situated within a series of fissures. Here we provide an overview of the excavation and details of the archaeological context within which further flint artefacts were found. By extension this work provides the first contextual information for the old, larger collection. The results of OSL analysis accord with an Early Upper Palaeolithic age for the majority of the old lithic collection from the site. Stratigraphic data support this Early Upper Palaeolithic age, and also help to validate the separation of material within the old collection into Middle Palaeolithic, Early Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. These stratigraphic data also suggest that Beedings is the only stratified Middle-Upper Palaeolithic open-air site in Britain. Taphonomic analysis indicates a mechanism for site formation, and accounts for the exceptional preservation of this Palaeolithic archaeology. In the light of this taphonomic analysis the "Sackung" hypothesis of site capture proposed previously for Beedings is upheld and further discussed. Wider implications for the preservation of open-air Palaeolithic sites in the region are also considered.
The authors would like to thank English Heritage for funding the Beedings survey and post-excavation work, especially the EH staff directly involved. The project acknowledges the pioneering work of Roger Jacobi in recognising the site and his analysis of the original collections on which many interpretations here are based. The lead author will always be indebted to Roger for the patience and kindness he showed in helping to develop the project, he is missed greatly. The project also acknowledges the valued support of the Leverhume funded AHOB3 (Ancient Human Occupation of Britain) Project for the contribution of supporting research time from its team on this project. The authors would also like to the thank the editor of Quaternary International and two anonymous reviewers for their help and valuable comments.
We would like to thank the landowner Helen Simmons, for her generosity in granting permission to excavate and support for the project. We would like to thank the residents of Beedings and Redfolds Farm for their tremendous support and tolerance of our works, especially Charles Outhwaite, Wendy Outhwaite Sophie Outhwaite, Vivian Doussey, Tony Whitbread, Helmut Van-Der-Hyde and Tom Caplan. We would like to thank the volunteers and students who took part in the excavations, especially Gill Turner, Pete Skilton, Andy Maxted, Juliet Smith, Karine Le Hegarat, Elizabeth Lane, Bob Turner, Bertie Haken, Harriet Kinloch, Kate Emery, Giles Emery, Elinor Croxall, Trudy Duthie, Bob Kowalski, Keith Bolton, Dawn Cansfield, John Ede and Geoff Smith. The illustrations were prepared by Justin Russell (ASE) and Jeff Wallis.