Since 2000 Oxford Archaeology has been involved with archaeological investigations associated with the London Gateway Port Development. The site lies on the Thames Estuary in Essex where up to 20m of river alluvium deposited over the last 10,000 years has the potential to contain buried landsurfaces, palaeoenvironmental remains and important evidence of prehistoric activity.
From the outset of the project it was recognised a geoarchaeological approach was required in order to investigate the deep alluvial sequences - conventional methods of evaluation, such as trenching, would only have been effective in assessing the most recent phases of activity at the site.
Initial work involved providing advice and contracting services for the Cultural Heritage aspects of the EIA and its passage through Public Inquiry. As part of this OA co-ordinated, in conjunction with Dr Martin Bates (University of Wales, Trinity St David), the production of a site-wide deposit model spanning both land and marine environments, largely based on historic borehole data, but ground-tested with archaeological boreholes and geophysics. It was intended that by characterising the various depositional environments, this model would be a tool for assessing the archaeological potential of the floodplain and provide a basis to model development impacts and mitigation strategies.
During the lifetime of the project the site-wide deposit model has been updated several times with additional ground data and field survey has also included electromagnetic techniques (EM31 and EM34), electrical profiling (ERGI) and LiDAR. Targeted palaeoenvironmental analysis coupled with a programme of radiocarbon dating has enabled a detailed integrated model of landscape change to be developed. The deposit model builds on previous models for the Thames Estuary and represents a step-change in our understanding of archaeological landscapes within the floodplain.
The final phase of modelling for the port site was completed in 2012, but work continues on various associated infrastructure and habitat creation areas on both sides of the estuary in the Essex and Kent.