Chalk grassland snails

A similar picture emerges from the fossil evidence of chalk grassland snails. In the late 1990s, just as Vera was completing his thesis, environmental archaeologist and conchologist Dr Mike Allen, lecturer at Oxford University and research fellow at Bournemouth University, began questioning the prevailing archaeological belief that the chalk grasslands around Stonehenge, Avebury, Dorchester and Cranborne Chase in Wessex were blanketed in postglacial woodland. The sub-fossil snail record, Allen realised, pointed, instead, to a landscape of open grassland with open-grown fruiting trees and shrubs. It is his work that has informed the stunning visual displays depicting the evolution of the chalk landscape in the new museum at Stonehenge. Herds of grazing and browsing animals kept these savannahs open, providing habitat for the snails; and it was this open landscape supporting a huge biomass of animals that attracted the early human populations to the area.



More information:

Allen, Michael J. & Gardiner, J. ‘If you go down to the woods today; a re-evaluation of the chalkland postglacial woodland; implications for prehistoric communities.’ In: Land and People, pp.49-66. (Prehistoric Society Research Paper no. 2, Oxbow Books, 2009).