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Modelling the mid-late Holocene evolution of the Huelva Estuary and its human colonization, South-Western Spain

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Marine Geology. Volume 406, 1 December 2018, Pages 12-26
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Science Citation Index Expanded
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The major changes that occurred in the southwestern estuaries of the Spanish Atlantic coast during the last 6500 yr BP were simultaneous to human settlement and therefore the understanding of their coastal evolution will help interpreting human patterns in these areas. The study of the morpho-sedimentary features of new outcrops appearing in the middle sector of Saltés Island (Huelva Estuary, Spain) has been used to develop a model to understand the complex evolution of sand barriers than can be applied to similar inlets along the Atlantic Iberian coast. The first human settlements (6000–4000 yr BP) in the early Huelva Estuary (Tinto and Odiel rivers) were located in the ancient coastal banks or in the nearby hills. From 4000 yr BP onwards, the estuarine sediments started to emerge as sand barriers and chenier plains, prograding towards the mouth. As the littoral strands stabilized morphologically, they were colonized by human settlements in successive periods, the oldest inland (Almendral) and more recent outward (Cascajera). The study of the upper sedimentary layers of La Cascajera barrier display a tempestitic sequence of landward progradational washover-fans. The calibrated and modelled AMS dates in marine shells provide a storminess time range between the second half of first century BCE and the entire first century CE. Sedimentary records are useful to evaluate environmental changes, either from natural or anthropogenic causes, such as global and climate change. The interrelationship between the archaeological findings (mainly salting fish factories and old ports) and the morpho-sedimentary evolution at the mouth of the Tinto and Odiel rivers allows us to highlight not only the Huelva Estuary's dynamics evolution, but also the possible regional patterns of human habitation from the beginning of the present sea-level highstand (middle Holocene).

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